They cut us slack all those many evenings we arrive home late for dinner, and all those days we don’t walk them as often as we should. They instantly forgive us the outrages we all are guilty of inflicting from time to time, like accidentally closing the screen door on a tail, or forcing them to accept a new (unspeakably badly behaved) kitten. That willingness to excuse our day-to-day misdeeds is legendary, the stuff of novels and movies.
But millions of dogs go far beyond what we rhapsodize about in our own pets. They find ways (I can’t even imagine how) to dig deep and forgive an entire species — humans — for much bigger, and, you’d think, essentially unforgiveable crimes against them: starving them, hurting them, neglecting them, heaping misery upon misery upon them.
Never have I been more conscious of dogs’ profound ability to forgive than on this past Fourth of Julyweekend, when I visited National Mill Dog Rescue in Peyton, Colo., a dog-saving Mecca out on the dusty plains of rural Colorado.I met more than 100 dogs rescued from puppy mills, where they’d been cooped up year after year, producing litter after litter on too little food and water, crammed into too little space, living life with no veterinary care, no care of any kind, really, and no engagement with anyone but people who deliver only anguish.
Most of the dogs arrive here with teeth so rotted and painful that it’s hard to imagine why they didn’t just stop eating and die (some do, of course). Sometimes bad teeth evolve into complete disintegration of their jawbones.
NMDR founder Theresa Strader has such a dog. Daisy, just recently saved from a breeder and adopted by the Strader family, has a jaw so decomposed that they must place a towel on the floor and scatter kibble across it so Daisy can move forward in a wheelbarrow-like position, the better side of her head on the floor pulling in and chewing the food.
Some of these mill dogs arrive with eye infections, or blind, or missing eyes. Most are filthy, some with urine burns, some with fur so matted it’s hard for them to walk.
There are “common puppy mill dog” behaviors that everyone at NMDR is familiar with. Dogs will race to the front of their kennels and paw at the wire, appearing eager for human contact. But as soon as anyone actually opens the gate to enter, they run trembling to a corner. Simple reason: Until they landed here, no one had actually ever bothered to pet them.
“They know they want love,” Strader says, “they just don’t know what to do about it.” Some, in fact, are terrified of hands. Anyone can figure out why that would be.
Many won’t eat their food out of bowls. They’ve never been presented food in this manner before, so they warily approach bowls, reach out to tip them over, then gobble food from the floor.
And yet somehow, against all odds, these dogs that have known nothing from people but deprivation — and worse — forgive us all. Once they arrive here, once they’re no longer in pain or starving, once they get regular doses of care and love, they come around. The blind cocker spaniel, who definitely wasn’t born that way, kisses me with abandon, a wriggling mass of indiscriminate love. A couple of white fluffballs of tiny poodledom, a little stunted, really, from their previous life, push forward, eager to show just how good they are at snuggling. Two snorfling pugs, looking for all the world as if they’re smiling, press in for a hug.
I can’t explain how these dogs, and the dozens like them here, in just weeks have decided to forgive even if they can’t forget. But they do.
For some, of course, the journey is harder and longer than for others.
Week after week, one little white dog tore after everyone who approached her. A fear-biter of the highest order, she always struck first — before, she was certain, she would be struck. No gentle words seemed to comfort or reassure her, and this went on for eight months.
The exceedingly patient volunteers, who had had more than a few hard cases, began to despair. Then one day, not gradually but in a split second, the fear and rage disappeared, replaced by warm affection for one and all. “The light just clicked for her” says Strader. “We see it all the time.”
When I met that dog at a recent adoption event, she was being passed from person to person, the most sweet-tempered thing ever.
Most of these dogs get there, sooner or later.
I really can’t imagine how. … story taken from USA Today, Your Life… read story… http://yourlife.usatoday.com/parenting-family/pets/dogs/story/2011/07/Pet-Talk-Mill-dogs-forgiveness-is-a-real-head-scratcher/49319516/1