It’s been six weeks since we brought Daisy home. I’d love to write a glowing essay about how well she’s settling in, but the truth is, there have been a lot of stops and starts. Progress is made but for every step forward, there’s several back. We know this is par for the course with rescue dogs, that with time, patience and love, she’ll come out of her shell, but in the meantime, it’s like having a newborn.
Daisy came to us from the Rappahannock Animal Welfare League in Rappahannock county. For those of you unfamiliar with rural Virginia, it’s about an hour north and west of here, with Shenandoah National Park running through it. It’s mostly rural, home to Sperryville and Washington (home of the famous Inn at Little Washington), not exactly thriving metropolises. I think the population for the entire county is less than 10,000 people and I’m not sure there is a supermarket in the entire county, but I could be wrong. It’s an absolutely beautiful area, slightly adjacent to DC, but rural enough it hasn’t become one of the far flung suburbs yet.
She came in as a stray so we don’t know her backstory. A beagle/basset hound mix, Miss Daisy Mae either let her nose get the best of her and wandered off or, more likely, is a rejected hunting dog who was dumped to fend for herself. Our vet’s best guess at her age is around 18 months or so. She is definitely a country dog – we’re fairly sure she had never been in a house before, definitely wasn’t used to either house or city noises – the most animated we’ve ever seen her was when a horse popped up on the TV screen during All Creatures Great and Small one night and Daisy went flying to smell the screen, looking behind it for her friend. We’ve noticed how when given the chance, she will hide herself under a bush, burying herself in leaves or other vegetation and I’m wondering if this was one of her methods of survival in her previous life, since we don’t know how long she had to fend for herself. She is at least 10 pounds underweight per our vet, who said she’s “a thirty-five pound dog who weighs twenty-five pounds”.
The list of things Daisy is having to learn and get used to is long, but she did come house trained, which is really the only thing we could ask for. Everything else though? Oh boy. She didn’t recognize words or commands – not a one. It took her a few days to figure out how to sit in a dog bed, although she did recognize her crate from the get-go, even if she didn’t get in it at first. I realized she didn’t jump on furniture because she wasn’t sure how to – the same went with stairs. She’s still not sure how to ride in a car, although she no longer tries to cower in the farthermost back corner she can find. She also didn’t know how to walk on a leash, although now that she’s gotten used to wearing a harness, it comes a little easier for her. Oh, and she’s anxious. SO Anxious. Anxious to the point of shaking a good bit of the time and not eating.
We spent the better part of the first five weeks trying to coerce her into eating, often hand feeding her. I’ve cooked for her, friends and neighbors have dropped off all sorts of treats, many smelly, trying to help us tempt her to eat, hoping that once she would start eating, she’d start coming out of her shell. She’d make a little progress, then backslide, sometimes all the way back to when we first brought her home and she wouldn’t move for days, sleeping with her eyes open, never really quite letting herself get settled.
And then last Sunday afternoon she decided she wanted to eat without having to be coerced into it and she hasn’t looked back. In the last few days, she’s come leaps and bounds. She’s discovering toys and figuring out how to play with them, wants to take long walks with lots of sniffs, has been heard chasing rabbits in her sleep and best of all, is starting to find her voice. She let out her first little arrooo the other day in response to the neighborhood hounds calling out to each other.
She is still a bit anxious at night – getting up to wander around at 2 am (and 3 am and 4 am), still a bit cautious, but she’s starting to get the hang of coming down the stairs, recognize some words (including her name!) and best of all, she’s starting to embrace the couch beagle lifestyle. Although she hasn’t really discovered pillows yet, I suspect that’s coming.
She is the quietest, sweetest, gentlest, snuggliest, chill soul with the saddest hound dog eyes and sighs that are the sighs of countless disappointed grandmothers in unison. She has this way of leaning into people when they pet her that makes absolutely everyone want to pick her up and snuggle her. Put her on your lap watching tv at night, she’ll just melt right into you, like a dog puddle. When she does get a little burst of energy, she loves to wiggle around in good smells when she finds them and enjoys the occasional zoomie with Bandit.
She has a heart on her nose if you look at it just so to go with those perpetually sad hound dog eyes. She has an instagram account of course, in part because I needed a place to share her accomplishments as she comes out of her shell and in part to keep her from dominating all my other social media accounts. Well, except for twitter, because beagle twitter is the best twitter. But that’s a whole other discussion.