“I said I’d take a dog, but I’m not sure I want that one.” “He’s a real sweetheart,” Brittany, a staff member, assured me. He was big with the smushed-in face of a bulldog, but the height of a boxer. He had a barrel chest, and his front legs were shorter than the back ones making his back bow in the middle. Truth is, I was a little afraid of him.
The shelter had put out an APB. It had too many dogs. They were asking people to take one even if it was just for a couple of nights.
This is how Orin became part of my family and part of my heart.
He was nine years old and an 80-lb. lump of love. There was no way I could take him back to the shelter. He deserved to be pampered in his old age. I couldn’t keep him as my HOA only allowed one dog. I already had Shanti, but I felt confident I could find him a good home.
On our walks his head never deviated from the side of my right knee. He was obedient to a fault. His head hung. He was down-trodden and looked sad. He never stopped to sniff the grass or circle other dogs. When my friends and neighbors, all enthusiastic dog lovers, greeted him, he stayed behind me, cautious and fearful.
Once he chewed the pockets out of three of my down coats because they smelled like treats. I yelled his name. I saw the fear in his eyes as he cowered in the corner. It broke my heart. There was no telling what he had been through, but I knew it wasn’t good. “It’s okay buddy,” I whispered while rubbing his ears. “No one’s going to hurt you.”
Little by little, he came out of his shell. I encouraged him to explore, and he started roaming around the mountain. He wagged his tail when people came near. He held his head high. He was a changed dog. He was happy. The bond between us grew. He loved me in a different way than my own dog. His life was good, and he was grateful. He was a comfort to me.
All the while I was getting anxious inside. He was a large, older dog and hard to place. It had been several months now, and I feared he’d never find a home. I also knew how difficult it would be for both of us when it came time for him to go.
Orin had another problem. He had separation anxiety. He barked non-stop now when left alone. The neighbors next door were patient, but not too happy. I was desperate. I was losing hope that he would ever be adopted, and this wasn’t helping.
A neighbor in the next building adopted a dog that had been severely abused. Bailey mistrusted men and attacked them on site. The husband had to sneak in the back door and hide upstairs in his own home. They wanted to help this dog, but this wasn’t going to work.
Jeff and Jane are down-to-earth people and not new agey in the slightest, but in desperation they called in an Intuitive Pet Trainer. In three visits, Bailey was a new dog. At Christmas our Fire Department brings Santa to the local neighborhoods in a fire truck. There are flashing lights, music blaring, and lots of kids. Jeff and Jane walked Bailey through the crowd. She passed the test. It was a huge success!
If an intuitive pet trainer could help a dog as damaged as Bailey, she might be able to help Orin and me. I called her.
My first assignment was to have a serious conversation with Orin. I had to explain the situation to him honestly and sincerely. I felt awkward doing this. I had never broken up with a dog before, but I would try anything.
I sat him down in front of me and looked into his eyes and said through my tears “Orin I love very much and I know that you love me too. I know that you are happy here and want to stay, but that’s not possible. I’m going to find you a new home with people who will love you and take good care of you. I’ll make sure you are safe and secure. You’ll never have to go to a shelter again.”
There it was out in the open, everything that was making me anxious. Orin is an intuitive and soulful dog. He might not have understood the words, but he got the feeling. It was as if a weight had been lifted.
Alecia, the trainer, came for three visits. She worked her hands up and down his spine and at the rib connections. She said she worked to release old trauma. She wasn’t doing muscle or energy work and that the dog had to be willing to let the past go. Fortunately, Orin did let go and the barking stopped.
As if by magic, the shelter called. A boy and his grandmother were looking for an older dog. They had lost their mastiff a year ago, and the boy was longing for a new friend. Eighty pounds seemed small to them.
We met at a local park. Part of me was hoping they wouldn’t show up or that things wouldn’t go well, but they did. Noble and Orin took to each other right away. They wanted to take him home with them. I wasn’t prepared. I hadn’t brought his food or his bed or his arthritis medication.
I was going out of town, and a friend was looking forward to dog sitting. Her son would be very disappointed. I had a million excuses why he couldn’t go, but then Noble, who was 12, came over and hugged me. He said, “Thank you for giving me Orin.” It was a done deal. He was gone.
I visited about a month later. When he saw me, Orin about knocked me over. He was wild – jumping and squealing and so happy. It did my heart good to know he missed me as much as I missed him. It was moving and rewarding to see him in a good place. His new family is happy to have him, and they accept that I’m part of the deal. I can visit anytime.
In the end, Orin was with me for more than six months. It was a heartwarming experience to see him blossom into the loving and vibrant dog he was meant to be. He’ll always be my buddy.
What positive affects has a dog had on your life? Have you ever thought about getting a dog? There are many advantages to having a foster dog. Please join the conversation below.