Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Update on Sophie, the Dog-Loving Dog

This is Sophie.

She came to us as a foster back around July 2007. Here's what I wrote about her then:

Sophia is approximately 1 year old and currently weighs about 15 lbs. She is done growing though she still has some filling out to do (she was skin and bones when she first arrived at our home). She is a very shy little girl and her timidity and uncertainty will quickly tug at your heartstrings. But when she starts to come out of her shell and you see her exhibit her natural playfulness, your heart will swell with pride and joy. We have no idea what her mix of breed is--basenji maybe, chihuahua, terrier, who knows. But from her curly tail to her big doe-like eyes and long sometimes flopping ears, you will find Sophia one of the most endearing dogs you've ever met.

Sophia's History

Sophia and 2 other young dogs were found abandoned in front of an animal hospital in Taiwan, a country where millions of stray dogs are an accepted way of life. All 3 dogs were severely starved and dehydrated. Much of their hair had also fallen off from a skin disease caused by malnourishment and a harsh living environment. Both of Sophia's ears had identical cuts, almost as if somebody had intentionally scarred her. In a country where no animal protection laws exist and where dogs are treated as disposable items and are often the innocent victims of random cruelty, we can only imagine what Sophia and her friends lived through up until then.

The wonderful volunteers of The Animal Rescue Team in Taiwan took these dogs into their care and nursed them back to health.

Sophia's Arrival

It was a long trek from Taiwan to the Bay Area, and when Sophia arrived at our home, in the backyard specifically, on the night of June 27, she remained hidden in her crate for a while. The presence of another puppy, also from Taiwan but very sociable, drew Sophia out to explore her new surroundings. When my much bigger dogs came out to greet them, Sophia showed no fear or shyness towards them. She did, however, hide from me.

Once she finally ventured inside the house, Sophia immediately took up a new hiding place under my desk, a favorite among our shy fosters and Sophia's favorite place to sleep still. She crouched in the corner and stayed there for most of the night.

Every once in a while, she would peek her head out from under to see what was going on from the safety of her new "den."

Sophia Today
Sophia has come a long way since that first night. As the weeks went by, her fear towards me diminished. The playfulness she always had with other dogs was directed at me as well, and all too often I would feel Sophia's little front paws on the back of my leg as she reared up on me in excitement. Sophia does still have the tendency to hide when guests visit, she still hesitates at the door, but her ability to blossom towards me is representative of her ability to blossom towards anyone who simply gives her the chance.

We have had many other dogs come and go during Sophia's stay with us, not to mention our own 2 dogs, and she has gotten along wonderfully with each and every one of them, from an 8-lb puppy to a 70-lb adult dog. Sophia simply LOVES other dogs and will play for hours and hours with them if given the chance. She is a submissive girl yet does not get overly intimidated by rough play, growling, or barking. Whatever wariness and shyness she has towards people does not exist at all with dogs.

Sophia is for the most part a very well-behaved and unassuming dog. She is extremely playful with other dogs but is not hyper. Sophia is crate trained and is in the process of being housetrained. She used to be terrified to walk out the front door and beyond our front yard but will now often follow the lead of our other dogs and has started to enjoy our walks around the neighborhood. Car rides are also something new to her but she lays quietly on the floor. She has probably never really known direct human love and affection and is therefore unsure of herself in the company of people, but she is curious and watchful. Although shy, Sophia isn't really skittish. She is also very tolerant of being handled and lifted even though it must be frightening to her.

Adopting Sophia
Underneath Sophia's shy exterior is a silly little dog with a heart of gold. She needs someone who will take the time to recognize it. Sophia has been extremely undersocialized with people and requires an experienced guardian who will not only have the patience and gentleness to draw her out of her shell initially, but also someone who will continue to expose her to new situations and people. It may take weeks for her to get comfortable with you (longer if you're a man), but it may take years for her to get comfortable with the rest of the world. Sophia needs someone who understands that and who is willing to be flexible in their handling of her.

Because Sophia trusts other dogs so much and tends to follow their lead, her ideal home would have a confident, well-socialized and playful canine brother or sister to act as her mentor.

Sophia is kind of a juxtaposition--the true Sophia is playful and full of life, but her uncertainty with new people supresses that in the beginning and makes her fearful & timid. Once she blossoms though, sunshine and laughter will follow wherever she goes. She is the kind of dog that will become your devoted shadow once she learns to trust you. When I watch her interacting with the other dogs, I see her potential for happiness and joy. All she needs is patience, gentleness, and a lot of socialization.

This is a video of Sophia being Sophia. This is not the dog you will see when you first meet her, but this is the dog she will become if given the chance.

Sophia Digs at the Dog Park


I haven't watched the video of Sophie playing in a long time until now. It makes me smile. Sophie was probably the most dog-loving dog I've ever met. Boomer used to (and once in a while still does) have a tendency to growl at the foster dogs, particularly smaller ones, if they invaded his space. His growl would get louder and louder if the dog didn't get the hint, but they mostly did and would back off. Not Sophie though. She was undaunted and seemed to love Boomer even more when he growled at her. It was especially priceless when Boomer would be laying in a crate and Sophie came over to him. He would growl and growl, and she would just slowly step into the crate and sit down next to him.

You can't tell from the picture, but Boomer is growling at her here. One of Boomer's favorite spots to lay is under the coffee table. It's his den, his space. Here, Sophie has joined him and he is growling at her. She's just loving it.

The one thing I most remember about Sophie is her early morning ritual. Sophie preferred to sleep out in the front room every night, so I didn't make her sleep with the rest of us in the bedroom. Every single morning, around the same time, with Tyler already off to work, Sophie would come into the bedroom as I was still sleeping, jump up on the bed, and squirm, wiggle, and flop on top of me like crazy--exactly like what she did in the video with Phoebe, our pittie. It was a great way to wake up, especially knowing that this was a dog that used to hide from me and every other human.

And sometimes, if I didn't want to get up, she'd park herself on the pillow beside me.

Sophie had actually been adopted out once, against my better judgment, only to be returned a month later. The woman was one of the sweetest people imaginable with her heart in the right place, but after spending several hours visiting each other a few times, I didn't have the impression she was experienced enough to deal with as extreme of a timid dog that Sophie was. Despite my doubts, I allowed myself to be talked into letting the woman have her, thinking, "Well, she's so nice and she wants Sophie so badly, maybe she deserves at least a chance."

When Sophie was later returned to us because she was not overcoming her fearfulness of the woman at all, I decided then and there to place more trust in my instincts, even if there was very little logical reasoning behind it, even if I had to risk offending or upsetting somebody. Because even though Sophie came back to us safely, I realized the biggest risk of giving a dog to a person not suited to them is not that the dog will be returned. There's a mere inconvenience. If a person does not understand a dog properly, the biggest risk is that the dog will be unintentionally harmed in some way, either from lack of experience, lack of knowledge, bad judgment, or simple mishandling.

But the story turned out to be a happy one for Sophie. She was eventually adopted out a knowledgeable young woman with a little canine playmate for Sophie. Although not completely over her shyness, she has completely bonded not only to her human mom but to her human dad as well. (She never got comfortable with Tyler while with us.)

"Sophia is wonderful. She is still silly, wiggly, and happy with bits of nervous thrown it. She's doing better with strangers now, and likes to be in the room instead of hiding out. My nephews come over several times a week and play with her- she adores them! Especially the baby- he's 2 and a half and she kisses him all over when he comes. The older one, Jack, can get her to come when he calls. . . .

. . . . She absolutely loves jason . . .actually prefers him to me when we are just hanging at home! She sleeps by his feet when he's here and likes to sit next to him on the couch. It's crazy. I'm thrilled she's slowly becoming more of a dog! I take her over to Jason's parent's house a few times a week, she loves playing in the back yard and even lets his parents pet her (probably because they tend to be a little more free with the cheese treats!) I agree her best quality is her gentle spirit, she's just happy and loving and it's so wonderful to see her true self coming out more and more."


Wild Dingo said...

I sometimes wonder if humans who face similar circumstances of abuse, neglect, disabilities and many of life challenges can learn from Sophie's and every recovering rescue dog's example. That it is possible to be healthy, happy and trusting, especially when handed the wonderful opportunity of a helping hand. So many human victims have a difficult time even with every opportunity afforded to them to be a happy, healthy individual. Yet we see dogs like Sophie (not to mention very fearful or aggressive dogs) go on to become excellent examples of grabbing the brass ring and living life fully.