As I watch Bill run gleefully through the dog park I think back to where we were at a year ago, when he was first released from the puppy mill. The changes in him have truly been remarkable. For the fist several months with us Bill just wouldn’t move. He sat in his bed with no light in his eyes, and we had to carry him outside to go potty (he had no problem bolting right back inside to his bed, though). I had been thinking about keeping him, but we are very active and I started thinking he would never move – maybe he would be a great dog for a shut-in? He didn’t seem to need much activity.
One of the most helpful things for me, as he was my first puppy mill foster, was the network of friends I developed through MidAmerica Boston Terrier Rescue, who were going through, or had gone through, the same thing with their ex-breeders. Being able to talk with them, and having their reassurances that Bill would get better, helped me through my most on difficult days.
What helped Bill the most were other dogs. We didn’t have any other dogs in our house when we were trying to rehabilitate him (now we try to have a dog around “for him” as much as possible – Bill and I are both foster junkies!). However, I started taking him to the dog park and the other dogs helped him so much. At first he would just sit by the gate and shake. After a few weeks, though, he began to move a little…. and then he really started to MOVE A LOT! Turns out that the little guy likes to play with other dogs!
The sweetest thing I can remember is watching a border collie mix named “Scuff” herd Bill over to the water bucket. Not only did he show Bill where the bucket was, he even showed him how to drink!
It’s funny, dogs are great therapy for people, and dogs are great therapy for other dogs. So what are we humans really good for?