when she’s happy, she shimmers like a star

Sometimes I catch Baby Blue experiencing a few moments of pure, unbridled joy. Her eyes twinkle, her ears perk up, and her whole body looks happy. It makes my eyes tear up, seeing the dynamic, expressive dog that she can be. In yesterday’s post we laid out the challenge before us and explained (as best we could) the confusion and fear swimming around in this little girl’s head. We wanted to put it out there, right up front. But we don’t want to portray her as a dog who lives her whole life in the past.  Sometimes, she is able to escape from the past, and have the confidence to trust and be joyful. In these moments — usually when she and I are relaxing alone together or playing a game — she really shines.

So far Blue oscillates between (a) the nervousness that we described yesterday, (b) a milder concern, in which she keeps a careful eye on me to make sure I don’t go away, and (c) the relaxed moments of happy dogness. So far she spends most of her time in the middle — in a mild state of concern — with moments of the more extreme emotions on either side. We’re hoping that as time goes on, the happy dogness will edge ahead and ultimately win the race.

After all, isn’t this the face of a winner?

34 responses

  1. That’s the amazing thing about dogs–their ability to be in the moment. Although past experiences can keep them frightened and uncertain, they don’t spend their time pondering how badly people have treated them.

    Thank you for helping Blue find moments of joy. It’s great karma.

  2. When we adopted our staffy girl Shyla she was very fearful and shy – pretty much like you are describing Bluey (we too used the term conflicted to describe Shyla). We and the shelter we got her from didn’t really know what we were getting into when we adopted her, at the shelter she must have shut down completely and didn’t really display the full range of her behaviour. Being first-time dog owners, we were quite overwhelmed when the full extend of her fearfulness became apparent. I started searching the internet looking for ways to deal with it. And what really helped me were those blogs and websites describing how other people lived with fearful dogs and that there indeed was hope for improvement. So I guess there are a lot of people out there who will benefit from your blog and your journey with Blue.

    PS: One and a half years on, Shyla is a different dog. The trainer we had when we first adopted Shyla keeps saying “It’s a miracle.” And we couldn’t be happier (or prouder).

  3. Great PIC of her!! so cute. Those are the photos that help up remember who the dog really is, sweet, playful and full of life. Fred (bloodhound) spent his first year with me after i rescued him and he would bounce around with his personalities and as the fear and agression stepped aside he blossomed and now I cant even remember the old days where I was wondering if he would ever be able to relax and be a dog.
    I love what you do for dogs and commend you so much.

  4. Fearful aggression and mood swings are what give shelter dogs a bad rap. There are people out there who love dogs and love a challenge– one of them will find Blue!

  5. I’m just curious – but is she more confident when another dog is around her? I know some dogs really perk up and feel more confident when they have a canine buddy with them. Not that I think that would permanently relieve her of her anxiety, but I just wonder if she seems more relaxed around Chick?

    • Good question — not at this point. She avoids greeting or even coming near other dogs. Sometimes she does a very soft, very subtle growl, and sometimes the hair on the back of her neck stands up a little. She certainly isn’t aggressive toward them, but she also isn’t ready to be friends. Our trainer told us to build up her confidence with Ben first, and the start the introductions with Chick. For now they are totally separate, only going on parallel walks together in the evenings. Plus, logistically, we need her to be ok with Ben before we intro her to Chick, since I like to have two handlers available for dog-dog intros (our Chick can be a little finnicky with other dogs).

  6. I just love her face. I really hope that she works through this. It’s terrible knowing that she hasn’t had the love in her life that my spoiled brat has had. I don’t think that mine knows she has it so good! LOL! (Well… maybe outside of the incident where her mom closed her tail in the car door last week….) I just keep reading in the hopes that you say she has made a break through! Good luck. I know you can do it!

  7. Blue is just beautiful. She has to be thinking she’s in the best place ever….but that it won’t last. Once she understands that you’re not going anywhere; that your husband is a kind and gentle person…..she will hopefully relax and understand that she is loved. She’s so lucky to have you!!

  8. So glad to have read your blog! Your words of encouragement about Oreo were very very appreciated! Looking forward to hearing all about Blue’s adventure!

    • I know how it is to have blog readers encouraging you to keep a foster — and as a fostering advocate, I feel like it’s my responsibility to play the other side. Granted, when the dog is perfect, you keep it. But I always keep telling myself that keeping a dog because it’s hard to give him/her up isn’t as hard as knowing that you didn’t save any more lives because you kept just one. It could take some time, but the perfect family will come. Let’s stay in touch about it– now that we are dealing with a challenging foster, I have a feeling we will be on a long slow road too 🙂

  9. Awwww, lookit her sweet, sweet face!

    Gosh, a lot sure has happened while I was gone. I’m so very much happy that Blue ended up in your home. Me and mom read your bloggie from yesterday to see what all Miss Blue’s “issues” are and gosh, she sure sounds a lot like I did when I first got adopted. The only difference was that I really didn’t have too many problems with people – just with everything else.

    I think the very best thing you can do is what you’re doing right now – be patient and be…what was it mom called it?…oh yeah! Consistent. Mom says that even though it’s kind of a hard road, the views are TERRIFIC!

    Wiggles & Wags,

  10. I think I have a new desktop background! It’s taken a lot to let go of Gonzo in his Goldilocks pose on your chairs, but this picture of Blue has persuaded me. You go Blue, you’ll get there with patience and positive reinforcement and lots and lots of love and understanding. She is a very special girl this one. Definitely an underdog.

  11. She looks so happy in this photo! It looks like you have already managed to find her inner self. This photo, that’s who she really is, deep down. The challenge is to convince her it’s safe to let it out more often!

    And I agree, there is definitely something Shiva-esque in that head tilt. Which means you could be in big trouble!

  12. We’ve had Leche for almost two years now and we still struggle with some of her fear/shyness issues. I’m actually very interested in reading about you guys do to help her overcome these issues. I thought lots of love would do the trick but it’s only helped so much. She’s starting some training classes next week to see how that helps but I’m excited to see what you guys try on blue. Good luck!!

  13. What you are doing is so remarkable and kind. I have total faith that she will come around with all the love you to emit.

  14. Looking at the gorgeous photo I can’t imagine Blue being anything but happy all the time. I hope it won’t be long before she is! But it probably will take a while:( She’s in the best possible place though.

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