Just like people, every dog has a personality embedded within, waiting to be unearthed.
When it comes to shelter dogs, this journey of discovery is especially long. How much of someone else can you get to know if you only see them every weekend?
A relationship with a shelter dog is built painstakingly week on week. It requires consistency and a peculiar type of resolve to maintain this regularity, rain or shine.
I have had the most wonderful opportunity to discover the beautiful little girl lying in the heart of a black, pointy-eared dog called Dazzle.
At six months old, she was energetic and curious. Later in her adolescent years, she became nervy and anxious. After she turned two, she finally began to grow comfortable in her own skin.
Now at almost three, she is confident enough to bully her sisters on occasion, pee in her plate after eating and bark - no, scream since her tone is so high-pitched, at the top of her mighty lungs when she sees another dog in the corridor across the fence.
I love her small eyes, her big goofy ears, her full black coat and the smattering of tiny white fur all over her face. She likes car rides, belly rubs and walks in the park. She's really good with her "sit" command. But that's probably the only one that she knows.
She's a terrible tugger when she walks in a pack because she gets so excited she just cannot contain it. But if you take the time to take her out on your own, you will realise that this skinny bundle of energy can too be a rather good companion for long walks.
She has a funny habit of lying down to eat from the plate at mealtimes. Despite her slender frame, she almost always has a hearty appetite.
When she comes back from a walk on a hot day, she loves to dip both her paws into her drinking bowl, splash to her heart's content and then lie down on the puddle she has created to cool herself.
As you will probably note above, Dazzle really isn't perfect. But then again, neither am I. Over the years, we have forged something quite special together. I am always thrilled to see her and she makes my presence feel like such a great deal.
On days I feel particularly upset, she lets me gather her in a long, tight hug without flinching. On our walks, she lets me boss her around with my excessive commands even though it is clear she is eager to surge forward to join her pack. When she sustains injuries on her face after minor scuffles with her sisters, she gingerly allows me to clean and medicate her wound without so much as a defense.
It wasn't love at first sight for us. My favourite dog had just been adopted by a wonderful family. She was an awkward and gangly puppy. I took a look at her and decided that this one needed to be loved. I made her my project and thought she needed rescuing.
This is my story with Dazzle.
But Dazzle is just one dog. We have so many more shelter dogs who yearn to be properly understood for the unique individual that he or she is. I am continually trying to get to know many of them as best as I can by spending the requisite time with them.
Friendships with shelter dogs, quite like Rome, are not built in a day. Instead, they require the laying of brick upon brick for week after week until what is obtained is a structure that is solid, sturdy and so dear to our hearts.
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