I sat on the deck with my foster dog today.
Sounds like a completely normal afternoon, when you’re fostering a dog.
But Zola’s different.
Three weeks ago, she was running, hiding, scared for a week or more, allowed herself to be trapped, then came to my house. We’ve been making progress every day.
First, milestone was when she ditched the crate for a comfy bed. Another milestone was when she’d eat chicken from my hand, from my husband’s hand, from my son’s hand. More progress when she’d let me stay in her space while she ate her meals.
Then I’d sit next to her bed and just be with her. It took some time for her to be comfortable with me petting her. Pretty soon, I could pet the top of her head, massage her ears, and run my hand down her back.
One day, I was sitting with her and felt her cold nose against my hand, then a slight lick of her tongue. Another day, she greeted me with the thump thump of her tail wagging.
I knew this was a dog who wanted to be friends, but she wasn’t sure how to make that happen. So, I set my expectations, told her about them, and let her decide how quickly and HOW they were going to happen.
This morning, Kevin sat with 2 of our dogs on the deck, feeding treats. We opened up Zola’s area to the backyard; I gave her a trail of treats to follow, to see if she’d come outside. She’d peek her head out the door, I’d throw more treats. My dogs greeted her; she didn’t retreat. She made it about 10 feet out the door, sniffed around. Good session. End on a positive note.
Then later in the afternoon, I went into her area, asked if she wanted to go outside, opened the doors, and suddenly, she was right by my side. I walked around, she trailed just a little behind me. I sat on the deck, she explored and explored.
Some noise startled her, and rather than retreat to her safe space, she ran to me. THIS.IS.HUGE. She chose a human to make her feel safe, rather than take care of the situation herself.
We sat, I petted her, she drifted away to explore. I kept my hands low, in front of my lap, and she’d come back, push her big head under my hands, asking for pets. What a great game!
When love comes in the form of fearful pit bull, I say, yes please.