Samuel spent his first days huddled in a corner of the room. Trying to merge into the walls. Mostly standing. Sometimes sitting. Hoping he would not be noticed. Hoping people would think he was not there. Hoping that he was not there. Hoping people would think there was no Samuel.
He never lay down. He never closed his eyes. He listened. And he watched. Vigilant. Constant. Scanning for any sight or sound of human activity. When it came, he moved. Instantly. Sometimes sudden. Fast. Head up, running in a straight, determined line. Sometimes slow. Circling, weaving, dodging and feinting. But always moving. Black eyes flashing. Trying to absorb, trying to plan, planning to execute some kind of escape.
And one morning he did it. Straight out the front door. As I came in. In a flash. He was gone. And within seconds I knew we were in dire straits. As Sam sped up and down and back and forth across the street at a speed I could never have imagined possible on such tiny legs, a speed which I could never hope to emulate, it became very clear just how much Sam enjoyed the sheer physical pleasure of running.
I had to chase him, of course. But in doing so I merely triggered and reaffirmed some of his worst fears. People chase you. They chase you and then they hurt you. I wouldn’t hurt him, of course. But he had no way to know that. And every way to know the reverse. But, regardless of his fear, chase him I had to. Or at least, try. There was no other choice. I had to catch him.
He was so fast, so agile, so small, so clever, I feared, desperately, that I might fail. I could not bear the thought. I could not contemplate that possibility. And so I ran after him, hopelessly outmaneuvered and outclassed.
Finally, he ran into a double driveway between two houses. Afraid he would run out into morning rush hour traffic if I followed him down there, I waited until all traffic in both directions stopped momentarily. Then I ran quickly down to the driveway where I thought I had seen him last.
No sign of Sam. Sure this was where he had turned, I peered over one of the backyard fences looking for him. No one there. The fence around the other back yard was too tall to look over, so I peered through the gaps in the fence. Then, suddenly, I saw a flash of white. It had to be Samuel. I climbed the fence to look over. And there he was. He had slipped in under the fence but didn’t yet remember at which point he had come in and could also, therefore, get out.
It was a little before 7 am in the morning. I had to get into this backyard. And fast. Heart pounding and terrified Sam would get away if I left him for a moment, I went to the front of the house and rang the bell, several times. A man across the street stood at his kitchen window watching me. No answer.
Well, then, I would just have to go in and get him. And I did. After about 25 minutes of playing Keep Away with this tiny, racing, dodging, dog, in someone else’s backyard, whom I did not know, I finally caught him. And I brought him back, vowing to pay more attention to his intellectual and executive skills. His escape had been a perfect plan, perfectly executed. Sam is a very bright dog.
Samuel refused to eat or drink in public. Even when his mouth was visibly watering, salivating. Even when his mouth was parched. This was troubling, since he had already lost about 20% of his body weight while boarding at the veterinary practice while he got over Bordetella and his surgery. His spine protruded. And dehydration was distinctly possible, especially in the valley’s summer heat.
He would not take food of any kind from the hand. Any hand. Nor would he eat small bits of food or treats placed on the floor. However tasty. However inviting. Salivating, but tightly disciplined, with determined deliberation, he would turn and walk away from all food, treats and water offered
Only alone and in complete privacy would he eat or drink, preferably in the dark, when he was sure no human being was likely to come by. But, even then, he remained ever vigilant. Looking back over his shoulder after every bite of food, every sip of water. Like a wild animal. Prepared to run from his food or water at the first sound of the mere possibility of an approaching human being.
Samuel startled at all sounds of everyday life, indoors and out; all human arm movements of any kind, up, down, sideways, a thrown toy, a “come” gesture; all leg movements; all voices. Everything, except the sound of dogs. Samuel loves other dogs.
Loud sounds caused panic. Very loud sounds, especially banging sounds and the clanging sounds of metal, caused complete hysteria in Sam. And made it very difficult to take him out on a leash. His fear made him a very real danger to himself.
This was a little dog who had learned to live a life completely and utterly controlled and circumscribed by the fear of human beings and all their activities. Except for those frantic moments when he was able to make a bolt for it and run as fast as he could, in a fleeting illusion of freedom and joy.
All I could do was provide care, support, protection, opportunity and encouragement.
But there was someone else who could and would do much, much more for Sam. My own dog. Sam’s Best Friend.