|Bo (left), Dean (right)|
Bo has a brother. Not a blood brother, but a kill shelter brother.
When inquired about adopting Bo, we learned that a second black lab was pulled from the shelter in Ohio. Both dogs would be, temporarily, at a farm.
Karla and I drove several hours into Western Maryland to meet the dogs, intent on adopting one. Well, we adopted both. But don't assume it was an immediately warm and cuddly moment. Neither dog liked the other. As a matter of fact, the family who owned the farm would not bring both dogs out together.
We were told that the attacks were vicious. These dogs had been imprinted with some serious fear, anger, anxiety, distrust, and maybe even hate. It is hard to imagine that dogs can experience hate. But listening to this family prepare us for what we were about to encounter, I can't help but wonder.
Leaning on the family, we coaxed them to show us both dogs at the same time. We wanted to see what they described. We wanted to see if we could handle Bo and Dean, rehabilitate them. We wanted to see just how bad their hatred for the other appeared. Karla took Dean by the leash. I took Bo. And, yes, they clearly did not like one another. And, yes, the farmer raised a skeptical eyebrow when we decided that we would rescue both of them. Together.
He said, "I 'spected you'd turn around, walk off without either of 'um."
Change took time. There were fights. I got nicked up a bit when trying to separate them, trying to protect them from one another. But after seeking some wonderful professional advice from an animal behaviorist, and lots of patience, Bo and Dean settled into a...friendship. At the time, we did not dare predict it. We did not see it coming. It just sort of happened one day. Literally, we woke up and things were different between them. They were sleeping alongside one another. For months, they had slept in separate rooms.
Now, this all fell into place after a long year and a well-needed neutering. So, time and snip-snip helped. Nevertheless, the neutering didn't to take as there were times when we didn't know for certain that Bo and Dean would ever be buddies. We were never going to give up on either. Instead, we were prepared to take care of them both even if the best we could hope for were a couple of dogs who only came to tolerate the other. We have over an acre of fenced-in land. There'd be space.
Yet, it turned out better than we had hoped. We were able to massage the anger out them. We out-waited them. We out-loved their expectations. And trust built.
It reminds me of something I picked up from Shakespeare and have never forgotten. The real magic in this world is, indeed, in time. For all of those potions in Shakespeare's plays, none ever worked as intended. Often, disaster ensued when humans tried to concoct magic out of herbs and potions. Yet, it was time...it is time...that erases mistakes, softens the edges, and brought two dogs together to write a new chapter--two dogs who were previously conditioned into a life of fear amid the unmistakable scent of death.
It is true. Time is a powerful eraser and a pencil point.