[Editor's Note: Here is a beautiful post by the foster mother of Mya, who comes from our local shelter, Second Chance Animal Center, in Shaftsbury, Vermont.]
Mya, my 5-year old foster dog, looks like a cross between a German Shepherd Dog and one of those hair-challenged, partly-naked Chinese crested dogs that always wins the “ugliest-dog-it’s-cute” contests. You see, she’s got quite a few bald spots from her battle with neglect. The hair does seem to be growing in, but in oddly formed patches and varying lengths.
She gets many looks and lots of attention, my 71-pound Chinese Crested Shepherd.
But that’s not really the story I want to tell you today.
So, Mya and I made a trip to Stowe, Vermont, this past weekend to meet up with my good friend and dog training business partner, Maryellen. Maryellen’s from Stowe has the scoop on all the dog-friendly stores. Thus, she was our perfect Virgil (sorry, I couldn’t help but slip in a Dante reference there), leading us through various stores and introducing us to dog-friendly staff who would love to give my partly-naked, but strikingly adorable foster, some affection.
So, as I watched Mya, still struggling with trusting people, meet new folks in the stores, two lessons become crystal clear to me. As she greeted the new folks, her front end was accepting, open, curious, wanting: soft eyes, a muzzle nosing a leg or hand, ears forward in interest. . .all saying “I’m here, I want to meet you, I want your attention.” At the same time, her back end was tentative, still fearful: legs shaking a bit, tail tucked, hind end low. . .a clear but different message, “please don’t hurt me, I’m worried.”
Lesson 1: Dog communication is complex, and it can carry mixed messages. Sound familiar? I’m sure we’ve all been there too, with conflicting feelings—unsure yet excited about an opportunity, fearful yet exhilarated by a challenge, etc. Dogs are no different.
Lesson 2: Courage. Despite the fear, the worry, whatever past she experienced, Mya continues to be open to human contact. Maybe slowly, maybe tentatively, maybe with mixed feelings, but she still puts that beautiful nose out as an invitation to engage. What courage!! What resilience!!
I’ll leave you with a quote I saw recently, “Courage doesn’t always roar…sometimes courage is the quiet voice at the end of the day saying, ‘I will try again tomorrow.’”