Terrified Dog Who’d Spent Most of His Life Chained Slowly Blossoms Thanks to Foster’s Patience
This story is about a dog from our shelter friend, American Belgian Malinois Rescue. ABMR, based in Stevens Point, Wisconsin, saves the lives of Malinois. The Animal Rescue Site is proud to share their stories. You can learn more about their work here!
Guest post by Teresa Hatcher.
January 5, 2022, also known as day #1,825… or is it day #2,555? I’m not sure. Most of the days of my life are the same. I drag a huge, heavy 40-inch chain back and forth, around in circles and back and forth again. I chew on rocks or bits of trash that blow over the hill where I’m chained, trying to fill that screaming hunger in my belly. I rarely get visited by the human on a 4-wheeler that sometimes brings food. And everything is always accompanied by the background music of my life: the barking and howling of more than 100 other dogs that are somewhere nearby but I can’t see them, only hear their never-ending cries of hunger, loneliness, frustration and sadness.
It’s cold today, I know that much. Really cold, and there is nothing here to break the bitter Kentucky wind screaming across this hill where I’m chained. There are no trees I can use to get out of the wind. There are no boulders big enough to shelter me, and the “dog house” provided for me is not much more than two pallets leaning against each other. Even that is at the bottom of my hill, and every time it rains, the mud races down the hill and floods through the broken boards. My best hope is to hunker down in a hole I dug and hope this freezing rain stops soon.
As I curl into my muddy hole, my mind wanders back to a time that was different. I remember being a puppy, my brothers and sisters, and even my mama, and I remember being warm and feeling love. At least I think I remember that, maybe I imagined it because it has been so very long since I felt warmth, or love, or even got to play with other dogs. I guess the people that sold me to this lady didn’t know how I would end up. I hope they didn’t know they sold me to someone with too many dogs to love, too many to take care of, too many to even name. That’s right, I don’t even have a name.
After I drift off, I’m startled awake to see humans! There are more humans than I’ve seen before, and they are going everywhere! I can hear the other dogs screaming in excitement and fear. I’m barking, too, because I don’t know what these humans will do to me. I’m afraid, and I try hard to avoid them, but there is one human I hear them call Megan who just keeps trying to talk to me. She has some really tasty bits of food, and I just can’t refuse them. I am so very hungry! I crawl close enough to grab one treat and race away to safety! But she doesn’t chase me. She doesn’t grab at me. She just waits and quietly offers more food, so I sneak back for a bit more.
Megan continues to talk sweetly to me and tells me that the human that had mistreated me was gone now, she had died and her family had finally been able to release all of us to something called “animal control.” I really didn’t care about any of that, but I did like those treats. I was so very hungry!
Finally, I allowed Megan to get close enough to take that hated chain off of me, and we slowly trekked up the hill to safety. I was still very scared and tried hard to put some distance between myself and this new human, but she just kept talking to me so softly, telling me that we could go as slow as I wanted or needed, but there was no way she was leaving the property without me. I knew this was no place for a human to stay, so I allowed her to carry me to a truck that took me away from the only life I had known since I was a tiny pup.
On the ride to the animal shelter, I heard the humans talking about the horrible conditions we’d lived in. Many, like me, were chained. Some dogs were kept in filthy kennels that were falling apart. Some were only puppies, others were mamas that had recently been removed from nursing pups. Most were called huskies, perhaps a couple dozen were Malinois like myself. All of us were in very sad shape.
Once at the shelter, each dog was put into a room with a little door to an outside run. Most of us raced outside as soon as possible because we’d never been inside and didn’t understand clean floors and walls, nor plentiful food and water. I could once again hear the background music that had always been in my life: the barking, whining, howling, whimpering, and crying of dogs that were afraid and confused.
Many of the huskies were cowering in corners with their faces pressed into the concrete walls, while some of my fellow Malinois were racing in circles, mimicking the paths that we had run for years while attached to the heavy chains. Almost without exception, and no matter the breed, none of us wanted to be caught “inside” with these humans, but we were glad to have food and a chance to avoid those cold January winds.
January 8, 2022. Since I really can’t remember how many days, months, or years I lived on that chain, I will call this day #3. Megan told me the day I was rescued was the first day of my new life, and I’m going to believe her. I’ve been at the shelter for three days, and things are getting very hard for me. I’ve never been inside or handled, and these humans want to do things with me all the time. I just can’t trust them, I don’t want to be handled. I just want to be left alone like I have always been.
Today, a new human came to see us. She took pictures of every Malinois and spoke softly to each one. Her friend handed out some really tasty treats, but I couldn’t move close enough to them to eat one. This human was called Teresa, and she took notes about each Malinois and promised us that we were safe now, we were protected by American Belgian Malinois Rescue and we would never be forgotten again. I was very skeptical. But it seems she was actually here for me specifically!
I heard her tell the shelter worker that she had seen a picture of me and had asked how she could foster me! Me! She was also going to take another dog to help rescue, but I was the one she wanted specifically! She chose a young, all-black female that seemed silly and overly trusting for the life we had come from. Once the papers were signed, we were again wrestled into a truck, and our new lives really began.
I liked not being out in cold, wet winters, so I adjusted to life inside quickly. Teresa tried to work with me, but I was just so afraid that I couldn’t trust her. Every day, she would bring us food, put leashes on us to walk around in the house, and try to give us treats for being close to her. I was scared. I refused to come out of my crate if a human was in the room and would shake so hard they could hear the crate rattling in the next room. Teresa had to crawl into the crate to put a leash on me and then wait patiently for me to be brave enough to crawl out.
The silly black dog was thrilled to get all of this new attention. Teresa called her “Candy” and started teaching her obedience and scent work, along with life skills. Soon, she started talking about a new family for Candy. Candy had already been adopted and found her forever home. By this point, we had been living with Teresa for four months, but I was still barely willing to eat my food if the human was in my room or in my sight. Sometimes she’d just hang out in our room, and occasionally I wandered close enough to sleep at her feet, but if she noticed, I’d scamper back to my crate. I was safe there!
Day 70. I played with a bone today! For the first time since I was brought to this house, I played a wee bit. There are so many toys here!
Day 179. Today, I let Teresa brush me. I think I might like this new game. She brushed and brushed until all the old dead hair was off of me and on the floor. I feel so much better now.
Day 210. Candy is gone now, living with her furever family. Now I live in my room with Redi, an older female Malinois that I really like. I’m starting to relax a bit and I’m learning to become a dog, but Teresa sometimes teasingly says I am learning to be a “bad dog.” She says it with a smile and usually when cleaning up a mess I’ve made by pulling the sheets off of the bed, or stealing Redi’s bed again.
Day 219. In addition to Redi, a Dalmatian and an old cranky border collie live with us. I really like the dogs and am happy to play and chase with them every day. Teresa keeps trying to get me to move towards her when she calls me, but I’m still not ready. I will eat in the same room with her if I’m in my crate, but I’m still not going to take treats from her hand.
Day 240. Teresa is so excited. Tonight, I figured out the dog door to the outside yard. Not only can I go out that door, but I can come right back in! And I did it when she called me, so now she thinks she’s special or something.
Day 283. I’m quite happy with my new dog family!
Day 291. Okay, I did it. I decided to eat food from Teresa’s hand. It still takes about 30 minutes because I’m slow to accept it, but she hands me a mouthful at a time and I’ve decided that’s okay. After a few days of that, she started scratching my head or petting my shoulder right before she reaches for a handful of food. She thinks that will make me like being petted. I think she might be right!
Day 293. We’re camping this weekend. The Spotted Wonder (Teresa’s nickname for the Dalmatian ) competes in agility and Fast CAT, and that means all of us have to traipse around in the camper to his competition sites. It’s fun, though! We rode here in a pickup truck, and I decided I was now a “front seat dog.” Mom, I mean Teresa, said that was from some book called “The Art of Racing in the Rain.” I just like curling up in the passenger seat and looking over at her sometimes.
We stay in the camper while they are competing and then we get to go for long walks and see new people and dogs. Tonight, I surprised Teresa by walking up to her while on our walk and taking some meat from her fingers! I kind of forgot I’m not supposed to do that. I’m supposed to be feral and afraid of everything. I think maybe I’m done with that life, and ready to let go of some of the fear and maybe -just maybe – even trust that this will work out. Maybe I’m ready to become a pet!
This story is about a dog from our shelter friend, American Belgian Malinois Rescue in Stevens Point, Wisconsin. Learn more about them, and how you can help their mission, here!Whizzco