A Lesson in Love

Chase’s Story

by:  Sarah Jarvis-Wilson

You know those posts you see on Facebook, a dog in need with a face that just rips your heart out and you wish you could do something to help! I am sure we have all seen those posts and scrolled right on past, I know I had. One day, that changed for me.  I ran across such a post and it stopped me dead in my scrolling tracks. Staring back at me from my computer screen was the most beautiful eyes I had ever seen. I could not look away! In those eyes I saw fear, unimaginable fear. Something in my soul told me I had to get this baby dog and shower him with love.

Before I knew what I was doing, my fingers were furiously typing a message to HavaHeart Havanese and Furry Buddies rescue. I didn’t even give a second thought to the fact that the post said this curly haired white dog was feral. Nope, that didn’t even register with me.

Let me give you a little of my back story. I never liked dogs. At all. Honestly I was scared of them. I was more of a cat person. A year prior to seeing this ad, my husband convinced me that we needed a dog. He had done a lot of research and decided the Havanese breed was perfect for me and we found a 10 week old puppy listed on a Craig’s list type ad and immediately went to get him. Best decision ever.

So you see, when I saw this curly haired Havanese, I was still very new to being a dog parent. So to say that I walked into adopting this feral dog with blinders on is a complete understatement. I had absolutely no clue what I was getting into. All I knew is I wanted that dog. 

Our first encounter with this dog broke my heart. His name was Chase and he was terrified. I got down on the floor and tried to reach out to pet him and he practically did back flips to get away from me. At one point, the foster mom reached out to him; when he flipped to get away from her, he landed in my arms. I was shocked, he was shocked and we just sat there and stared at each other while I held him in my arms. My heart exploded with love for this boy! Little did I know, that was going to be one of the very few times I got to hold him for months. 


We finalized our adoption and with my blinders firmly in place, we loaded the kennel up in our truck and drove 5 hours’ home. Once home, my blinders started to crack and I began to question what I had just gotten myself into. This dog was so not what I was expecting. I seriously thought I would get him home and he would be fine in a few hours, we would run and play and all live happily ever after. Nope. That’s not what happened. Not even close. He shook with fear. He peed on himself in fear. And when we came anywhere near him, he would flop around on the end of his leash like a fish trying everything to get away from us. He would growl and lash out, and even bit us. I seriously thought he was going to eat my face off in the middle of the night. I cried. I cried so hard. And the strangest thing happened, when I cried, he would stare at me and tilt his head, as if he were wondering what I was doing, never breaking his stare. But something in his stare seemed to change. Was I seeing love? 

I would work with Chase daily. He always had a leash hooked to him 24/7. I would get a hold of the leash and slowly pull him closer to me, every day I would get him closer to me and we would just sit. His poor little body was always so tense and always on alert. I don’t think he really, truly slept because he never relaxed and let his guard down. It broke my heart. I could see he wanted to be a dog and to trust, but he was scared because everything from his past taught him that humans were bad. He came from a hoarding situation. His formative months were spent locked and caged up in feces and filth along with 34 other Havanese dogs. Unfortunately, there was inbreeding involved, very little human contact and what human contact there was, was not the good, loving kind. I am convinced that Chase was abused. All of this made him, like the post said, feral. 

After work, we would work with him, pulling him closer to us with the leash and we would just sit next to each other or we would try to pet him to desensitize him to human touch. Unfortunately, one evening, Chase got spooked by my husband and began flopping around the end of the leash, the leash got wrapped around his leg and hurt his shoulder. He cried out, I had never heard anything like that cry in my life. I was sure he was broken. I rushed him to the emergency vet, and much to my relief he was not broken, his shoulder was severely sprained. The vet told me to keep him from jumping and we had to give him pain pills. This dog is terrified and feral; how are we going to do this? 

 

Well, I will tell you, love can break through even the deepest of fears. I’m not going to bore you with the details, but Chase learned I was his safe zone, I was his comfort. It took months for Chase to begin to let his walls down, never completely down. Eventually, I was able to reach out and pet him. He learned that he enjoyed being petted and eventually would come to us and allow us to pet him, but we had to be sitting; we could not pet him if we were standing. We started treating Chase like our other dog, Carl, and took him with us to as many places as we could. As long as Chase was on his leash and near me, his confidence grew by leaps and bounds. 

We have had Chase for over a year now and he is not the same dog we brought home. He has turned into a very loving dog. He cuddles and plays. He has even been on an airplane. He goes out on our boat every weekend in the summer and has learned to swim. Chase doesn’t sit when I tell him to. He doesn’t come when I call him. He doesn’t do the things that normal dogs do. He may never do those things. He is still very skittish and is pretty much scared of everything. He has to know I am reaching out to pet him, otherwise he will be startled, his instincts will kick in and he will run. I cannot pick him up unless he’s in his special chair. He pee’s on himself when someone comes to the door, unless I am holding him. He has a paw that cannot be touched and believe me, he protects that paw with everything he has.  His insecurities will always be with him; we have just learned to adjust to them. And I love every one of his insecurities. His eyes are no longer full of terror. They are definitely full of love. Love on his terms. He is my dog soul mate. Chase has taught me daily lessons in love. When he crawls onto my lap and rolls over to have his belly rubbed, my heart bubbles over with pure joy and love. He has come so far. Remember when I said I hoped we would run and play and live happily ever after, well it happened, it just took a year and a half to get to the happily ever after. 

One night, feeling bold, I pulled his leash and brought him up onto my lap. The fish flopping began. Blood was spilled, mine. Tears were shed, also mine. I was at my end, or so I thought. I did not know what to do to get through to this dog, I needed help. So through my tears, I reached out to HavaHeart Rescue.

https://www.havaheartrescue.org

I doubt my contact at the rescue realized this, but she challenged me in that conversation when she asked if I wanted to give the dog back. In my head I heard, “Are you giving up?” Anyone who knows me, knows I do not give up anything without a fight. I couldn’t give up on this boy. I just needed to figure out how to love him through his insecurities and quirks. 

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The dogs from these type of situations never asked

to be locked in cages or mistreated.

 

All they want is love. All they need is love and a ton of patience! And they deserve all the love and patience the world can offer because so far the world has been a pretty cruel place for them.

 

If you are reading this and are considering getting a dog, please consider adopting a rescue. Puppy mill/hoarding situation dogs can be rehabilitated! It just takes patience and a different approach to training them.

 

If you are reading this and are fostering or have recently adopted a puppy mill dog, don’t give up. They may never be a “normal” dog, but what they can offer is so amazing! The love you will get in return from these dogs is like nothing you have ever experienced.

Take it from me, dog mom to once feral forever

quirky Chase, you won’t regret opening

your home and your heart to a rescue.

 

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