Sunday, June 29, 2008

Meet Myla

Myla came to us a couple of years ago in 2006, she was rescued from a puppy mill and was one of several very damaged dogs that were freed by an angel disguised as a rescue volunteer. Physically, Myla's health was relatively good but emotionally this little lady was terribly damaged. She is one of the two most damaged dogs we have here. No surprise, the other dog was rescued from the same mill the year before.

She was terrified of people, hid behind furniture or in a crate with an open door. She always wanted to be alone, never near other people or dogs. We left her alone for the first several weeks, just letting her get used to the everyday sounds in the house, the commotion of other dogs and the voices of the people. No one (human or dog) could be in the room when she ate. She would not go near food or water if anyone was within viewing distance.

Myla fear peed & pooped when we put a harness and leash on her to take her to the vet for a checkup. She shook and shivered if we tried to hold her or touch her. She tried her best to escape, succeeding once or twice but we were there and managed to bring her back. She was afraid of us but more afraid of what was "out there" so she allowed us to gently approach with the familiar "Myla Up" phrase that she had learned. We picked her up and brought her back to the only safety she had ever known in 7 long years.

She spent her first three months of freedom trying to stay isolated from us - she was not going to let anyone in, no one was going to hurt her. She'd been there, done that. But one of the advantages of having a pack of dogs is that each new rescue will watch the others that are already here. Myla watched the interaction between dogs & human, dogs & other dogs. She saw the others came to us without fear, she watched them receive treats and belly rubs and ear scratches. One day, for just a moment, she took a chance. We were on the sofa when she gently jumped up beside me. I reached out to scratch her ears - she stayed for just a few seconds then jumped down and hid again. It was a start. . . . she had the courage to hope. It would be enough to hold us as we watched her internal struggles over the next year.

Myla wanted to believe she had finally found a place where dogs were treated kindly. Where respect & love went hand in hand - but she had been in a mill, adopted out, sent back to the mill, adopted out again and immediately escaped -caught and sent back once again to the horrid place where she was born. Her fear was so great when she first came here that we know her life at this mill was terrible. Others who have met the miller tell of the unbelievable cruelty they witnessed in short visits to rescue dogs. If this person could not control them self in front of a witness for a few hours - what must the dogs have endured during years of captivity at this person's hands?

(And yes, we tried to stop this person from breeding, they were reported time and again. No one ever took any action but age did what we could not. The miller is no longer in business and has no more dogs.)

Over the next year Myla took two steps forward and one step back. She would come into the living room on her own and lay in one of the doggie beds and watch us. Then she would hop up on the sofa for an ear scratch. She allowed another dog to be in the same room when she ate, I was allowed to stand outside the room and look at her as she ate. She stopped hiding in the gazebo when I called her to come inside and actually responded to her name.

And then another small miracle occurred - the Angel who helped rescue her came to visit. Myla had not seen her Angel in over a year but wonder of wonders - she recognized her. Myla allowed the first person outside of our home to touch her. She hung around us and close to her Angel. After our friend went home, Myla seemed to make a decision. She started interacting with the other dogs, she was less skittish, she discovered toys, for the first time ever she rolled in the grass. She decided it was great fun to bark at mealtime (that was another thing, Myla rarely barked.) She was less afraid of storms but still comes when it thunders - she just doesn't shake as much.

Her Angel came to visit again a month or so ago and Myla greeted her like a long lost friend. I think she wanted to show off her socialization skills. She absolutely loves to go to the groomer, jumping in excitement when she sees the once feared leash & halter come out. If it is possible for a dog to smile (and I think it is), Myla smiles all the time. She has overcome so many fears in the past 2 + years. She's a happy dog and a joy to watch as she continues learning about trust, freedom and what it means to live a life without fear.

I often joke that I really don't like Pomeranians because they shed but I will happily brush her and vacuum the fur for as long as she lives. The gift that Myla has given us is the sure knowledge that love conquers all and that forgiveness sets one free. (Oh yeah and that the very best gifts come disguised as a Pomeranian!)

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