New York Times opinion shares the joy of a rescue dog


New York Times opinion shares the joy of a rescue dog

27 January 2019
The scruffy little dog of indeterminate origin — she’s either a beagle mix or a terrier mix, depending on which veterinarian is guessing — reaches the end of the driveway and sits down.

A gentle tug on the leash merely inspires the dog to lower herself completely, her face on her front paws. A treat offered in exchange for progress on this “walk” yields no better results. In the dead heat of August, she flops onto her side, extending all four legs and dropping her head to the blistering asphalt. Her point is clear. This is rescue-dog semaphore for “I would strongly prefer not to leave this yard, thank you very much.”

I can hardly blame her — she’s new to this house, and she may never have had a house before. Who would willingly abandon her own home, even briefly, if such a boon is new? If such a gift, as far as she knows, is only temporary? She came to the rescue organization as a stray, so no one knows where she’s been or what she’s been through, but she is clearly traumatized.

Her fear is ubiquitous. She’s afraid of other dogs, of course, and strangers, but also doorways, shoe-clad feet, her own food bowl. Every unfamiliar noise causes her to stiffen, on high alert, and every noise is unfamiliar. She doesn’t bark; she has never barked even once, but she yelps at the slightest unexpected touch. It’s more than a yelp, really. Something between a howl and a piercing scream. Soon I am feeling traumatized myself. My dog screams, and my heart starts to pound: What on earth did I do this time?

Despite her manifold fears, this damaged little dog is preternaturally gentle — “grandmotherly,” according to her page on the rescue organization’s website. She tries to understand what we want from her, and she noses our hands, apologetic, when she can’t understand. We named her Millie, for our late neighbor who lived a life of quiet kindness.