Shadow's Story - Where There Is Love, There Is Always Hope
Shadow is the most traumatized dog I have ever worked with. Even after rescuing over 40 "wild" dogs from one hoarding situation (took me 2 years of hiking & trapping to get them all), who had never been touched or petted, she is the most traumatized of all. With the wild dogs born in the wild, they just had never had any "people" experience. Shadow has had "people" experience, and it has all been bad.
After I trapped her and put her in my holding pen, I could not even get my hands on her for 1 1/2 years. She had no idea what it felt like to be touched, petted, loved.
All of the rescued dogs that I have here are the "misfits" - the really difficult ones that I had to work with a lot, who basically could not be adopted in to homes because of the severe circumstances from which they came. They all have their stories, too, which deserve to be told, but Shadow is at the top of this list of difficulty. Even friends and volunteers were asking me, "What are you EVER going to do with that dog? She will never be able to be adopted with anyone!" However, without an agenda or timetable of my own, I just kept feeding her, loving her, and sweet talking to her for almost 2 years before things changed around for Shadow. Yes, she was in my holding pen, living by herself, but she was safe & fed & had her own two "houses" to hide in, and she was acclimating to me and the sights & sounds of the ranch from this safe place.
An amazing response from Shadow was when she started joining in on the “group howl” that happens with the dogs here when the coyotes start howling out in the desert. When the coyotes start up, all the dogs run out, put their heads together, and start up with their own “Group Howl.” I don't think howling comes natural with dogs.
The new dogs seem to have to learn this from the others, because in the beginning when they try to join in, it comes out as short barks & yips. Since this is a frequent event, they get lots of practice, however, and they quickly perfect their howling skills. The same happened with Shadow. Even though she was out in her separate quarters, she started joining in – first with the barks & then with the howls, and this made her a part of the Ranch Pack & her new family before I could even touch her – a good sign.
When I trapped Shadow in the fall of 2015 from a neighbor's ranch nearby, she was emaciated, all skin & bones, with big patches of hair falling out all over her body. The day I put the trap inside the holding pen & released her was the first day of a new life for her. The summer of 2016 was a hot one, like all summers here, and while the rest of the dogs were inside in the air conditioning during the day, Shadow was out in the heat. The pen is under the trees in shade, but at 120 degrees, that is still hot. I put up a misting system, had fans going 24/7, had a kiddie pool full of water, and was freezing ice cubes the size of beach buckets to put in her drinking water. It was still hot.
When the next summer came around and she was still in there, I started dreading this ordeal looming ahead. Then a miracle happened. She escaped from the pen when I opened the gate to clean. She did not leave the immediate area, but I could not coax her back in, even with her favorite food. I finally opened the gates to the fenced in area around the house, and she ran in there. Then my neighbor came down to help me get a collar & leash on her, and this was the beginning of a huge breakthrough for Shadow.
With that collar now on her, I began leash training her and was able to bring her in to the air conditioning every day all summer. Still, if I reached for her, she would run away from me. But she liked that air conditioning and then discovered that being touched & petted & having her ears scratched felt pretty good. During the heat of the day I would go back to that spare bedroom with her to take my nap. She started hopping up on the bed to nap beside me. She was slowly responding and even more slowly trusting, and after 9 months of this new routine, I no longer needed to offer her treats to get her to come in – she now trots ahead of me and goes in first.
She is starting to learn the basics - “sit,” “stay,” “up,” “no,” “good girl,” but does not yet have the concept of play or toys. Interesting though, my computer is back in her bedroom, and one day I was watching a puppy video. I can tell that Shadow had a litter of pups when she was still a pup herself, and when she heard the puppy sounds coming from the computer, her ears immediately perked up! She started whining and watching the screen intently. The next thing I knew, she jumped with her paws up on the computer table and eyes glued to the screen. She was crying & whining, and I had a moment's realization that in the horrible & lonely existence she had come from, there was this only moment of connection that she had ever experienced when her puppies were born – the only love Shadow had ever know was with her own pups, and then they were taken away. And then she was back to being all alone again. It was this strange moment of knowing that came over me about her, and I laid with her and cried with her about this.
I wish I knew what happened to Shadow's puppies. I wish I could bring them back for her. But now we have this new kind of love going on between us that she has never known before, and it is growing day by day and becoming something that she can depend on. Love is finding its way, and hope looms where there was none before for Shadow.