Monday, February 3, 2014

Sasha Number Two

Ah, little Sasha. With you began one of the most pleasurable, most challenging, most chock-full-o' learning years of my life.

She lived in an empty lot behind Goisco (the Curaçao version of Costco). The owner and employees of a nearby restaurant fed her for at least two months. No idea where she came from, how she got there, what kind of life she had before. One thing is clear, though: if she had an owner, s/he will burn in brimstone and magma for all eternity.

Sasha is terrified of humans.

Three different organizations tried to catch her. Everyone was afraid she'd go into heat. She's so little. So defenseless. The idea of every dog in the neighborhood after her horrified us all.

But no one could get close.

The trust method failed. Cornering her failed. Epically. A trap was invented over a weekend. Chicken livers were cooked. The lure carefully set, a monitoring station set up a safe distance away.


Only one option left. The worst, the one we all shy away from. Tranquilizers.

At quarter to eight on a Wednesday morning, I got a call. "Got her. Meet me at the vet's?"

She was passed out, dead to the world, and I felt guilty for the pleasure it gave me to be able to hold her in my arms. I felt like a pervert who spiked his date's drink.

The vet checked her teeth and told us she was on the older side, probably between six and ten years old. Not much of a guess, but it's harder with adult dogs and mixed breeds. For the sake of documentation, we went with 8 years old.

She checked her ears, her eyes, her skin. She drew blood and informed us she had tick fever (ehrlichia) but was heartworm-free. At least one good thing. She prescribed antibiotics for ten days, and as I received the tiny ziplock baggie with the yellow pills I couldn't help wondering how on Earth I was going to give them to her. When she woke up she wasn't going to let me get within three meters of her for the rest of her life.

I gave her a bath when we got home. Have you ever given a passed-out dog a bath? Don't. I thought I felt like a date rapist before, but crouching in my shower with Sasha's little body limp and helpless
beside me... I never want to do that again. But at least she was clean.

It took her a year to forgive me the trauma of her rescue. To gain enough trust to understand that perhaps it really was, as I kept whispering between the tears that first day, for her own good. To allow me, of her own free will, to touch her.

A year.

And I waited. I didn't force her, I didn't lure her closer with tasty bites and then--bam, gotcha! No. I wanted her to want to be touched. I wanted her to develop that bond of trust and love all dogs should have with their humans. She lost it, or maybe she never had it, and the one mandate of dog rehabilitation is to renew that covenant--and then goddamn guarantee the dog won't ever have reason to regret it.

Which is why, in spite of the fact there were a couple of people interested in giving Sasha II a forever home, she's still here with me. In the end, none of the adoption candidates managed to convince me they'd give her her space, respect her until she was ready to make the first step. Would she have recovered faster with someone else, with a different approach? Maybe.

Maybe not.

She's not completely there yet. She 's still wary of touching, but she initiates it more often herself now. I doubt she'll ever be a lapdog, in spite of her size. Maybe it's the influence of the other dogs, maybe it's something she learned or was even born with, but she's fiercely independent. Unless there's fireworks. Then she'll--literally--beg for attention.

You're safe here, little Sasha.


  1. That's a really beautiful story, I admire you for having the patience and the respect to wait for her decision. If only I met a person who'd give the same space to me as well! Thanks for sharing it, I needed it today.

    1. I'm so glad you found some heartwarmth with this story, Andrea :) Indeed, learning to respect others' space--human, animal, even vegetable--is a core competency we seem to have all but forgotten about. Thanks for the visit, and your kind words. They mean the world :)


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