To my dear, sweet Casper,
The couple who bought you actually wanted a baby…I’m not sure what made them decide to get a puppy instead? In a way, I’m not sorry that they chose you because it meant that I got to have you, but not a day goes by without me wishing that you came to me under different circumstances.
The couple didn’t know anything about caring for a dog and didn’t mean to cause you so much harm and damage. That said, ignorance is not an excuse and I had to restrain myself from completely losing the rag with them. On the day I first met, you were coughing and thin and extremely wary. I couldn’t see any toys. Well, there was one toy, a large red ball meant for a much larger breed. It was bigger than you were and made a loud noise as it rolled towards you. You were TERRIFIED. They laughed and said, “He loves to play Hide and Seek with his ball”, but it was clear you were trying to get away.
I asked the couple some probing questions and my heart sank as I began to unravel the sad story of your life so far. From their description, I am pretty sure that you came from a puppy farm, so things weren’t going well for you right from the start. The couple met the “breeder” in a car park and chose you from the several pups he had in the boot of his car.
They took you to their houseshare and you were kept in their bedroom for the majority of the next four months of your life. You were not taken to the vet for a check-up or vaccinations, not even when you started coughing. You were never brought outside. Do you remember the babygrows they made you wear? The ones for human babies? The couple left you alone all day in that bedroom with no toys while they went to college and then on to their evening jobs. I don’t blame you for crying, who wouldn’t in your situation. The other people that lived in the house were not so understanding.
So, it came to this…the couple finally admitted that they were not taking care of you properly. That is what they told me anyway, but I suspect the other housemates had given an ultimatum.
While they talked, I sat on the floor of their living room wiggling a raggy at you. There was no pressure…I didn’t even look at you. Slowly, I saw you tip-toe towards the raggy. Do you remember the first time you played tug with me? It was that day with that raggy. I guess it was actually the first time you ever got to play properly.
They wouldn’t let me take you with me that day. I saw you try to follow me out the front door and it broke my heart to leave you there.
It took a few days for me to convince the couple to do the right thing. I told them about my dog Pogo and my cat Shelli who would keep you company if I had to leave you. I described all the places that I could take you for walks; the sand dunes at Bull Island, the Dublin Mountains, and many more. I told them all about the training club where you could do agility with me. A few days later, I collected you and took you home.
That was two years ago! It took a while to sort out the physical issues. You were riddled with fleas, worms and mites. We fattened you up and got your cough treated. Sadly though, the couple also damaged you psychologically. I have tried so hard to help you but you still suffer with crippling anxiety and fear. I have seen how you completely shut down when you are confronted by something unfamiliar. I know how you suffer from panic attacks at the vets. I know you have a never-ending list of fears: small dogs, big dogs, people with hats, loud noises, people with hoods, people on bikes, old people, people who try to touch you, children, statues, the dark, being left alone, people you don’t know, the pack being separated, men of any kind, swans, heights, new places…etc
I long for the day when you realise that you are safe and I will never let anything hurt you. For now, I will continue to only walk you in places you are familiar with so you don’t have to worry. I will gently rub Rescue Remedy onto your ears when I know you will be faced with a stressful situation. I will bring you to your agility classes and watch your anxiety melt away as you sail over the jumps. I will read book after book and do course upon course until I know exactly how to help you. I will massage you and do TTouch until you learn that it feels good to relax and chill out. I will play tug with you and throw a ball for you to chase until my arms are numb. I will spend the rest of your life doing everything that I can to undo the damage.
My dear, sweet Casper, there is nothing I need from you in return. You have already given me your unconditional love and that is the greatest gift of all.