By Rhonda York
Claire, an Aussie/cattle dog mix, came to live with us in May 2016. When I brought her home to foster her, I had no idea how to help her. She was completely unsocialized to humans and utterly terrified of everyone and everything—except for my two Labs, Angel and Buddy.
I read many books, but nothing addressed how traumatized she really was. I regularly volunteer at PAWS for Life animal shelter in Pueblo, Colorado and am used to hyper dogs, big dogs, slightly OCD dogs and nervous dogs. But Claire seemed almost unreachable. I only saw fear in her eyes.
I wondered if we’d ever be able to take her for a walk or if she would roam around our house like our other dogs do. I wondered if I could train her since the slightest “correction” would lead to her cowering or slinking away. I wondered if I’d ever be able to pet her without her cringing. I wondered if she would be able to think of us all as her family.
With the help of the PAWS staff, my family’s patience and love, and especially the example of Angel and Buddy, however, I can now say that Claire is a DOG. I have seen the dog behaviors we love and take for granted unfold like little gifts before my eyes every day.
Claire whines at me if I don’t get up in the morning. She will then proceed to land on my chest as she tries to get Angel to play. She barks and rushes out to our yard when she heard something. She enjoys ice cream! She can catch popcorn when it’s tossed to her. She learned from both dogs about pushing the bathroom door open (no privacy!). She knows the word “pizza” and that it means something very exciting. She comes to investigate whenever there is someone in the kitchen. She comes into the closet when I get dressed in the morning to hurry me up for our walk.
We adopted Claire in December as my best Christmas gift ever. We had become part of her group and she had become a part of ours. We did help her remember what being a dog is like. But she helped us, too, in ways that maybe only dog lovers can understand.
*This post is an entry in our Phoenix 2020 Writers’ Competition. All winning, runner up and selected entries are being published here on the BARKS Blog. For a fully immersive educational experience in animal sheltering and rescue, join us at the Pet Professional Guild Annual Summit in Phoenix, Arizona on September 17-21, 2021.*
About the Author
Rhonda York is the owner/operator of Dog Training with Rhonda York in Leavenworth, Kansas. After careers as a professional singer, voice teacher, and clergy, she decided it was time to train dogs and their humans, the catalyst for which was when she was volunteering at the PAWS Animal Shelter in Pueblo, Colorado and saw the difference she could make in the life of a dog. She did her certification training through Animal Behavior College and is a member of the Leavenworth Animal Welfare Society, Human Animal Bond, and the Leavenworth County Humane Society.