Travelling across Europe to take a rescue dog to its forever home was a first for me, and actually, it had never crossed my mind that I would have to do it, until a home was found for Christie in Austria. Since the first moment Margaret emailed me, after seeing her Youtube video, I kept thinking that – if everything worked out – Christie would need help adjusting. Margaret realized that, and I can never thank her enough for organizing everything and paying for our trip.
Christie is “special”. You can read her entire story here – briefly, after being adopted and returned, she changed. I used to call her “my suspicious sheep”, because of her easy going character, combined with a constant suspicious look in her eyes. But during those two months that she was “adopted”, something happened that made her start growling at people she didn’t trust – and this was the reason she was returned.
I didn’t want Christie to start her new life the wrong way. She is a dog that gets very attached to the person who takes care of her, but is very suspicious of strangers, so, me travelling with her and living for a couple of days with her and Margaret helped her make the transition smoothly and gently.
I was anxious about travelling with her, but she surprised me. This is a dog that is terrified of people and things she doesn’t know, and yet she went through two busy airports, two trains, Margaret’s car, platforms, up and down the stairs, elevators, in and out of the box without causing any problem whatsoever. She spent three hours on the train with a muzzle on her, without complaining and she walked and walked beside me, attached to my backpack, while I was carrying her box, without ever even pulling or stalling. This is how much she can trust the person who provides for her.
You might think that a fearful dog like her needs someone to hug him and make her fear go away, but it’s the exact opposite. Christie needs someone to simply be there, ignoring her as much as possible. Someone she can approach whenever she feels comfortable enough to do so, sniff the tip of his toe, and then go back to lying in her crate without being bothered. And this is what Margaret did. She ignored her better than I would have, and just let her be.
During those two days in Saltsburg, I slowly faded out while Margaret faded in. I took her on her first walk around the block, as if nothing had changed in her life, apart from the house we lived in. On the second walk, Margaret came along, and at some point, I passed the lead on to her, without Christie even realizing it. Every hour of the day, Margaret did more and I did less – less walking, less feeding, less petting, until on Saturday afternoon, I stayed locked in the bedroom, and Margaret took her out herself, brought her back, put some treats in her crate and let her rest.
And while she was there resting, I left without looking back, without saying goodbye. She didn’t realize that I was gone. Maybe she can still smell me around the house, but she is not looking for me, she is calm. While we skyped this afternoon, I could see her in her crate, sound asleep, not worried about anything. A calm dog is a happy dog. And for a dog like her, being calm and sound asleep, while a woman she met two days ago is in the room with her is a huge accomplishment.
When Christie was returned from her adoption, I spent a day crying. My lovely “suspicious sheep” kept growling at me, and I was about to give up. But she didn’t let me give up on her, and I admire her for that. I admire her for going through so many changes within the past few months without completely losing herself. I admire her for trusting me again, for being so easy to crate train and muzzle train and travel with. I admire her because she didn’t let me give up and because she showed me how to handle her.
*I could never do it without my trainer – sorry for crying so loud at your ear that night! 🙂 )
Believe it or not, this is the video that got her adopted: