Photo by Fabian Gieske on Unspash.
Today I want to tell the story of my beloved aunt Maria and her dog Lua. Lua was a beautiful, female German Shorthaired Pointer, abandoned by a heartless person when she was pregnant. Fortunately for Lua, she was rescued by a dog shelter, and her puppies were adopted quickly. Yet she had to stay in the shelter..., and she was trying to go unnoticed.
When my friend and I walked into the shelter called "El Refugio" the dogs were not in cages. Thankfully, they were happily roaming in a reasonably large area altogether. When we came in, the majority came happily to sniff us and say hi, but not Lua. Lua remained hidden behind a tree. Her reaction was to lay down and freeze; she was terrified. That was the beginning of a long -but satisfying- journey to rehabilitate Lua emotionally.
We did not know anything about her past, but it was evident that she had an atrocious fear of people. Also, she had never been in an urban environment before: she did not know what an elevator was, how to walk on a leash, what to do facing the stairs. All in all, quite a challenge. Since she was not ready to be integrated into a family yet, I was her foster family for one year while I was studying at the university. Fortunately, I still had a lot of time to dedicate to her and support her to overcome her fears.
When I first took her home, I let her do what she wanted without demands. I just let her be. She hid for two days under a table. Slowly, step by step, she learned she could trust me and that I would not hurt her. She started to come for discrete contact, learn how to walk on the leash, and get used to the city by doing short and predictable walks... I gave her love and company, not commands and rules.
When she arrived at my aunt's house, we had already come a long way. But the deepest fears were still there and, when triggered, she paralyzed, trembled and just wanted to hide and be invisible.
My aunt Maria is a calm and pleasant woman. She was never married. She has always felt a profound empathy towards animals. I would describe her as a quiet person who transmits calm, but at the same time very tenacious and meticulous. She was retired and looking after my grandma when Lua came to her life, but she had been a seamstress; one of those who does everything by hand and with love and patience. In 43 years that I know her, I have never seen her yelling, or deeply upset or angry. She would not seek confrontation but ignore a disturbing event or person. She manages her life through a deeply calm state of mind.
Lua came into her life, and they were one for each other. Lua found, living with my aunt, the calmness, safety and relax she needed.
With 100% predictable routines, lots of love and contact, good food, and quiet walks, they enjoyed each other's company until Lua left us in her advanced 16 years. Her last years were happy, without fears anymore, relaxed, and gaining self-confidence every day through a calm, safe environment fostered by her companion. My aunt became the reference Lua learned from. As simple as that.
Here is an example of a person who was never educated in canine ethology or behaviour, but who with her simple way of being and her way of living, gave the cure and helped a tormented dog. Her only therapy was patience, routines, perseverance, unconditional love and, above all, being her reference of calmness.