God bless the wonderful volunteers from C.A.R.E. (please visit their website to find out more and give them your support—you can find a link on our community partners page!) who complete these treks, guiding emotionally and physically damaged dogs across multiple state lines. While not ideal, dawgs in crates are stacked into a tiny truck in order to save as many souls as possible.
The truck arrives at the secure location and various rescue representatives spring into action for their mission. Slip leashes hang ready in hand as we swarm to pick up the souls our agency signed up to save. Envelopes containing the job description, er… each dawg’s records are passed out ,and we wait in line as gentle faces stare through crate doors covered in a mix of confusion, panic, and hope.
Once I have the pup’s leash in hand, the welcoming process begins. Usually we start with a potty break. She’s been on the road for hours and allowing her to smell and exercise her brain will do a lot to calm anxiety. After a brief walk, it’s time for the dog to get in the car (keeping in mind that she might not be excited to get back in a vehicle). I think it’s important to sit there for a bit and ride the wave of anxiety back down, so we go nowhere fast. Now, not everyone would agree with me on this, but in these moments where new foster dawg is riding out her nervousness, I provide only with minimal comfort. Dogs, like humans, will not and cannot remain in a state of elevated anxiety perpetually—it WILL go away, it just doesn’t always feel like that way.
She is stressed because her environment has been chaos and danger for quite some time now. Your pup will eventually self-soothe and feel better because you are providing a safe and grounded space. Once she comes back down to base level, reward her with pets and confirmation that everything IS going to be okay. This will increase her self-confidence and the next time she starts to worry, there will be a sliver of memory that she can work from and build upon.
Remember that dogs can only learn what “ignoring” means if we teach them. For instance, if you ask your dog to sit three times and he doesn’t, turn away. Adopt this habit consistently and you’ll see your dawg do it too. He’ll pester you for pets three times and when you don’t give in, he’ll walk away. Taking spaces is good and this is a proper self-soothing mechanism to teach your kiddo.
This is especially hard when you have a delicate new foster dawg beckoning you with droopy eyes, I know. But by giving in, you are interrupting their rehabilitation process. It is important for both two- and four-leggeds to work through the uncomfortable and ride out the roller coaster of anxiety in order to heal our wounds. Anything less will just produce and reproduce infection, eventually leaving a nasty scar. By nature, most of us want to comfort and soothe when we observe another creature in pain; but maybe this isn’t the best we can offer them and instead, we should invest our energy in granting those with open wounds a place where they can rest until they feel better. Somewhere filled with love, and where forgiveness need not even be mentioned because grace is extended to all. It’s not about “fixing” issues or letting go of trauma, it’s about accepting all of the parts that make us internally whole; and nobody can do that FOR us, just as we can’t do it FOR a dog. It’s even harder because it feels good to help another, and appeals to our own desires to be needed. But challenge those you care for (human and furry) to lean into their struggle by offering this gift of reliable strength, not just a Bandaid, and see what happens–we’d love to hear how it goes, so be sure to come back and comment!
**We do not recommend this approach for children or puppies–they need all the love, comfort, and help you can give while they’re brains are still forming!