Rescue dogs can be like a complicated puzzle. So ‘mothering’ one can be complex because you don’t have all the pieces. Understanding and putting those pieces together in healing ways is the promise you make to a rescue.
Raen, the beloved long-haired Shepherd we just lost, came to us starved and abused. She was changed by her experience and while she healed in so many ways there were many behavior patterns that remained deeply engrained by what she went through.
Abuse does that. I worked for 17 years running a group for survivors of domestic violence. And even for the adult women I worked with, who could talk it out and reexamine their experience, healing could be slow.
One of Raen’s ‘residuals’ was that she was a quiet girl. She was a puppy who didn’t bark at all when we first got her and she had a torn tongue. When you are a rescue parent you are always trying to add up one and one. Often you get to two but wonder if perhaps the puzzle pieces really were meant to be aligned to 11.
We always assumed someone slammed her mouth shut when she barked and she tore her tongue in struggling with them. Of course, we will never know. But as she healed she got her bark back, though she usually saved it for significant events. Of course, to her, a visiting squirrel could be one! But in the main, she was quiet, and it felt like hers was an internal quiet, full of wisdom.
Another behavior was circling. Part of it was a hunting behavior. She would sweep through the grass, stir up bugs, and chase them, but the limited repetitious patterns also seemed to suggest she had been encaged within limited space and got used to small circles and figure eights. Again,unknowable, but circling was a “default pattern” for her. Proscribed by boundaries we would never see, she carved out pathways in our yard by her repetitious pacing, wearing the grass away to the bare earth.
Those pathways are now resolving. Our southern St. Augustine grass is slowly creeping into them and covering them over, softening the boundaries, blurring the lines.
In life Raen romped through our whole yard, but would retreat to hunt and to circle in her paths of safety and security. In death, near a rainbow bridge or just in heaven, I hope she is making new ones that make God smile, like she made us smile watching her.
Yet the grieving remains and that too is a puzzle with patterns and paths to follow. And while the grass may cover the marks of her presence here in her yard, the paths she left in our hearts will remain forever.
Our new rescue, Nessa, has her own patterns, that we are learning and puzzling over as well. Like Raen, and Brin, and Heidi, she is laying new tracks in our lives, smooth places that will belong only to her. We will have some rough patches ahead as she goes through her heartworm treatment, but just as with all we love, tough times bring bonds of shared experience that will deepen like Raen’s circles, down to the solid earth of our lives.