Friday, September 28, 2012

Tessa's Story - Part 1

It occurred to me that I have never posted Tessa's story as part of this blog.  This really was originally meant to be just a training blog, but I have sort of started reflecting and writing other things on here.  So, I thought it might be a good idea to actually share how she came to be part of my life.

I got involved with Glen Highland Farm, the most amazing Border Collie rescue in the world, located in Morris, NY, in 2005.  I went up there with Sammie, Speedy, and Maddie to attend their vacation camp and that trip ended up changing our lives in many ways.

Shortly after I had gone up for the first time, I began to volunteer for them, evaluating Border Collies in shelters or homes in my area, and taking part in transports.

Fast forward to late September 2010, exactly at this time of year.  I got an email from my intake coordinator about a Border Collie in a shelter about an hour away.  There was a 2 year (or thereabouts) that had just come into the shelter and she wasn't doing well in that environment.  She was scared of everything, but was better with women than men.  They wanted to know if I could evaluate her and possibly hold her for about a week.

I was unemployed and I had been hankering for a new dog to train.  A short term foster sounded perfect, so I agreed.  I set out on October 4 to go see the dog they were calling Maggie.

I will always remember the first sight of this dog.  She was in the far back corner of her kennel, frozen like a wild animal.  The look on her face was completely expressionless, as if she were trying to disappear into the walls.  Maggie was almost completely shut down.  When I walked into her run to evaluate her, she cowered in the corner.  Still, she let me move in and touch her and I completed her evaluation with no problem.  Once I got into her space, she was fine with me doing what I needed to do.

GHF decided to take her and they asked if I could hold her for a while since the rescue was currently full.  After meeting her, I was happy to do that.  There was something I liked about her, in spite of the fact that she shut herself off from me completely.  It was clear there was nothing personal about it and she would most likely co-exist with us and our dogs peaceably.

When I went to pick her up, she again cowered in the corner when I went in to get her.  Once on her leash, she went right along with me.  All was well until we got to the car.  She balked, and balked big time, when she realized I was leading her to a car.  I had to coax quite a lot and finally she jumped in.  Only to jump out in the split second when I went to open the crate door.  She even slipped two leashes and she was off!

That has never happened in all of the transports I have done.

Knowing she would not come to me if I caught up to her, I got the shelter folks.  They found her in a neighbor's yard and when she spotted them, she ran again - thankfully, back to the shelter!  They cornered her and corralled her into the main building of the shelter.  After that I got one of them to put her in the crate in my car.  Thus secured, we were off.

I rather expected her to panic in the crate during the ride, but she didn't.  After I pulled out of the shelter driveway, I looked back to see how she was doing.  She looked at me with interest, although she always shifted her eyes away from me quickly when I looked at her!

Right then and there, I knew I had to watch it.  I saw something.  I don't know what it was.  I actually said to her, "If I had a spot I might be tempted - you're my kind of dog!"  But, I went on, "It wouldn't be fair for me to ask you to live the life I would want you to live - you need to go someplace where nobody will expect anything from you."  Of course, it was moot (or so I thought!) we already had four dogs and Ben was adamant that we already had too many!

Also, there was already a potential adoptor for her.

So, we got to my house and I prepared to bring her in for a shower.  She didn't smell too bad, but she did smell like shelter, so some washing was a must.  I put my dogs in the dog yard and opened the side door and opened the car and got her out of the crate, holding firmly to two leashes.  And it's a good thing I held on.  She immediately started to struggle to escape.  And the closer I got to the house door, the more vehemently she struggled.  Finally I stopped and moved her back away from the door and we both took a breather.  She seemed to gather herself together at that point and she followed me, very unwillingly, into the house.

The shower went no better.  It was plain she was not going into the shower compartment and there was no way for me to shower her on the bathroom floor.  Finally I took a small container and filled it with water and mixed in shampoo.  I put towels on the floor and got her wet and lathered right there on the floor.  She tolerated it.  Then I took her outside to rinse her with the hose!  That's when she met my dogs, who were still waiting out there!

She was pretty oblivious to them until I got her rinsed off.  Then she checked them out.  I had her on a leash.  I could just picture her flying right over the fence and into the wild blue yonder.  She made no move to try to leave, but I still kept hold of her, just in case.

After a decent meeting, we all went inside and I dried her with towels, which she was fine with.

In the house, I kept a leash on her and, for the most part, I had her go with me throughout the house on leash.  I had no idea if she was housetrained, or how she would behave with my dogs in the house.  I was surprised, but she was fine with being tethered.  Any time I went to move at all, she jumped up, and followed me readily through the house.  She would not, under any circumstances, go through a doorway ahead of me.  But she would follow me anywhere.

So, I was not sure what we were going to do about sleeping arrangements that first night.  I discovered quickly that she was utterly terrified of crates and would not go within several feet of one.  Not even for food.  But the problem solved itself.  I thought about putting her next to the bed and using a tall gate to give her an area next to me.  But when I went to set that up, she jumped right on the bed and planted herself on it - chin and all.  I figured I would try having her on the bed, still attached to the leash.  That worked.  She didn't move the entire night.

One really good thing is that from the start my dogs did not mind her.  Even Speedy acted as if she had been here forever and he couldn't care less about her.  I think he knew that she was more afraid of him than he could possibly be of her!

Here are a couple of photos of Maggie (now Tessa) at the shelter.  It is plain how badly she wanted out of there.  It is strange for me to look at these now.  She seems like a completely different dog!  And in a way she is . . .  It is strange, too, that when I took these photographs, we didn't know each other.  We had no connection, no history, and we had no idea what good times were ahead.  She was just a dog I was evaluating, and I was someone that she wanted to avoid.

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