A year ago, the awesome Captain Cassie Wyllie rescued two pups from a military base in Jordan. With the help of the equally awesome folks at Puppy Rescue Mission, the two made it to the United States. One, Gwenie, reached Independence, Oregon where she has spent the last year eating furniture, getting us both covered in skunk stench, digging massive holes in the backyard, destroying the back fence and otherwise committing dog-atrocities while simultaneously fearing random things like naked cherub statues and most people. She goes absolutely berzerk when two high school lovers stop every day after school to canoodle on the sidewalk beside the house, so apparently she is not a Must Love Dogs fan.
When Gwen first came to Oregon, I could not get her to walk on a leash more than twenty or thirty feet from the house. Everything terrified her. She would venture a little ways out then freeze up. Looking sad and pathetic, she’d try to return to the front yard, growing increasingly frantic if I held firm on the leash.
Thanks to Ryder, Renee’s happy-go-lucky Aussie Shepherd, Gwenie gradually emerged from her shell. Her first Christmas was spent at the Oregon coast, where she explored on the beach with Ryder and the rest of the family. Since then, she has become a little more daring every day.
What we didn’t see was any happiness in her. She would explore and run around. She would come home to eat another section of the couch. She’d sleep beside me at night, but she always had such a lost and sad expression on the face that I wondered if she would ever know anything but degrees of less anxiety.
Today all that changed. I’ve been up in the woods working on the edits for Indestructible and I woke up this morning to snow. Snow is a big deal for me. Being from the Silicon Valley, I only experienced it a few times as a kid on ski trips. Renee and Ed have inherited the same exuberance for snow that I’ve got, so I gave the family a call and asked them to come up. Jenn stuffed two kids, one adult and three dogs into my Pontiac GTO and drove up here. Seriously, when they arrived, it looked like a Bruning clown car exploded. Dogs and kids running about joyfully, parents looking happily chagrined.
We walked around Detroit Lake and over to Piety Island (currently a peninsula) and I noticed that Gwen obeyed everything we told her. When she got too close to a cliff and we called out to her, she came back over to us. When she was hassling our little dog Mizette and we told her to stop, she did. Far from the unruly hurricane of chaos and mayhem we’ve come to know and love, she was playing within the rules today.
I started taking pictures, and right away I saw something different through the view finder. Gwen raced around us, letting Ryder chase her. She is fast and graceful and lithe, a beautiful sight to behold when she is in full stride.
Today, I swear she was smiling. Lit up, happiness radiating from her, she played and capered with all of us. She chased snowballs and jumped into a pond to wade around in search of driftwood to carry back ashore. This was a totally unexpected development, as she has always feared water. Today, she had no fear.
As I took photos of her and the family, it dawned on me that she’s settled down. Whatever horrible things happened to her before she reached our loving arms no longer plague her. This is her home now; she has started to love it, and find comfort and tons of fun within the circle of her adopted family.
Tonight she is with me at the cabin. The family went home at dusk. She’s exhausted and filled with warm chicken soup, which she convinced me to share with her by putting her chin on my lap as I ate. As I write, she’s curled up in front of the wood stove, eyes closed in peaceful repose.
My wild little pup has come of age.
Now, if we can just get her to stop murdering innocent rolls of scotch tape and eating the kids’ home made Christmas ornaments…. baby steps. Baby steps.