Months 2 & 3
One thing was clear. Samuel was overwhelmed by his fears. As long as he did not overcome them, he would never be able to lead an even moderately safe and satisfying life. His entire being, every waking moment, was focused 100% on fear and avoidance. And he was still ready to bolt. At a moment’s notice. If he felt he had to. There was no time, no space, no energy, for anything positive. No relaxation. No contentment. No fun. No ability even to let off steam. Just constant vigilance. And constant turning and running away from everything and everyone.
Except when he was running. Then, his mind, his body and his spirit were all fully engaged. And as time went by, during these two months, Samuel began to make up his own little games to play on these runs. He played with things he found in the grass.
Sammy’s Running Places
He ran up onto front yards and then out again. He explored the steps to people’s frontyards. He jumped up onto garden walls. Then down. Then up again. And he tried to play with his Best Friend who was running beside him. That part didn’t work too well. But to watch this tiny, abused little dog trying to play brought tears to the eyes. For him, to play, was such a huge step. But it only happened when he was running.
One of Sammy’s Favorite Walls: the 4 Sammys High Wall
Left in this condition, Sam would have had to be pampered, closeted away, and kept separate from everyday activities and events, and people, for the rest of his life. He might get better, slightly. Very slightly. Over a matter of months and years. But he would never be able to lead a normal, full, contented life.
After watching him for a month, it was very clear there was more to Samuel than the fear and terror that dominated his life. Much more. Of course there was. He had been brutalized. And forced into the highly vulnerable condition in which he now found himself. But, watching the way he ran, and the things he did when he ran, it seemed that he might be able to overcome most of it. Possibly all of it. And whatever he could do, his Best Friend and his Kind Friend would do what they could to help him.
Samuel is young. Much younger than the shelter had estimated. Accommodating his fears, and trying to work around them, in order to protect him, was exactly what he did not need. That was not the life for Sam. Sam had a lot of living he wanted to do. Even if getting him to that point was going to be difficult and time consuming.
But, if Sam’s progress was to be measured in months rather than years, then what Samuel needed was major maximum socialization and de-sensitization in a supportive and encouraging environment.
The problem was that since Sam’s Kind Friend works full time, most of the time spent socializing Sam must be packed into the weekend. So Samuel’s weekends would have to consist of crash socialization and desensitization to all the things that terrified him. All of them. Because they were everywhere.
So … Samuel’s weekends were, and continue to be, busy. Very busy. He is on the go from early morning until the evening. He goes everywhere possible with his Best Friend and his Kind Friend. Everywhere he can go. Preferably places with lots of people, lots of activity, and a lot of other interesting things. His Best Friend is always there. Right beside him.
And during his second and third months in rescue, Samuel relied heavily and constantly, on his Best Friend. Physically. And emotionally. Like a velcro puppy. Often beneath his Best Friend’s tummy. There is no doubt that Sam’s closeness to a fellow dog that Sam could trust, learn from and gain security from, gave him a degree of reassurance and confidence he would not otherwise have had.
In addition, as soon as it became clear how much energy Samuel has; how much he absolutely adores running, as fast as he can, and how far; and how transformed Sam becomes when he runs; it seemed equally clear that lots and lots of active exercise must be part of Samuel’s lifestyle, diminutive though he is. Every day Sam went running in the morning, or engaged in some other, equally demanding physical exercise. But, for Sam, that run is just the basics. After his 2-3 mile run, he still has energy to burn. Literally and figuratively.
During these months, Sammy was thrilled to get a long 30 foot leash, so he could run and keep up with his Best Friend when his Best Friend was in an off leash area. And Sam began to reveal just the slightest hint of a little Dennis the Menace character underneath all the fear and intimidation. That was a huge step forward.
Sam began to thrive. Slowly. Gradually. His progress was not always linear during these months. He often seemed to take several steps back after going several steps forward. But overall, he did keep moving forward. And little bits of personality began to peek through, more and more.
Samuel still never raised his tail from its permanent lowest possible position down his back. Let alone wag it. Except when he met some other dogs. He still refused to make eye contact. He still wouldn’t take treats from anyone. He still ran away from everyone, including me, as they approached him. He continued to startle at most sounds and activity. But he no longer became completely hysterical. Just startled.
Sometimes, he also began to stay in one place for just a few minutes and watch what was going on around him. Out of interest. Not fear. He began to pay attention. Instead of just always thinking about running away. He didn’t do this for long. Just a few minutes. But it was the beginning of something new.
And, as time went by, and these periods became a little longer, it became clear that, at least sometimes, for a few minutes at a time, Sam was finally able to take his mind off being scared and worried for a few moments and pay attention to something else. These were only brief interludes. But they were new. And they were a major step forward. This had been impossible when he first came out of the shelter.
Interestingly, during these months, it became increasingly apparent that Sam does his best when there are a lot of people and activities around him. At those times, he becomes so interested in what is going on around him that he forgets to focus on being worried or afraid. It takes his mind away from the fear for a few moments. And what a huge relief that must be for him.
So the busy socialization of his weekends also helps him in this way too. By taking his mind of his fears.
Sammy still wouldn’t eat or drink in public. He still watched everything and everyone obsessively. Poised to run away instantly. He still rejected all physical contact. All treats.
But his joy at going out for a run became more and more evident. And while he was running, his personality continued to blossom, and his body language changed, became more expressive and more relaxed.
This was still the beginning. The worst was over. But there was hard work ahead for Samuel. And how long this was going to take him wasn’t clear. But Samuel might be able to have a normal life That much was apparent. And he deserved it. It has been, and continues to be, a joy, plain and simple, to be able to contribute to and participate in his progress. A joy and a privilege.
Samuel is a brave, plucky, charming, funny, inspiring, absolutely delightful little guy.
By the end of his third month, Samuel was on his way. . . And his Friends would continue to be there to do whatever they could to help him. For as long as it took.