The Repairs Begin…
The first part of the day involved all of the tear downs, which made lots of pounding and ripping sounds, quickly followed by thuds as damaged roof and drywall hit the ground. Each time there was an especially loud noise, or anyone went in or out of the house, spoke loudly, etc., Rugby felt the need to answer back, just for good measure!
In the first day, the damaged roof re-construction was completed, and much of the interior damage was repaired as well. There was a team of probably ten workers total, and our house was like a bee-hive….buzzing with constant activity. It really was amazing to watch the progress, and marvel at the skill of the contractors who were working at a quick pace in very humid temperatures reaching well into the 90’s.
Fixing Hurt Feelings…
All of us survived that first day, and it felt like a real accomplishment! When Rugby came out of his crate, I knew he would need some extra attention from me. I sat on the sofa, and invited him to sit with me. Instead, he laid at the opposite end of the sofa, and looked at me with really hurt eyes. His eyes looked at me as if I had betrayed him; as if he couldn’t believe that I didn’t rescue him from the noise and his crate for the day.
This is when all dog owners struggle the most….trying to make sense out of nonsense for our dogs. There was no way in the world to explain to Rugby that we had to make the repairs to the house. He was only a little speckled and spotted dog, whose quiet and predictable world had come to a screeching halt for no apparent reason at all.
The Heartbreaking Struggle for Me…
This is where I knew that he had the hardest struggle. What was heart breaking to me, was the number of times, that his whole world had come to a halt when he had been uprooted from one home and taken to another, or dropped off at a shelter. His life had forever changed in each one of those situations, and a whole new life had come up in its place for him.
Each time that happened, he got a whole new life for which he never asked. Until Rugby came to live with me, his life had been a series of new homes, new owners, and new rules….over and over. He was only eight or nine months old when I found him, and he had already seen more structural change in his life than many dogs do in a lifetime. At a time of his life when he should have experienced stability and security, instead, he had experienced constant flux and change, which created a state of anxiety for him.
It’s times like these, when I wonder if he sees doggie flashbacks, and worries about losing his home and the safety and security I’ve provided for him. After all of these years, you would hope and think that a dog would understand, but Rugby lives in an anxious state when things like this happen. The security rug is pulled out from under him, and I can see the panic in his eyes.
What dog owners need to know…
This is what dog owners need to know about their rescue dogs. This is what they need to understand about why their dogs behave the way that they do. This is what dog owners need to realize before they casually get rid of a dog they don’t want or like or need any more. There’s a huge cost to the dog when he is shuffled from home to home or shelter to shelter or rescue.
Some dogs do manage multiple homes/shelters/rescues well and lead fairly normal lives. I see them when I’m training them, and I marvel at how trusting they are, and how they are able to cope with a world of humans that must make absolutely no sense to them at all. Some dogs do well…even when they’ve had a rough lot in life.
But many do not. I don’t honestly believe that Rugby was ever abused in any previous home, shelter or rescue. I do think he was neglected a whole lot. I don’t think he was ever socialized at all, and I often think that he may have been left to raise himself as a puppy. It was a very long, long time before Rugby ever came to me when he was afraid and wanted help. I just don’t think he had ever had a human help him when he was scared, so he never thought to turn to me for help. And I think that all of the previous homes, with so much change, in too short a time, have taken their toll on my little Rugby James.
His little spirit is so strong. His will to live and survive so great. But his fear and anxiety over changes that he can’t control consume him. He worries every time someone comes in or goes out…even on a regular day by day basis. When Michael or I leave, I know he is feeling stressed that he may never see us again. So many previous owners left him somewhere and never came back.
Does he remember all of that? Honestly, I don’t know. I really don’t. Science might tell me that he lives in the now and that he doesn’t remember those things, and I might disagree. Experience is a powerful teacher, and dogs learn behaviors that help them cope. When they start to see familiar scenery….that learned behavior kicks in, and they respond accordingly.
This is the ongoing work with Rugby at my house. I try to boost his confidence and trust inch by inch. Because he’s staying here with me, I owe it to him to try to improve his quality of life in the best way that I know how. The progress is very slow, and I know that he will never be able to really cope with life as we know it. But if we can make any forward progress, I call that a good day, so we carry on with hope in our hearts and love to see us through the rough spots!