When most of us come across a stray dog, we do one of two things. We keep moving and hope it'll find its way home or we stop and try to help.
When a stray dog showed up in my yard that cool April morning, I asked my husband if he'd seen him before. He said no he wasn't a neighborhood dog. See, we live on a sort of dead end street, with two additional streets connected so we kind of know most dogs and cars that come down our street. He just pranced through the yard and on his merry way. I called for him to come back, "hey buddy, come here". He didn't stop and run into my arms like in the movies. He looked back and continued across the street. I immediately went to Facebook to look at the local lost and found to see if he was listed. Nope, nothing.
Then one Monday I was getting ready to take a nap on my couch. I heard crying outside my front door, so I got up to check it out. There he was, he popped himself out of under my front bush. This scared pup. I told him it was okay, he could stay. I just was checking on him. I went inside and grabbed a peanut butter cookie, because what dog doesn't like a peanut butter cookie? This one, that's what dog. He sniffed it, looked at me in sort of a disgusted way and then got up and walked off. Dang.
The next Monday, it happened again. This time the cute brown pup was under my back patio. He came out when he heard me walking on the deck to get ready to clean the pool. I ran inside to grab him some water and see if there was anything I had that was safe to feed dogs, I found a can of chicken. By this point he was already walking down the street, I called for him again, "hey buddy, come here. I got goodies for you" waiving the plate of food and putting down the bowl of water. This time instead of walking away, he turned around. He cautiously walked back towards me. He wouldn't come to the food until I walked at least 15 feet back. I watched in awe as he gobbled down his food and drank all the water, then left.
We did this routine every Monday for about 3 weeks. I posted on Facebook, looking to see if I could find any answers. What I got was a sad story from many people who have tried to help him and he wouldn't let them. He was a "junk yard" dog who's owner didn't really care about him wondering. He was scared of humans, wouldn't let anyone come close to him. He traveled with another dog but he seemed to try to avoid conflict with most others. It seemed like he wondered the area quite frequently, I was his Monday stop.
During the 3 weeks, I sat in the grass while he ate. He would sit there with me for awhile. Sometimes I would talk with him, sometimes I just played on my phone or talked to my mom. I quickly knew it was going to take some time to get him to even trust me enough to come back regularly. I noticed that when he would come out from under the patio, he would walk around the house. He wouldn't leave, he would go take cool shelter under the bush in the front yard. He was staying! I didn't care that he wasn't right next to me, I didn't care that he wasn't jumping into my arms and giving me kisses because I had given him food. I was happy he stayed, I had earned some level of trust. I gave him a name, Louie.
Louie started coming more regularly, even barked if he didn't see me outside to get my attention. I went to the store and bought actual dog food and some treats. Louie never came on the patio or even the front porch, to be honest I think he was afraid of being trapped. Even when I put his food on the front porch which has no railings, he would pick up the bowl and take it to the grass to eat. Then one rainy night in July, I got a notification on my phone that something had set off the camera on the front porch. I opened my phone and watched as Louie walked to the far corner to take shelter from the rain. It melted my heart. Another earned level of trust.
I found out after sharing this excitement that Louie was one of the dogs my friend had been telling me about in her neighborhood about a mile and a half away. She said that him and his friend would chase cars and bite at the tires. They would bark and chase the kids on the street. The lady that was feeding them said, "That doesn't happen, they're harmless". After dealing with Louie for a couple months, I told her I agreed that Lou was harmless, I don't know anything about another dog. There's just been him. I officially had taken the crazy neighbors side, I mean how could I not?
While I was away for a long weekend in Florida, I asked my husband to give Louie food and water. He did but only remembered once a day. My friend had picked me up at the airport and brought me home. I said thank you and then went inside the house. As she was backing up, she sent me a message, "he's waiting for you at the side door". I came back out with food and water to the most appreciative tail wag I had ever gotten from him. Another level earned.
From that moment he was home for breakfast and dinner at 8am and 8pm. He impressed my husband when he showed up at the right time during daylight savings. I put out a fleece blanket that my sister had gotten me for Christmas and a sheet one cold and rainy night in October. I thought he would take awhile to even go to it, like most things. He sniffed it and immediately curled up and went to sleep. That was his new favorite thing to sleep on. He even gave it to his friend to borrow some nights when he would stop by to visit.
When we had to go to Virginia for my Mother-in-laws funeral, Debbie came back and fed Louie again. She messaged me that there was a crate on the porch with a pet bed inside. Our amazing neighbors had purchased it and put it out for him. He laid next to it. It took a week and a lot of treats to get him to feel comfortable enough to even just go inside. He eventually found shelter and warmth in the crate. I ended up covering it with a sheet to make sure the wind was blocked during the cold winter nights. Another level earned.
These days, a little over a year later, he still hasn't allowed me to pet him but he has become my free-ranged dog, living life on his terms. Louie has decided our yard is his home. He's not ready to be indoors, he's not ready to give up his freedom. I know he has other families he has to make his appearance with because over his time outside he's made people fall in love and worry about him. I'm happy to believe that I'm at a higher level of trust that no other human has gotten to with him and he has found a safe and consistent place to fill his belly and lay his head at night.
HE'S adopted ME. 💚🐾