May 8th 2008 3:27 pm
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At the end of August, I received the most devastating news a pet owner can possibly receive…”Your dog has a deadly cancer called hemangiosarcoma. It is very advanced, there is nothing we can do, and we don’t expect her to live more than a month. Two at the most.” On September 11th that year, I lost my best friend, Angel. My best friend; the one who stood by me during some of the most excruciating times of my life was now facing her own. It was only right that I stand by her until the very end. And that’s what I did as I lay on the veterinarian’s floor and held her as she took her last breath.
No, this story isn’t about Angel, but it does set the stage for my heartache when I came to GRRR and the one who has turned it around. I never thought I would get another dog or even yet, another Golden Retriever. I just couldn’t replace Angel, felt so guilty at the thought of it, and didn’t want to go through the pain of loss again. I was having a hard time with closure.
Fast forward to January 2007; feeling at an all time low after weeks of being cooped from all the snow, I was missing Angel terribly, even a year and a half later. One Saturday morning, I decided to peruse GRRR’s website to find out what it would take to adopt. I didn’t think I was ready, I just wanted to look. I cried for hours as I read the stories. I filled out the application and by Saturday night they contacted me. We talked for what seemed like hours about the dogs. I made an appointment to go to “the hut” on Sunday to meet a few of the dogs. Not expecting to find “the one” that day, I saw 5 wonderful dogs, but not “the one”, so I told Mary I would think about it. Before, I left I asked about Emma Jean and Mary said, “Are you sure? She’s the one who gets sick in the car.” I said yes and so off she went to get Emma Jean. When they walked in the door, Emma walked in behind Mary and hid behind her the whole time. At first, I wasn’t sure what to make of her. She was so shy and she looked so incredibly sad. Mary and I went outside to take her for a walk in the snow and she was absolutely perfect on the leash! All of sudden, something possessed me and I knew I couldn’t let this girl go to anyone else. She was “the one” and within 24 hours of filling that application, I was a dog owner again.
Emma was one of 10 dogs rescued in November 2006 from a puppy mill nightmare in Oklahoma. While I did not personally witness the horrible conditions, I have read and heard the heartbreaking stories. All of the dogs had been traumatized and it is unbearable to believe that anyone could treat such beautiful animals in such a deplorable way. Emma and her puppy mill family had angels watching over them that day and were fortunate enough to receive the help or our wonderful GRRR volunteers.
So begins our adventures. When Emma arrived at my house a few days later she was incredibly depressed and afraid of everything, especially people. The minute that someone would walk in the door, she would run out the back door and peek her head back in. Any movement toward her would send her running or she would just hide behind me for protection. The cats were a totally new experience and that first smack on the nose was scary. And playing? Forget it; she didn’t understand what all the toys were for. The car was the ultimate torture since she would get sick every time! It was painful to watch, but I knew I could help her.
Our first task was to socialize, so we started taking short walks every day, purposely seeking out areas where people would be. Emma would freeze and hide behind me at the sight of another person until that person passed us. Each day we held the same routine and each day we would see 1 or 2 new people. Everyone wanted to pet her and she would freeze every time! I would explain the situation to them and asked them to let her come to them on her own conditions. I was met with incredibly supportive and understanding responses. Each day, Emma grew more and more brave. Within a month she had stopped bolting when someone came in the house. Within two months she was tentatively approaching people and by the third month she was wagging her tail when someone came in the house. With continued support and love from everyone she met, she started to shine. In April, she made her debut at the Golden Retriever Spring Fling put on by GRRR. While she generally stayed close to me, she ventured out to meet some of the other wonderful people and their Golden buddies. A few days later she attended the kite festival in a nearby park. There were hundreds of people and although I knew she was nervous, she remained calm. Her ultimate test was to walk the Furry Scurry in May and she did fantastic!
Emma is now a completely different dog. While she is still cautious, she confidently approaches people with a wagging tail and greets everyone at the door. She has learned what the doorbell is and barks when it rings. She still stays close to me at all times, but no longer clings and can often be found lying in the sun or entertaining herself with a toy. She loves to run wildly in her big backyard while tossing her toys in the air and chasing them some more. She walks confidently by my side without a leash, which I have been lucky enough to experience since the first day we started walking. She has figured out the squirrels…well, they have figured out how to torture her, but she has figured out she can chase them. She has the most beautiful coat and thick bushy tail and absolutely loves to be brushed! She’ll usually fall asleep while I do it. She has incredibly great manners and would never step on your feet or get in your way. While these may seem like the normal, basic actions of any good dog they are! But for Emma and the other Golden’s from the Oklahoma puppy mill they are huge milestones.
What are her challenges? SIT. But to me that seems so trivial in the grand scheme of what she has accomplished. She still gets sick in the car, but short rides are better and Dramamine is a wonder for those long drives.
Emma has turned out to be the most incredible dog and I can’t tell you enough how proud I am of her. She has blossomed into the most beautiful butterfly and I truly believe I found a Gem. Her beauty, grace, and strength are an inspiration. I truly believe my sweet Angel had a paw somewhere in this to make sure that Emma and I found each other. I have found another best friend who I will stand by until the very end.
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