Sunday, February 14, 2010

Father: Part II

In the first three months that Father was hanging around the house, he continued to bark and growl at me and run away. Meanwhile, we adopted Princess (or so we thought), bringing her into the house, taking care of her, feeding her, and all the while not a peep from the owners despite the fact that I had repeatedly told them where their dog was. I never gave any thought to where Father was sleeping or eating and didn’t care.

That winter had been colder than normal, and we had a string of snow and ice storms in January and February 1996. In the last storm of that season, we received a sleet/snow/sleet combo leaving behind a densely packed layer of winter precipitation.

On one night soon after the storm, I was walking around outside and saw Father in the yard. He tried to run away but was too weak. He lay down on the ice and in a helpless state, surrendered to me. I cautiously approached him as I tried to pet him because I didn’t know if he would try to bite me. After all, he had been nothing but mean and ill-tempered to me in our relations until then. Father didn’t bite me. He was lying prostrate on the ground by the time I got to him.

There were a couple of things that I noted when petting him. First, he was covered in ice. Second, his ribs were protruding from his rib-cage. I had assumed until then that Father was living at a neighbor’s house nearby, but the fact that he was so cold, underweight and malnourished made me reconsider Father’s living situation. Because Father had such a thick coat, it was difficult to judge by sight alone if he was at a healthy weight. Father was weak and underfed and most likely on his way to dying. (As a matter of fact, when I took him to the vet several months later, the vet found that Father had heartworms.)

I put Father on the couch, gave him some of Princess’s food and so began the long, slow process of nursing him back to health. Father wasn’t too keen on being inside since he was ‘semi-feral’. After Father warmed up and had a full meal, I let him out and put a bowl of food on the side porch and left the porch door open. Soon after, we noticed that Father was eating the food and eventually, he began to sleep on the porch. We slowly acclimated him to the house by having him take baby-steps in his familiarization with the surroundings and the family. When Father began sleeping in the house, he would stay in the dining room or living room. He began to move closer and closer to the bedrooms until he did start sleeping in one of the bedrooms. His doing that showed his trust in us and a desire to be closer to us.

There are many more ‘Father Stories’ that I will share, but I will say for now that Father did regain his strength and put on 20 pounds to his ‘ideal weight’ since he first came to our house. It was also painfully obvious that Father had been abused. He was terrified of brooms, and we believe that Father’s old owners beat him with a broom. Father was also scared of men, more so than women. It was rewarding and fun to see Father develop physically and emotionally. It was also sad to see a fully grown dog go through emotional developments that would normally be seen in puppies. Father had been robbed of his youth, but in some way, we were able to give a part of that life back to him.

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