I am on the road with my beautiful dog, Shelby the Wonder Shepherd. She is not only my best friend, there have been times over the last few months when I have felt like she was my only friend.
I moved 1300 miles from my friends and family last fall. To say that I was lonely would be an understatement. I had a particularly bad time over the holidays. Sure, I kept busy with a new job and working on our new digs, but I missed my sons, grandchildren, friends, and even my grandpuppies, Sampson and Bosco.
I decided, in the last week of 2010 to see about getting a pet, a rescued animal if possible, but at the very least, a shelter animal. I visited the local shelter, which was full of Rottweilers and Pit Bulls of various ages, but none that were a perfect match. I picked up a card for a German Shepherd Rescue organization. I visited their website and asked that they keep me in mind for future adoptions. I received an e-mail within seconds. Seems they had an adoptee who was eligible that very day after completing her long, arduous treatment for heartworm. We made arrangements to meet Suzy Q, as she had been named, on New Year’s Eve. We had to be interviewed and filled out several applications.
Suzy Q was thin, with a patch of hair shaved from her back where her heartworm treatments had been administered. She was pretty lethargic. She had obviously had a litter of puppies recently, and she looked and acted scared. Not shivering, hulking down scared – but uncertain about everyone and everything. Except me. She bounded up to me and kissed me generously. I knelt and buried my face in the fluffy hair around her ruff. It was not only a Kodak moment – it was magical.
Sweet Cheeks and I went home and gave the idea of bringing Suzy Q home with us a lot of thought. There was absolutely no doubt in my mind that she was the one I wanted, but owning an animal that is nearly the size of a small horse is not a decision to be entered into lightly. We had been pet-less for many years due to my traveling position and his general dislike of being tied down by animals. Our yard was adequate but not fenced. Our home was small and perhaps a little crowded, but yet seemed so empty. We agreed to bring the dog into our home, but I refused to call such a magnificent animal Suzy Q. She became Shelby, the Wonder Shepherd. I wanted to name her Cybil Shepherd, but that name had already been used.
Shelby was a nervous girl for the first few days in our home, patrolling relentlessly around and around the open kitchen/dining room/living room circuit. She barked at night at every sound. She did not relax for even a second during those first few weeks. Every motion by humans in her vicinity was met with flinching on her part – every broom or mop brought out for cleaning caused her to slink away and hide. What had this dog been subjected to? How did she come to be abandoned? What became of her puppies?
With her history a question mark, we began to chart her future. Shelby excelled at the obedience classes we enrolled her in. We began exercising (she had been crated for 4 weeks during her heartworm treatment – coming out only for feeding and taking care of her “business”). She could barely walk 20 feet without distress, but we kept at it, adding a few yards each day. Soon she was walking blocks, and finally miles without problems. Her hair grew in, and her coat became lustrous after hours of brushing, bathing and grooming. Shelby began to trust not only us, but herself. She relaxed at last – sleeping for long stretches, often lying on her back and exposing her belly during sleep – so vulnerable. She is still easily overwhelmed, but can be calmed easily.
We began taking Shelby everywhere we went – dog friendly restaurants, beaches, parks, festivals – in an attempt to get her and keep her comfortable around people. We are working at being comfortable around other animals. She gets lots of attention – and is always very well behaved. Shelby could not sleep outside her crate, however. She could not settle down at night enough to sleep. Finally, after a couple of evenings of non-stop pacing and jumping up at every sound, she began sleeping on the floor next to my side of the bed, checking on me every few hours, then lying back down with a whoosh. Now she sleeps wherever she likes in the house, but still makes periodic checks to ensure Mama is still sleeping.
I am filled with love for this animal who is always so glad to see me. Even my worst days are made better by her devotion to me. If I am home, she is by my side – always within petting distance, attentive to every word. I put a magnet on my car from the organization that managed our adoption. It reads “Who Rescued Who?”