Liberty came to me as a six-month-old puppy. I wish I had a wonderful fairy tale to tell about our relationship but that never makes for a good story. Even how we met was quite an uneventful experience. Actually, I made the cardinal mistake of impulsively choosing a dog based on coat color.
At an adoption event, a puppy snoozed quietly as dozens of people whirled around her. I was impressed by her demeanor but more so by her gorgeous brindle coat. My heart was immediately set on the tiger pup in front of me. Within minutes, I had filled out the adoption application. Coincidentally, she was being fostered by a classmate of mine who lived in the same apartment complex as me. The same day I had met her was the same day I adopted her.
Like I stated earlier, I wish I could tell you that our relationship was a fairy tale. It was really quite the opposite. The peaceful puppy turned out to be a “lemon,” for lack of a better word. I came to realize she was afraid of everything. Meeting new people was often a disaster, as she would be reduced to a shivering mess and huddle in the corner. This was especially true of men and children. Getting into the car was a battle. She was too afraid to jump into the backseat even with tons of bribing. Nail trims and any form of restraint would lead to terrified screams, released anal glands, and urine/poo everywhere. As frustrating as these events were, they truly taught me about patience and perseverance.
I am a firm believer that animals become part of our lives to teach us more about how to be better humans. Dogs, in particular, teach us about loyalty, bravery, silliness, and unwavering devotion. As much as Libby challenged me with her flaws, she also demonstrated an incredible capacity for trust. In reality, all she wanted was to be able to trust me, but I had to earn it.
I learned that I could not earn her trust by forcing her to bend to my will. Building trust, just like in human relationships, takes time, understanding, and compromise. It means being able to understand how the other is feeling and how to work as a team.
Five years later, I am still working to strengthen our relationship. Libby continues to impress me every day with her slow, but progressive transformation. I can happily say that she will now jump into cars without hesitation. When my guy friends come to visit, she nearly barrels them over with excitement. Nail trims can still be a struggle, but she will attempt to cooperate. There are still days that remind me that we have a long way to go. But, at the end of the day, I realize that nothing worth having ever came easily. All I know is that life would not be the same without her and I am so grateful for my shelter pup.