The older I get the more I have come to realize just how fragile life can be. We flippantly quip that “life changes on a dime” – in reality, it’s quite true. Last week, our family grew by one. Bea and I opened our home and our hearts to Tess, a friend’s 12-year old Brittany Spaniel. Sadly, just three weeks after being diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, Velma, Tess’s forever mom, left this place. Beatrix and I had made a promise to Velma that Tess would join our family when life changed as we knew it would. Promises made and promises kept.
Tess is not a stranger to us. Seven years ago, Velma rescued her from a damn puppy mill – Tess was a “breeder” and as a five-year old was no longer wanted. I’ll spare you the details of her time at the damn puppy mill – but I will say that she trusted no one, had no real shelter from the elements for all those years and basically lived a life at the end of a four-foot chain and full of fear. Thank goodness, the Brittany Spaniel Rescue group here in the Pacific Northwest took Tess in, working to find a new home for her. When she lived on her houseboat up on the Columbia River many years ago, Velma had a Brittany so she made a decision to bring Tess in to her home. Luckily for us, our properties are separated just by a chain-link fence – so over the years, Beatrix and I were able to help Tess make the adjustment to her forever home. However, there is a fine line between helping her adjust and keeping a distance so she wouldn’t bond with us since we wanted her to bond with Velma. We respected that line over the years never really expecting to cross it as soon as we did.
With rescue dogs, It’s all about trust – and sometimes it comes easy and sometimes, as in Tess’s case, it comes slowly. Over the years, Tess learned to trust Velma, Bea and I but didn’t let go of a lot of her issues and never really felt comfortable with other people on and off the property. Last Friday, Tess spent her first night with Beatrix and I. While they know each other, there is some “dog” stuff that still needs to happen. Tess is really anxious in the house afraid of being locked in – so short bouts that gradually grew longer were the plan. The first pix is the second day indoors. Kind of like two-year old kids who are aware of each other but don’t really play together, right? Over the weekend, I just let them make their own rules – playing musical beds and hammocks, indoors and out. At one point, I saw them sharing the same hammock...at the same time! The second pix was taken on Sunday, the weather was so lovely here, they both stayed outside most of the day by choice. As you can see, Tess is much more relaxed; in fact, she was sound asleep on the grass lying close to Bea. The last few weeks were really stressful for Tess, lots of people in and out of Velma’s house -- Tess was fully aware of what was going on (dogs do that you know); and now she just needs time, maybe lots of time, to feel comfortable enough to really call this home and understand that Bea and I are her forever family now.
I’d be lying if I said Bea and I were just fine with the new addition. We are both such creatures of habit, our little world has to change and we are dealing with that. I say it all the time, I don’t do well with change, and so this has been a bit of a challenge. Today, I spread a bale of hay – so Tess wouldn’t get in the mud! Yes, a bale of hay in the rain. As you can see, I put up a barricade to protect the birds at the feeder as Tess’s nose just reaches the feeding trays – and she has been known to catch a bird or two in her own yard. Did I mention that I have to climb over the barricade to fill the feeder? And, feeding the two dogs was a bit of a circus the first day – but we figured that out and will slowly adjust so that Tess feels comfortable eating in the same kitchen as Bea. Sometimes I look at Bea and I can see a three-year old child with a new baby sister --- “Mom, I really love her, but can she go home now?” So, you get the idea we are all in the process of change in lots of little ways. I do know that the most important thing right now is that we are going through it all without expectations and just lots of love and total acceptance – after all isn’t that what we all want in life?