Betty is a rescue dog. She’s almost certainly a Brittany spaniel, but I&rsqu;ll never know for sure. I rescued her from very loud crack addicts. She was regularly kicked, hit, and neglected by them and their children. They say Betty was rescued from a puppy mill where she spent the first four years of her life producing puppies. Whatever happened at that place, had Betty afraid of all men, large women, and any sound louder than a whisper.
I fell in love with her the first time I saw her. She would have nothing to do with me, unless it was closely supervised by Crackie. I didn’t force myself on her (I’d worked with enough abused children to know better than to try forcing the issue.) Right from the start, our relationship was on Betty’s terms.
It was easy to see Betty’s conflict. She wanted to be close. She wanted to play. Once Crackie coxed her close, Betty would settle, tail wagging, and she would suck up all the love I offered. Until I spoke. Almost as soon as I opened my mouth she would get all hang-dog and sad eyed. From the start this behaviour has been both endearing and aggravating. For a year we would have these close moments. She was always happy to see me, would run up to me, and then stop. Suddenly. Just out of reach. She wore a pleading, pleased-to-see-you expression. Her tail wagged vigorously. However, if I moved at all, off she would dart. Stop, turn, and then scurry to Crackie.
Eleven months later, Crackie had to move without Betty. My heart sank when Crackie Too, my other neighbour, took Betty. It was a natural choice because the two crackies had shared Betty all along. Crackie Too was loud, but she didn’t beat Betty. Whether by design or good fortune, Crackie Too was evicted and couldn’t take Betty with her. Before I had a chance to think, I said, “I’ll take her.”
And I did. What Crackie and Crackie Too failed to disclose was Betty’s habit of toileting inside at night and when left alone for more than an hour-or-so. Nor did they mention that she vomited bile and had a relatively sensitive stomach.
She also had seizures, not too frequently, but often enough to cause some concern. The first time I saw one – an absence seizure – I thought she was dying. I cradled her and soothed her until she came back, and then held her a little longer.
If you overlooked the fact that Betty was a five-year old neurotic dog, bringing her home was similar to bringing home a newborn baby. We both had to learn to share our living space, adapt to each other’s quirks. Occasionally, I seriously considered turning her in to the SPCA because I wasn’t sure we were a good fit.
Over the course of a year, Betty settled in and began to relish my company. She still had great difficulty with strangers, and I apologized to them on her behalf. At times closer to me – and more attached – than my shadow, Betty had started to become a great companion.
Now, almost six years later, she is confident, friendly and showing attributes I would never have associated with her: courage, confidence, assertiveness. She will run up to most people, whether man, woman, child, large or small and greet them like long lost friends. A few still cause her to hesitate, but she soon accepts them.
She’s slowed down some, but she still loves to run. Today she’s 12 and she is part of the family.