When our Boxer Zoe died in May, we knew we wanted to get a companion for Stella, our other Boxer. The two had been inseparable for almost 10 years. We waited six to eight weeks, while we combed through various websites, looking for a little brother for Stella, while also seeing if we could find a dog that would enjoy spending days working on the farm with Houston.
Finally Houston found a cute little “purebred Texas mutt” on a rescue's website. We arranged to go meet him the following day. At around seven months old, the pup weighed 20 pounds less than Stella and his head barely reached her shoulders. We liked that. The last thing we wanted was to get a dog that would be overbearing or domineering. Dewey (in honor of my maternal grandfather) is neither of those. He can be a rambunctious puppy when playing with Stella, but his predominant emotion is fear. We’re talking PTSD level fear. He was scared, understandably, the day we adopted him. For the past three months though, he has continued to exhibit signs of downright terror daily. He cowers and hides behind a table when we come into the room. And he’s deathly afraid of traffic. Our morning walks on downtown Corsicana sidewalks are challenging. Still, he is making progress. He sits better than any dog we’ve ever had. And if we’re loving on Stella, it’s obvious he wants us to love on him too. Let’s just say Dewey is a work in progress.
Then three weeks ago we got a call from the same rescue group letting us know about a Great Pyrenees puppy that had been turned in to them. They knew we wanted a farm dog and that Dewey wasn’t able to fill that role right now due to his anxiety. When we realized that the Pyrenees could actually live at the farm full time, we decided to take a look. The rescue’s volunteer brought him to our farm. He was close to the same age as Dewey, but that’s where the likeness ended. This dog was tall and lanky and had enormous paws. He was super chill with our dogs and those belonging to our son and daughter-in-law. He played nicely with them, but mostly wanted to be off to the side where he could keep an eye on everyone. We ended up keeping this gentle giant and calling him Samson.
I’m realizing through this process of adding two rescue dogs to our pack, that past experience makes a huge difference in behavior and perspective. History can set a dog up for success or failure. And depending on the dog’s internal makeup, they can either falter or flourish. Dewey, we learned, was dumped with his litter on the side of a road before spending several months in the rescue’s shelter. That explains why he cowers and tries to run away when he sees or hears a car. We know less about Samson, but from all indications, his past was less traumatic. Whatever he did endure hasn’t seemed to affect him negatively.
Our experience with these two pups makes me think of people I meet. Some, like Samson, just go with the flow and fit right in, immediately becoming a close friend and someone I want to hang out with. Others I look at and wonder why they behave in such an unhealthy way. Sometimes I have to dig a little deeper, spend a little more time with them and get to know them better before I begin to realize they’ve lived through some pretty tough things. Maybe they’re actually doing really well considering all that they’ve been through.
I want to challenge us - you and me - to think of Dewey the next time we meet someone like him and show them a little extra grace, let them talk a little more, encourage them, etc. I know we’ll all be glad we did.
Sherry Asbury Clark is Co-Founder of Purdon Groves and a freelance writer. Her column, Finding Myself in a Small Town, appears each week in the Corsicana Daily Sun. You may reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org. For more information on Purdon Groves, a farm, table, venue and retreat property, check out purdongroves.com or visit their Instagram or Facebook pages.