A dog’s love
Gaining a dogs love has to be earned. People assume that the moment you lock eyes they are 100% in love with you. From my experience this is wrong. It takes time.
Bending down I peered in through the metal doors that open the wire cage in front of me. I could see a small bundle of puppies curled up together among the blankets, at the back.
“What breed are they?” I said as I opened the latch and placed my hand inside the box, counting how many were hiding among the sheets. I gently picked one out and held it softly in my hands, checking the puppy over.
“They couldn’t be more than a month old?”
“He was very keen on getting rid of them.”
“The guy that dropped them off. He placed the box on the floor, yelling keep them and ran out the door and drove away.”
“Seriously? Some people! Are you okay Claire?”
“Yeah of course just worried about the little poppets.” She pointed to my hands. The pup started to move around, and I placed him back in the box and looked down at my watch, the custom hands made out of bones where pointing 9.55 am
‘You better get going Millie, meeting at 10.”
“Oh damn I can not be dealing with Robert on my back today.” I picked up the pups and took of down the corridor, for ten in the morning in mid May it was overcast outside, with all signs of the weather indicating it was going to rain. Carefully I placed the pups on the desk in front of me while I waited in the staff room for the meeting, afterwards I would take the Jack Russell’s’ to John for checking over before they are placed within the baby sanctuary, just behind the staff room. I was surprised I was actully the first one in the office, I have never been the first, I am normally one of the last. I have a habit of losing and forgetting I have meetings. Luckily this is why I love Claire, since I started here back in March she has played mum, making sure I know my way around and getting me on time to everything.
I waited for at least half an hour before no one turned up, so I took it upon myself to take the new pups to the vet. The rain had just begun to fall from the sky, as I walked across the courtyard towards the barn conversion. As the few droplets dribbled down my face I heard a monstrous scream followed by load aggressive shouting, and frantic barking. The noise caused the whole sanctuary to stop what they were doing and listen to the ear piercing howls. I placed the Jack Russell pups in the hands of a volunteer under the instruction to take them to the vet, while I ran off towards the commotion. Turning round the building I saw my manager Robert, and 5 members of staff attempting to get a very distressed and aggressive dog into a large metal cage. They had cornered the dog to the wall, pushing it back into the cage. It snapped and bared its teeth, crouching in attack position. Another member of staff called Tim followed on behind me running with an extendable water hoes and started spraying the dog with water to persuade it to go into the cage even more. To the side a family watched on, the mother holding half a mangled lead, with a look of pure terror on her face. After ten minutes of intense battling, the dog was finally in the cage, but was still ferociously growling. Robert threw a blanket over the cage and the staff carefully picked it up; desperately trying to stay away from the bars. I waited for Robert to finish consoling the family before I jumped in with my 20 questions about what had just happened. His face looked weathered; like this situation was more then he could cope with.
“What just happened?” I asked as he stood with the broken lead watching the family walk away.
“They found this dog, unconscious on the road. Still breathing, they brought it here. But it woke up just before we could get it into a cage and well you know the rest.”
“Surly the way the dog acted could be because he is in shock?”
“I am hoping so. We will give him a couple of hours and then see what we can do.”
For the rest of the day the sanctuary carried on as normal, the staff seemed to be unfazed by this morning, the only reason for this that came to my mind was that they were very good at covering their emotions, or didn’t care. But for me I was in shock, I had never witnessed anything like that before. I was intrigued by the new dog and went to check on it.
“He let you in the cubical that’s great.” I beamed as relief washed over, that it had just been the shock of waking up in a strange area.
“Umm not true I am afraid Millie, we had to tranquilize him to be able to do a psychical. “ John said as he walked out with Robert trailing behind.
“Is he okay?” As I asked, I walked pass them and into the cubical, the dog was back into the same cage he was in earlier, although he was still unconscious.
“Millie do not get too close” Robert warned as I knelt down next to the dog.
“He is very aggressive, Eliza came in earlier to feed him, and he rushed at her and ripped her trouser.”
“Lucky he didn’t get her leg.” John chimed in.
“So is he okay?”
“He is fit and healthy although I have second thoughts about his mental state.”
“Mmm,” I sat crossed legged in front of him, gazing into its unblinking eyes. “What breed do you think it is? Looks like a cross.”
“Good catch, Doberman cross Labrador Retriever. He has a Retriever muzzle, with the body of a Doberman. He is a handsome boy if I am honest. I hope he settles down or this is going to be a lost cause.” I turned towards Robert and John.
“What do you mean lost cause?” John stood next to me and looked down, and placed his hand gently on my shoulder.
“Sometimes we get animals that can not be rehabilitated and its not fair or them or us to keep them going forever, or staying inside a small cage.” With that he left with Robert following on behind him, leaving me alone. I continued to stay by the dog side until his eye began to roll, indicating he was coming round from the anaesthetic, and got up to leave. I know what Robert was referring to and I wasn’t ready to accept that this beautiful dogs destiny lies with the end of a needle.
It was my month on kennels, which was my favourite part of my whole job. But it did mean that I was the one continually feeding the new dog and watering him along with Tim. He was still aggressive as anything, and whenever we tried to enter we would have to lock him outside within the run just so we could place food down, but he threw himself at the wired door frantically trying to get to us. It was not looking good for him. Another week pasted and still no change within the dogs behaviour. I was stood just outside his cage, watching him pace up and down the room, agitated by the slightest noise. While I watched him, I didn’t notice John or Robert come up behind me. Jumping when I turned around to face them, I looked straight down into John’s hands, where he was carrying a small case and a towel. Since I have been working here I have never seen or heard of any animal being put down, due to aggressive behaviour.
“You going to put him down?”
“It’s the kindest thing to do” John let out a weak smile. He to wasn’t happy about this situation. I turned to Robert.
“He has only been here two weeks. That’s hardly long enough to see his true nature. “
“Millie, he has almost attacked everyone that works here.”
“He’s just scared.”
“This is a difficult situation, but it is the best thing to do, Yes”” John said.
“For who. You or him?” Anger was boiling inside of me, this poor dog had never had a chance here, and this was unjustified and unfair. There was a moment of silence before, Robert nodded to John, indicating to get the needle ready.
“Please don’t do this Robert. I could bring him around.”
Robert let out a cold laugh, “Really? You think after working here for what? Almost 3 months that you have had enough experience with a dog of this magnitude
“Millie don’t be silly, he could really harm you.” John warned
“I know but he deserves someone to at least try.”
“Millie, he is a dangerous dog, no more to be said.”
“But he isn’t a dangerous dog. He is misunderstood, nervous and upset. Humans feel that way all the time, yet they are never put down.”
“Humans are different to dogs”
“Why? Because we are meant to be superior to them?” Robert starred at me, I had hit a nerve and the atmosphere around us became cloudy like a storm brewing, even the dogs must have felt the change in energy as the kennels quietened.
“Millie we are not having this conversation, John get ready”
“Just give me two weeks with him”
“Please… if after two weeks no one can stand in a room with him, then you can do what you like, but he at least needs a chance, which you are not giving him! “
“Millie I said no. “
“I will take the flack if he bites me. I wont claim for it or anything, I will even put that down in writing.” Next to me John was smiling at Robert.
“I think we should let her try. And if after two weeks I can stand in the room with him, without being attacked, we can continue to work on him and find him a new home.” This made Robert stop again.
“John this is not negotiable.”
“Actully it is. I can say no to putting an animal down until I think the situation is in fact dyer. So I am going to revoke my judgement for two weeks time.” With that John walked out the door to the side and strolled back to his office opposite the kennels.
“Fine! You have two weeks to get that dog to a place that allows him to go near someone else, or he is out of here. Do you understand?”
“I also what that statement of not claiming down on paper and signed. As this is your stupid endeavour.”
“Of course.” I smiled and received a piece of paper from the kennel office.
“I Millie Plonton, here by write that I will not claim against the insurance if this dog does attack me during my stupid endeavour… umm brackets (as said by Robert Knock) and it is signed.” I handed the paper back to Robert. “Happy now?”
“I hope you know what your doing?” With that Robert stormed out the door slamming it as he went. I turned back and look through the small window on the door to the dogs cubical and watched him starring back at me. No barking no growling, just staring at me. I smiled.
“I am going to name you Koda.”
I had to admit to myself that I had no idea where to start with Koda. The day after I had made it my mission to help him, I went home that evening and spent all night researching ways to help aggressive dogs. I found a lot of different ideas, that I was eager to try but first of all I had to get him used to me. I started by just looking at him from the window, where he became fully aware I was there and just starred back at me.
“So you are scared of going in then?” Robert came up behind me and laughed.
“Actully I am getting him used to me. The first step is to just gain eye contact.”
“Where did you learn that? The internet.” He huffed as he walked away. I know what he thought and for a second I did doubt myself. Was this a huge mistake. Shaking off the doubt I started on step two. I urged Koda outside with food at the bottom of his run. He came out of the door he raced down and started to attack the wire cage. I jumped back in fright, just as he to jumped when the run door closed behind him. I walked back and Tim met me.
“No worries, by the way I think what your doing is amazing”
“Really?” I was unsure, whether Tim was just being nice or he actully believed it.
“Yeah I really do. You stuck up to Robert, and managed to give the dog a second chance, none of us would have done that or even tried to. We would have just accepted what Robert said and that would have been that. We all get a tad intimidated by him.”
“Yeah I know what you mean. But I was just so angry at the thought of Koda being put down, it got the better of me and well as they say the rest is history.”
“Koda? So you have named him now?”
“Yeah, I have always loved that name and I thought it was fitting for him, from a Native American word for friend and that’s what I want to gain from him. Friendship.”
“Thanks” I smiled and turned to leave to head into Koda’s cubical. I took a big sigh and clasped the door handle. “I can do this, I can do this.” Under my breath I repeated the mantra forcing myself to believe I could make a difference to this dogs life. Slowly opening the door, I entered into a hurricane of howling barking and growling, as Koda watched me from the run door. I sat down in the far corner, the farthest away from him and just sat there. I took out my phone from inside my pocket and stuck in my headphones and listened to calming music. I needed my nerves to calm down, and I also needed to block out the continuously sound from Koda. The idea was to stay a good distance away from him until he stopped barking and growling towards me and then to move slowly closer to him and start the process again. I was an idea I got from when I was little and we had birds in the garden, you see them from a distance from the bird table and you slowly get closer. They begin to see you are no threat and they settle down with you around them.
It took him another hour to calm down with me the furthest away I could be. Still alert his body was straight and his tail followed suit, as he kept his eye fixed on me. I shuffled forward half a metre, where the barking begun again. This continued for many hours until I was a small half a metre from the door. He had settled quite a lot, he was no longer standing, but just perched on his hind legs, sitting down and just glaring at me. I thought I’d better not push it to the point I was next to the door. So I got up and walked out, got some food for him and came back in. As I opened the door, he gave a low growl, but nothing more I placed the food close to the run door, and walked out. While on the outside of the kennel door, I watched Koda sniff where I was sitting and he went on to eat his food. Relief washed over me. My first day and I think I had personally got somewhere no barking or howling the second time I walked in. That was a major step and I couldn’t be happier with how it went.
Although Koda was my main priority I still had my daily duties among the sanctuary, which being my month in the kennels actully helped me out. I was able to groom, feed and walk the other twenty dogs before closing time, allowing me even more time in the evening with Koda. Tim was also staying after closing time, it was his week to do the night shift. Around the back of the kennels there is a small house with 4 bedrooms and each week different members of staff spend the weeknights at the sanctuary so they are on hand for the animals. I had swopped the next two weeks of night time shifts with Eliza and Ben so I could work with Koda during the night and have somewhere to sleep when I was done, as it took me an hour to travel in from work everyday.
The days were getting lighter as they drew closer to summer, I found that natural light helped calm my nerves as I enter back into Kodas cubical. He was safely within the run again, although as soon as he heard the door he ran to towards it growled and barked couple of times, but quickly stopped. I started off back in the corner of the room, although only staying there for a short fifthteen minutes, before carefully moving into different positions towards the cage. Within 2 hours I was sat half a metre away from the door leading to his run. He hadn’t moved or made a sound; he just sat down watching me get closer. I took a deep breath and moved right next to the door, careful not to allow my body any connection with the metal. Koda’s dark brown eyes looked straight into mine as we continued to stare at each other, nether of us daring to move. I whisper towards him, just talking normally like I would to Tim. He responded by titling his head to one side and lying down on his stomach, paws stretched next to my leg. My heart was in my throat, as he began to stick his tongue between the wire, in what seemed to be an attempt of licking me. Carefully I moved my hand to his tongue, leaving it just a few millimetres from the wire. Again he stuck his tongue out and it touched my skin. He had licked me. Not bitten me, licked me. Inside I was ecstatic, but on the outside I remain calm and collective. After five minutes of not moving myself Koda got up and moved away from the entrance. I took this as my key to leave.
I worked like that with Koda for four more days inching ever closer towards him; I even got a few more licks on my hand. I was overwhelmed with how well progress had gone, that I thought it was time for the next step; adding another person to the situation. Tim volunteered to be my extra, even after Robert made a huge fuss about him being part of a stupid game. He made him sign the same sheet I did, promising not to claim of the insurance and we were ready to go back into the room. I waked in first and took up the position a few steps away from the out door run, Koda made no noise. After ten minutes of silence I texted Tim on my phone to enter into the cubical and to sit in the first place I sat near the corner of the room. As soon as he entered, Koda started growling and barking towards Tim in the corner. I could see the look of fear on Tim’s face, but I spoke over the barking and we had a normal conversation.
Within an hour Koda had completely calmed, with me by my side he came closer towards me, and pushed his hair right up against the wire, making some of it push out, I took a chance and snuck my fingers between his fur. He jumped and turned to face me. I froze. He froze. Tim watched on, waiting to see what Koda’s next move would be. I was surprised by the reaction and he got up and again moved away from me. Tim had forgot that he was meant to be slowly coming towards the dog, and was suddenly next to my side. I was starring at Koda, he hadn’t made a noise since he moved towards me, no growling no nothing. I jumped up from the floor, scaring both Tim and Koda, as I walked to the door, telling Tim to wait I would be back.
I came back with John and food treats. In my head it was best to see how many people I could get into the cubical without Koda having a head fit. I was surprised that I managed to get me, Tim, John and Lucy into the cubical, with only a few growls. We all sat down on the floor, just talking, ignoring Koda, like he wasn’t here. It worked he settled down, and rested his head on his paws. John was talking about the amazing difference he could see within the dog after only been training with him for few days. I was so pleased although it was short lived. Known of us had expected Robert to come back to work after five, but he had forgotten his paper work. He peered in through the door of Koda’s cubical and started to shout.
“WHAT THE HELL IS GOING ON IN HERE?” His voice made not just Koda jump but all of us. And within that short few moments everything went wrong, I still had my hand on Koda’s fur and when I jump I accidently caught his fur on my finger causing him to turn around and bite the tip of my finger only lightly drawing blood. John rushed to push Robert out of the cubical ,as Koda, started to get worked up. The barking made my stomach turn. I was so close and now he had bitten me.
“Do you seriously think that was the right way to go about that Rob?” John’s temper began to rise.
“I do not care. What the hell were you all thinking?”
“We signed the sheet Rob calm down,” Lucy to had walked out of the cubical and was giving Robert a mouthful. “If you had actully bothered to look at what was going on, you would have seen the amazing work Millie has down with Koda. She was able to have all of us in that room while she had a hand on his fur.” I could hear the shouting outside, but I had gone into mild shock. The bite didn’t hurt at all, it was done out of fear and pain. A normal reaction. But I ran out crying, pushing past Robert, John and Lucy. I went out the back door and started to head into the darkness. It wasn’t long until Tim caught up with me.
“Millie stop.” He gently took my hand and wiped at the bite with an antiseptic wipe. He smiled “Good job you had your tetanus.” After wiping away most of the blood he put a small plaster over the wound. “Not to bad, I’ve had worst.” I smiled back.
“So why you upset? You have done an amazing job with him.”
“I was so close, maybe I rushed him, maybe I did all this to much, in 4 days he has gotten used to people and allowed me to stroke him and then Rob comes in and ruins it all.”
“I know, but there could be a chance that he hasn’t.”
“What do you mean?”
“Well I have been here for over 5 years now, and not one animal would have not got upset or even been in shock over the racket Rob just made. It is normal. It doesn’t mean you have failed at all. It just means it may take a day to redo the work, or if were lucky he has remembered it all.” I hugged Tim within that short minute of crying, I had turn it into madness and went straight back into the cubical with Koda. Tim watched from behind the door, which I had locked from the inside; there was no way anyone could get in now. I took a deep breath and sat in front of the door, waiting for him to calm down. Thirty minutes later he was once again calm and I was able to again lie my hand down for him to lick. I took some food out of his bowl and gave it to him between the wire mesh. Gently he would grab the food. I was full of anger and upset, and then I open the door.
I hadn’t realised I did it . I had opened the run door, allowing Koda to come into the cubical. I turned to Tim in the window who was pointing to the lock to be undone. I shock my head and sat back down, and watched as Koda, came slowing into the cubical and starred straight at me. I had no idea why I had just done that. But so far I hadn’t been attacked. I tried picking up food from the bowl and laid it down in front of me. Carefully and slowly Koda came towards the food, sniffing at the floor. This was so stupid on so many levels, if this went wrong we both would be in a bad shape. I held my breath as Koda sniffed at my feet and then my hands and began to lick them again. I looked back to the window, where Robert and John had joined Tim in watching my madness unravel. Koda was relaxed around me, he wasn’t barking or growling he lied down next to me and placed his head onto my lap. I slowly started to stroke his head as relief flooded over me. My gamble had paid off I was in the room with this handsome Doberman cross lying across me and we were both unharmed. Something amazing had happened him and me had finally connected and it was magnificent. After an hour I gently moved his head and got up and went towards the door. He followed me with his eye, and I could see his nerves beginning to rise. I gently whispered that it was okay and he was a good boy. Tim careful came into the room and sat back on the floor while I went back over to Koda. He watched Tim nervously and visa versa.
I was moving fast, but I know it was now or never, if he could accept me he could accept Tim and hopefully John. John and Robert were waiting outside, Johns face was beaming and he slowly came into the room, again Koda didn’t make a movement he stayed seated next to me. I never expect Robert to also come into the room. To be honest I wanted him nowhere near Koda or me. Koda let out a low growl as he stood up on all fours as Robert entered the room. I stroked his head and told him all was going to be okay and he sat back down, on his hind leg however not relaxed just watching Robs every move. I had to giggle, Koda liked him as much as I do.
“So Robert, as part of the agreement I am sat down within the cage without being attacked. This dog is of sound mind and will carry on being rehabilitated by Millie until he is ready to find a new home.” Robert didn’t say anything he just nodded. I was over come with joy.
Soon after we left Koda for the night and went to have a drink in the boarding house.
“Millie.” Robert came up to me. “I’m sorry. What you have done within the last week has been amazing; you didn’t even need the two weeks. You saved that dog.” I smiled I know it took a lot for Robert to swallow his pride and apologises. “I would like to offer you a job?” I starred at him confused,
“But I have a job?”
“Yes but I would like to make you our official dog behaviourist, so you will focus on helping dogs like Koda everyday.”
I was beaming, and couldn’t thank Robert enough, to the point I documented his kindness in a story, when I the time. Being a full time dog behaviourist is hard work but it’s the best job ever. Now what of Koda you ask? Well he continued to grow into an exceptional dog, one that could go on walks be around new people and even got on with other dogs. However there was just one little problem with him. I had fallen in love with him, and while I write this he is lying across my legs. I couldn’t bear to let him go, so he now comes to work with me. I saved him and he saved me. I have never been happier since he came into my life. I am just grateful I never gave up on him.