My beautiful chocolate lab, Angie, was not my first lab or my first rescue dog when I adopted her more than five years ago. But, she was the first in many other ways.
She was found wandering the streets of Daytona Beach, undernourished, healing from mange, and scarred from fights with other animals for food and shelter. Her courage showed clear in barely healed cuts around her ears and face.
Angie had been under a doctor’s care and lived with a foster family before coming to us. It became clear during our long car ride home that she was stoic, gentle, sweet, and very, very traumatized.
Like any dog parent, I knew it would take love and attention to earn her trust. What I didn’t know was the many months it would take.
At first, she did not make eye contact and did not respond to affection. Though we offered plenty of it And, she was scared of everything.
She would climb up the back of a couch chair to “higher ground” when feeling threatened. At about 40 pounds, she could curl her muscular, long body down to the size of a serving platter to fit securely under my bed.
“At about 40 pounds, she could curl her muscular, long body down to the size of a serving platter to fit securely under my bed.”
Our tropical Florida summers send down a daily deluge of blasting rain and cannon-like thunder. This would send Angie fleeing to the half foot space between the toilet and the wall. Long after the storms ended, she would precariously watch from an open door before gaining the courage to step outside.
At first, her gorgeous almond-shaped eyes blinked unknowingly when I threw a ball to her or offered tug-of-war with knotted fabric. There wasn’t a moment, during our first several months of adopting Angie, I can remember her having fun. She just didn’t know what that was.
What I felt the worst about was her life. It had become so small. Her whole day seemed filled with running and hiding, and little else.
We never gave up on her, and never regretted bringing her home. I will remember the many other “firsts” for Angie. The first time she slept next to me, her full belly exposed, paws in the air, and snoring like a drunk sailor. The first time she brought me a ball.
The first time she greeted me at the door, tail wagging. The first time she romped with our other rescue, Lexie, who had begged for her attention for a year. And the first time I realized, more than anything else, Angie was a true survivor.
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