Sophie the Shih-Tzu was a puppy mill rescue. She was 6 months old when she came home and had never interacted with another living creature, had never been outside of her cage and had never had a toy except for her own waste. She was filthier than words can describe. She didn’t know how to move around in an environment outside of her cage, didn’t know how to relate to other living creatures (two- or four-legged), and couldn’t be handled, groomed or trained. She was absolutely terrified, and to tell the truth, I had no idea what to do with her. Her rescue had not been truthful with us and had not told us any of these details. I wasn’t sure if we were going to be able to love her and was convinced that she’d never be able to love us. We decided to persist.
Ultimately it was her sis-fur Mollie, another rescue pup, who was able to break the ice and begin relating to Sophie. Sophie is naturally so sweet and loving that she really wanted to please but simply didn’t know how. She started observing Mollie and taking all of her social cues from her. She literally glued herself to Mollie’s shoulder and began to learn how to move around the house, go in and out of doors, and find her food to eat. We called Mollie her ‘therapy dog.’ She started being able to leave Mollie’s side for longer and longer periods of time, while still looking to her constantly for guidance about what to do.
It took about a year for Sophie to gain some independence, but the results are nothing short of miraculous. Sophie is extremely cheerful and playful, and she is always good-natured. She is no longer inhibited by her environment. She can go up and down stairs and runs happily in the yard chasing her sis-fur, or a squirrel or two. She is best with Mollie, but grants us a few precious belly rubs too. She has been with us more than 3 years now and continues to improve. Just when I think she is as wonderful as she is going to get, she surprises us with a new gain. I suspect that she will always be just a wee bit odd, but hey, aren’t we all? My advice to someone who finds themselves the adoptive parent of a challenging fur-child is to just keep plugging along. The dogs want so desperately to please us and will when they know how. Sophie lets us know every day that even the seemingly most un-loveable, are so worth the effort it takes to help them learn to love.
Thanks for sharing Sophie’s rescue story with us, Marianne! We’re so glad you adopted Sophie and gave her the time and love needed for her to open up and lose her fear.