Two years ago, on a Sunday morning, Bill and I headed off to North Pointe Mall to retrieve our newest Newfie rescue from his short-term foster parents. I had met Luther once before, very briefly, and knew to expect anxiety.
I also expected discomfort as he had been neutered two days before.
What we got was, in so many ways, so much more. You see, Luther was one of 30 or 40 adult dogs rescued from a puppy mill in Michigan over Martin Luther King, Jr. weekend 2017 and scattered to Newfoundland rescue groups around the country. (Huge gratitude, Bart!)
The poor boy was terrified by anything new and he was living in a world where all the things and people were new. It took Bill and me both to get him into our car. He didn’t know how to take treats from our hands. He didn’t wag his tail or respond to petting. He just laid in the back of the car with his security stuffed chicken and waited to see what happened next.
Bless Sarah and Phoebe who did what sisters so often do and, after the predictable amount of sniffing, just moved over and made room on the floor.
My Gramma Elsie used to say, of an unruly cousin, He’s not bad. He’s just busy!
Luther was neither bad nor busy. He was dissociative, which in psych terms indicates only one coping strategy. Trying to melt into the floor and disappear.
There were urgent teaching issues, as well. House training. (Thank you, Jana, for all you did in the beginning!) Leash walking. Surviving a crate long enough to eat without creating a dog fight nobody needed.
Even at a best guess of 2 – 3 years old, he was underweight but very, very strong. And a master, as his name suggests, of passive resistance.
Slowly, we made progress. He attached himself to me first. After a few weeks he could lie, leashed for his sense of safety, on the rug during a client appointment, doing his best to be invisible.
It took, literally, more than a year before I could leave the house, even with Bill sitting in the room with him. I think they watched a good bit of Dr. Who! It hasn’t been easy.
Today, our big guy is healthy, gorgeous, and one of the best greeters I’ve ever known.
He’s also blind. And coping really well. Sarah is his security sister and goes along on walks. Phoebe is, in many senses, the reincarnation of his stuffed chicken. Cuddly and always there. (Also self-appointed eye washer!)
Luther is an excellent studio angel. And, if we do the math right, Bill and I can actually go out for lunch!
We’re still working on the grooming thing but we’re making progress. He actually likes bath time these days, though is still a firm No thanks! on the hairdryer scene. And a tentative maybe on towels.
Life at our house is different, for sure.
And yet, when I’m feeling anxious about something like, oh, showing somebody my art, I look at the big brave guy making his way through a world he can’t see, safe in his family, happy to drool and shed on his many friends, and a lot of things seem different in perspective.
And when they all curl up at my feet and snore in that comforting way dogs have, I remember that the best love goes both ways.