Willow's Journey

First Moments with Willow

A stray dog showed up this summer on the property where I live. She startled me the first time I saw her little head peering at me above the weeds at the edge of my garden. My disbelieving stare was enough to frighten her and she yipped before running away, her svelte body a rocket across the yard. It took me a couple days to figure out that she was hiding near the end of the driveway under an old wooden cattle ramp that was the perfect shelter; a cool and dark place away from the relentless heat.

I had driven past this spot repeatedly and never saw her there. After realizing that she wasn’t a neighbor’s wandering dog, I began bringing food and water for her, leaving the metal bowls of kibble and fresh water several feet away from where she was curled up in the soft dirt. She was very thin and as I sat a good distance away to avoid scaring
her, I could see that she was a young dog and a little female.

Some kind of hound mix by the looks of her folded over ears, long tail and lanky body. I decided to call her Willow. Hoping to win her trust so that I could help her, I bought special treats from the pet store and offered
them to her on a flat rock outside her lair. She was highly attuned to my movements and body language and even my voice was disturbing to her. I had to be aware of my intentions, gestures and gaze to avoid scaring her.

I sat on the ground about 20’ away to gently watch and allow her to become comfortable with my presence. I began returning during random times of
day, placing treats on the rock and retreating to my usual sitting spot. I didn’t expect anything from her and offered simple, unobtrusive company and the chance to know me as a safe person. After a few days of leaving food for her, she felt comfortable coming towards me to take treats from the flat rock that I had now moved to a place halfway between us.

A few more days passed and I moved the rock to a spot just two feet away from where I was sitting. I placed a treat out and waited, looking away at the sky and breathing into my belly while feeling myself rooted, quiet and relaxed. I sat perfectly still with my elbows propped on my knees and my head turned away. She approached and took the treat, quickly turning to go back to her soft hole under the cattle ramp. I put another treat on the rock and a second one on the top of my shoe. She came towards me more quickly and ate the first one and then, to my delight, she ate the second one off the top of my shoe! I made no attempt to touch her or even to move, only looking towards her softly when she chose to lay down a few feet away.

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Happy Willow today

She began playfully nibbling at herself, chewing her hind foot gently and then taking the tip of her tail in her mouth and nibbling at that too. I had to chuckle as she looked at me with her head tilted to the side, a playful expression crossing her face for the first time. I connected with her that evening in meditation and did some distance healing with her. I was able to feel the strong fear of humans that she held in her body. As it released out her legs and tail it felt like liquid silver lead. It was dense and heavy. During the meditation I told her that I was waiting for her to come to me when she was ready and that I wouldn’t push her but that I really wanted her to connect with me and that it was safe.

The next morning I went out to feed Willow and my neighbor happened to be walking by with his dog. I rarely see this person and I crouched down to pet
his dog, Asher, while we chatted. Asher is only about a year old but is a large, calm dog who was curious about Willow but didn’t rush towards her or scare her out of her hiding place. He just casually sniffed around, came back for some more pets and then he and his person were off to finish their walk. Right after they left as I started to stand up, Willow came out from under the cattle ramp, walked directly up to me and licked my face, rolled over on her back and let me scratch her belly and rub her ears and face! I was surprised and delighted; elation and relief spreading through my being from this remarkable turnaround! Willow’s happy tongue dangled out of her mouth as she looked up at me eagerly, trotting alongside as we strode back to my house together.

I knew from the beginning that I couldn’t keep her and after about ten days, I took Willow to Second Chance Humane Society in Ridgway, Colorado, a wonderful resource for animals in my area. She was given so much love and attention by the volunteers and staff that after a week when I went to visit, I was told that Willow had become a social butterfly and a bit of a ham. This was such good news! I could see after getting to know Willow a bit more that to truly flourish she would need plenty of social interaction with people and dogs to further develop her confidence and trust in the world. She got just what she needed! She was quickly adopted by a woman with lots of extended family- both people and dogs. When I bumped into this lovely person at the grocery store, she told me Willow was at home, playing in the fenced yard with the other dogs and loving life. My heart glowed with gratitude for her transformation from a fearful pup into a fully blossomed, joyful being!

Thank you to the wonderful staff and volunteers at Second Chance Humane Society! If you would like to make a donation to this worthy organization, here is the link to their web site.