I had a rough start in life. By the time I was 3 days old, my canine mama had died; someone (probably trying to hydrate me) forced fluid down my throat, and it aspirated to my lungs, giving me aspiration pneumonia; then my littermates and I were left outside the rescue in the cold in late November. I was the littlest one, and I almost died of hypothermia. In fact, the veterinarian on-site suggested that the most humane course of action would be to find a warm, dark place and let me die naturally. Instead, my wonderful rescue-mama, Jaymeey Hatfield of the rescue organization The Other Side of the Fence, chose another option: she picked me up and held me for over 2 weeks, afraid that I might still die without her body heat. When she listed my littermates on Petfinder to find forever-homes, she didn’t even include me because she still wasn’t sure I would live. Thanks to her care, though, I made a remarkable recovery. I got antibiotics for the pneumonia and eventually became an active, happy, healthy puppy.
When my mama searched for a puppy to adopt, she went on Petfinder, looking to adopt a big, lazy Bullmastiff and found my littermates. Mama applied to adopt one of them and, as part of the process, she spoke with my rescue-mama. They totally hit it off, talked several times for hours, and my rescue-mama told Mama about me and Mama knew right away that I was the one for her! My rescue-mama drove 12 hours and Mama drove 6 in a huge snowstorm to meet so Mama could take me to my new home. Ever since that day, Mama and I have developed an incredibly strong bond – we don’t ever really want to spend time away from each other – and a very strong mutual attachment and adoration.
For the first two years of my life, I was the happiest, most social dog anyone could imagine. I had loads of friends, loved to hang out with them, and lived to play with them. (I would go crazy every time Mama asked, “Leah have a friend over?”) I couldn’t get enough and I had fun pretty much all the time. I loved all people and all dogs I met, and I would cry if I didn’t get to meet a dog I saw.
I had a best friend named Naya. We had lots of good times but, like most of my other friends, one day she went away and never came back.
I also have a boyfriend named Johnny. (He’s the only dog I still love and who still lives near me now.) We love to play with each other – full speed, full contact, fully exhausting, and never often enough – take walks, play with toys, eat each other’s food, take naps, and just hang out. Unlike most of my other friends, he has never left me. In fact, I left him when Mama and I moved, but we still have playdates and overnights all the time so I’ll still have at least one doggie-friend.
More important in my life than any of my other friends, though, was my beloved big brother Noah. From the time I was a baby, he taught me how to be a big kid, such as how to walk straight and at an even pace. We spent time together every day and we absolutely adored one another. He was my true companion and my soul mate. Unfortunately, one day he disappeared. Mama says he “moved to Texas,” but I don’t know what that means; I just know he was suddenly gone and I never saw him again and don’t know why.
With my big boy gone, I became scared of nearly everything, especially other dogs. Mama guesses that I feel like I lost my bodyguard, but she’s not sure. She just knows that, ever since my big brother left, I have been even more anxious than I was before. Mama says I’m “very, very noise-sensitive.” Any noise that I think is loud (which is just about any noise) or anything that startles me makes me jump and cringe. At my worst, I would do that even if Mama just crumpled up a piece of paper and threw it in a plastic bag. One time Mama dropped her keys on the carpet and I have been scared of all keys anywhere ever since.
I have also become scared of kids, and I started yelling at, even biting, other dogs. I’m super-duper scared of little dogs, especially the white, fluffy ones. I’m still good with humans – one time I bit a kid in the face to tell him I was scared and needed him to back off, but I was so gentle about it that he didn’t even need a Band-Aid. Still, Mama says “safety first” so now she seldom even lets kids near me. Sadly, I’m not so gentle with other dogs – when I bite them, they do need a Band-Aid. Mama says I’m “selectively dog-reactive, kid-reactive, and just generally very anxious!” I don’t know what any of that means, but I know that the world is a really loud, scary place.
I can tell it makes Mama sad ’cause I used to be just about the easiest, happiest dog ever, but now I have to take medication just to make me less scared of “loud” sounds and she hates it that I’m so scared I think I have to yell at and bite other dogs. It’s worst when it’s with my cousin (Mama’s sister’s dog) Sadie, whom I used to like so much I’d let her lick my face. We used to be fine together, and sometimes we can be ok outside, but inside we’re not fine at all: I’ve bitten her twice. Mama says she knows that I’m not being a bad girl; I’m just being a super-scared girl. It upsets me a lot but it upsets mama even more ’cause she really, really loves Sadie. We’re both reactive (she’s people-reactive too), so we’re kind of permanently scared of each other. Still, it could be worse – sometimes we still get along on walks outside and we both get paid a lot when we’re around the other and still act like good girls.
Being a scaredy-dog is really stressful, but Mama has found a few things that help me deal with it: Dog-Appeasing Pheromone, TTouch, and my job. Mama and I moved from downtown DC to Alexandria, Virginia, and that has lowered both of our stress levels. Even though I’m still anxious, Mama says that, when I’m not busy being scared, I’m just about the happiest girl you could ever meet.
I still LOVE meeting adults, any of them, anywhere, anytime. I’m just thrilled to greet, be greeted, and get a little extra lovin’! Mama laughs at me and says I treat every new buddy I meet as a long lost best friend. I also whine when I see someone walking by and we don’t get to greet. I don’t know what “she’s so sweet” or “what a sweetie” mean, but the people I do greet say that a lot, and they always seem really happy they do.
Even though sometimes I yell at other dogs and even bite them, Mama says I’m still a good girl. She has taught me a lot of stuff, so I know how to impress people and they say I’m really smart. Mama calls me her “portable training portfolio.” That’s another bad part of being scared of other dogs: I used to get to go help Mama train other dogs, but now I’m not allowed to go anymore. Still, Mama has taught me that it’s worth it to listen to her and behave the way she has taught me to. We have a good system of communication, and I’ve learned to look to her both to see what she wants me to do and to ask for what I want, from permission to cross the street to an extra treat.
When we are out and about and people see me being good, sometimes they say I’m spoiled, but Mama says I’m not because I have to earn every treat and toy I get. What I don’t have to earn, though, is love, and Mama says I can have as much of that as I want.
My favorite things are my Mama, playing with my friends (the few I have left), and, maybe most of all, kitties! My rescue-mama socialized me to them when I was just a baby and I have absolutely adored them ever since.
I follow them around and beg them to be friends with me. They usually hiss and swat at me, but I never give up, even when they slash my nose with their claws and make it bleed. Then I just start barking ‘cause I think that might finally convince them. Oddly enough, it never seems to work. Alas, they tend to run away instead.
My other favorite thing is tracking. Mama introduced me to Sam, who (with Mama) trained me as a tracking dog. I trained so I can track people, dogs, or just about any scent they ask me to match. Now that I actually work, though, I only track other animals. Every time I do what they ask, they pay me with the coolest thing ever: a game of fetch with a squeaky tennis ball!
I think it’s just a fun game, but everybody else calls it a “job”. Whatever it is, I love it and everybody says I’m really, really good at it. Mama and Sam agree that they have yet to discover my full potential but that I could end up being extraordinary. For example, I have tracked scents 5 weeks old and the only reason I haven’t yet done older ones is that I haven’t yet been asked to try them. Mama says I’m much better at my job than she will ever be at any of hers!
It also helps me be less scared of things. Mama says it’s because I can focus on something constructive instead of the triggers that scare me and because it gives me an outlet for my anxiety. Mama says all of the calming aids and special treats I need for my behavior modification are expensive, so she also likes it ‘cause I now earn my own money. I don’t really understand any of that – I just know I love my job and Mama (and others) get really happy when I do it. It seems to please everyone, humans and dogs alike, so I figure it’s a good thing all around.
Much love and face-licking,
We are very sorry to report that Leah died suddenly on August 16, 2017.
Helping Hounds © 2017