For the Love of a Shelter Dog

DSCN1854There’s always nervousness when Mia returns. I never know what kind of kid I’ll get back. As she’s gotten older, it’s better. When she was little, she’d return from her dad’s house full of hatred. I remember once sitting her in a chair while she kicked, screamed, and told me she wanted to kill me.

This time was a little different.

I don’t know what to do about her sadness in missing her dad. I let her call him, and she bravely chokes back tears. I run out and get her her favorite dinner, let her eat all the ice cream she wants, and even gave her a few “Mental Health Days” to stay home and mope on the couch and watch TV.

That first night, I let her sleep out on the couch while I worked from my spot on the floor, the baby nursing in my lap, drifting off to sleep, and my lap top balancing on the foot stool. Mia was on the couch behind me, crying into her pillow while I stroked her back.

DSCN1863Bodhi, the shelter dog we adopted a few months ago, had been fast asleep on my bed, but wandered into the living room. She jumped up, and squirmed herself into a spot next to Mia, and put her head next to hers on the pillow. Mia hugged her, and the crying stopped. Bodhi waited until she fell asleep before returning to her spot on my bed.

She did it the next night. And the next. Until finally Mia was back to her normal self, getting ready for bed on her own, reading in her room, and listening to the latest Taylor Swift album promptly at nine.

Bodhi and I met with our trainer today for our second session. She’s now to the point where she looks to check in on me when we walk, and wags her tail like a fan when she sees other dogs. I can also leave her home for about 15-30 minutes. For our next meeting, we hope to get her playing with dogs who will respect her space and back off when she needs them to.

I’ve watched this shelter dog blossom in the last few months as her anxieties lessen and her smile grows. She’s given the baby a buddy to play with while I work during the day, and fulfills a need in Mia that I can’t even hope to touch. No matter how much I ask the court to tell her dad to show up, be a good parent, and follow through, I can only offer so much comfort. Somehow the dog knows. She knows.



9 thoughts on “For the Love of a Shelter Dog

  1. Dogs and cats are amazing creatures. I can’t even count the number of times my cats have pulled me out of some deep pit. I’m so glad your girl has Bodhi.

  2. I don’t think my daughters would have coped as well as they have without the dogs we have shared our lives with throughout the years. I myself remember sobbing into the golden fur of our Rosie, a rescued Golden Retriever, while she simply laid there on the floor with me, loving me as always. And I too understand that period of adjustment when your daughter/my daughters came back from being with their father. Incredibly heartbreaking and frustrating for all.

  3. Adore this. We rescued a shelter dog after we lost one of our dogs to cancer. It’s truly amazing how they just know. It’s been a lot of work and effort, but my god, it’s been worth every second. She’s brought such joy and love to my life when I most needed it, and I’m pretty sure she feels the same way.
    Sounds like your sweet pup is settling in confidence and security every day. So happy.

  4. Dogs are truly intuitive. I just had to put our wonderful dog Simon to sleep. He was a shelter dog and had become very old and unsteady. He gave us 10 wonderful years and so much love. Your daughter will benefit from having Bodhi.

  5. I’m glad you were able to find a trainer to help with the socializing of Bodhi Sounds like a smart dog. But I think this is the easy part. Getting her to hold a pen between her paws and write essays is a little harder, and some of the canine expressions and euphemisms can be difficult to spell. The phonetic symbols in the canine dictionary are difficult to learn without a good vocal or dialect coach, and the weaning process can seem like barking up the wrong tree, but it must be done: all canine writers should eventually learn English if they expect to be published. Her opinions on child rearing I think would sell well. I hope an agent will not force Bodhi to change her name to George Eliot (Mary Ann Evans) or something like that in order to get her novel, about burying bones and silver next to Silas Marner’s grave, published.

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