About two weeks ago, a dog showed up in the neighbor's backyard. She was tethered to the picnic table without food or water. It was cold and rainy and she just looked our way lethargically when Deb or I, or even our dogs tried to get her attention. She had very fine, white fur with dark spots, although her white fur looked grey with dirt and mud.
Deb went over and talked to the neighbor who said that he was just watching her for a friend. Deb said that we were going to take the dog to our house if she was not better cared for by the next day.
The next day rolled around, and the night before had been less than 40 degrees and rainy. The dog was still outside, shaking and curled up as tight as she could get under the picnic table in the one very small almost dry spot. She had a nearly untouched bowl of food by her side, and another bowl that had been overturned, likely by the tether that was attached to her collar.
Together, we again knocked on the neighbor's door. When he opened the door, we had our leash in hand and said we were taking the dog to our house, and that his friend can knock on our door when they want her back. They had lost their house and had no where to keep her until they got a new house.
He said okay, he would call his friend. He was very polite and completely understanding our position.
We walked around the side of the house to get her. We tried to coax her as she shivered and looked expressionlessly at us from under the picnic table, but she didn't budge. I reached my hand under the bench, mindfull that her fear, hunger, thirst and cold may make her a danger just out of panic or desperation. I gently moved my hand toward her nose so she could smell me, which she did, but halfheartedly, then turned her head away. Her eyes and snout were a bright pink, showing clearly through her sparse hair. I took the leash in my hand and attached it to her collar. She lifted her head brightly for the first time. She was fully aware that something was about to change.
I unhooked her tether, so only the leash was attached, and with a very gentle tug she came out from under the picnic table. She lifted her eyes first to one, then to the other of us and fell into step beside us. Two steps along, and her skinny tail lifted straight toward the cloudy sky. (We found out later that that is her name, Sky.)
We walked the short distance to our front door, but when we tried to coax her to go through it, she put on the breaks the way only a stocky, muscular, solid dog can do. Because we didn't yet know how she would react, we decided that I would take her around the side of the house, through the gate into the backyard, where she would meet our dogs on open turf.
About 15 steps into the yard, she plastered herself to my leg and slowed. Her tail drooped. Her head drooped. She began to breathe just off enough to let me know that she was very anxious about being on this side of the fence, where she knew that other dogs live. I stopped. She stopped. I pulled out my belt pouch that I always carry with me, containing eight different small vials of essential oils inside. I pulled out my favorite one, Balance, and put a drop on each of my index fingers and brought my thumbs to meet my fingers so I'd have Balance on both front and back as I gently massaged the tip of each ear (where I now saw that she had sores from scratching her ears with uncut toenails). Within about 1 1/2 seconds, she snuffled and humffed as she let out the breath she had been holding. She took a deep breath and her muscles relaxed. She sniffed, then gave a quick lick to the fingers that had just given her courage and security and Balance. Her tail lifted, she met my eyes, and we moved on as the other dogs excitedly tumbled out of the house on to the deck to finally meet up close the sad little dog from next door.
The dog, whose name we still did not know, quietly endured the obligatory sniffing of behinds and circling round by the others. instead of reciprocating, she plastered her body against my leg, looking up for reassurance. Even after I removed the leash, she chose to walk with one of the humans instead of running with the pack.
She was hesitant to get on the couch with us, even when invited, and she definitely would not jump on the bed. although once she did get on the couch, she nestled between us, obviously used to being loved by humans.
I brought her into the shower with me to wash off the cold and layers of mud. She escaped and I ended up soaping her up outside the shower, then bringing her back in wile she sat there looking betrayed as I gently hosed her off, cooing loving words and gentle rubs as I rinsed. (Deb has since also showered her without any great escape and much less mess on the bathroom tile to mop up.). Then, when she came out of the bathroom, she did what wet dogs do, she shook as much water as she could all over the house and smiled a toothy smile.
That was on a Monday. On Friday, while I was sleeping off my midnight shift, her family came to pick her up. The kids were overjoyed to see her and she gave them sloppy kisses, but she had grown comfortable with us. Deb said that she acted reluctant to go, but did go. The family had found a house and were in a rent to own situation, so they could have their Sky back.
On Monday, there was a knock on the door, and this big guy in a red shirt was standing there when I answered. Deb recognized him as the father of Sky, and her beautiful human boys. He had tears in his eyes as he said that the current house owner knocked on their door that morning and told them that because of her breed, if Sky lived there, they could not stay. He cried as he talked about how hard it was to leave her the first time and he had had her since she was tiny and his kids love her and he wants her to be where she will be loved and cared for and he remembered how happy she was with us.
So, now we are the loving mamas of Sky. And our friend, Lydia fell in love with her too, but can't have a dog in her apartment and with her very long work hours. It would be unfair to have a dog cooped up all day while she is working to save lives in the ER. So, we are all co-parenting her together, and her boys know that they can come and see her anytime.
It takes a village to raise a child. Apparently, it takes a village to love a dog as well. And loved well, she is.