We kept ReeRee for Jasmine’s sake. Jasmine loved her obsessively from the moment she met her. Ree Ree helped Jasmine to forget all her fears. When they were together Jasmine no longer refused to go down stairs, or get out of the car at the beach, walk down a city sidewalk, frozen with fear. With Ree Ree by her side, her whole world opened up. If her baby was with her she would joyfully sprint out of the car to the beach, charge up stairs to show ReeRee how brave she was or trot down the sidewalk proudly.
But I didn’t want to keep her. I fought it for months. A friend described ReeRee perfectly as being feral. She would go into blackout terrors, growling and lunging at anything that startled her whether it was a bicycle, a toddler or a paper bag being blown in the wind. It wasn’t her fault, she had been terrorized for a year and a half and she hadn’t yet had the chance to detox. I had never experienced a rescue dog like this and was totally stressed and freaked out at the thought of keeping her.
If we ever accidentally woke her up at night she would frantically growl and bark at us, her brain so flooded with fear that she couldn’t process that it was us. We had to call to her over and over again until she realized that she was safe and not back in her old life. We’d have to shush her and coo over her until her breathing calmed back down and we could tuck her back into bed.
“She could hurt someone!” I’d tell Britt when I was in the middle of a freak out of being stuck with this baby monster dog.
“She’s not going to hurt anyone.” Britt would say, watching her chew obsessively on one of her precious balls. “Look how cute she is.”
I tried to train her so she could be adopted but she didn’t take it in very easily. I think her brain was still really scrambled and unsure because of all the previous abuse. She didn’t want to make a false move and get shouted at or hit. She would just sit there staring at me, panting, as I’d repeat—with hand signals—“Sit! Sit! Down! Stay!”
She was still not house broken. No matter how many times I’d lead her to the door and say “Pee pee? Go pee pee!” she’d choose to never go to the door but instead would just shamelessly get up while we were watching tv or making breakfast and just wander over to the middle of the kitchen, stare up at us with her big eyes and just start peeing, or even more disturbingly, start pooping right there in front of us!
“Do you think she might be brain damaged from getting hit so much?” I asked Britt one day.
“Jesus, babe! No! You’re so mean!” He answered as Ree Ree napped at his feet peacefully.
“I’m just wondering, gahd. I’ve never had a dog just stare at me so much before. And just pooping on the floor and not caring is insane to me.”
One day she went to meet a potential adopter and we left Jasmine in the car while we walked Ree Ree with her potential new family’s dog. When ReeRee got back to the car Jasmine leapt out, whimpering and began smelling every inch of her to make sure her baby was okay. When she checked out every inch of her Jasmine kissed her mouth frantically and leaned against her protectively.
Britt and I looked at each other, realizing that we would not be able to separate them. “I guess she’s ours now.” I said.
We had a really long road ahead of us with training and figuring out how to have two dogs. Ree Ree got easier to manage every day. Her manic terror began to ease back with the stability we offered her. She figured out it’s better to pee and poo outside. She became less triggered and started to realize strangers were there to pet her and throw her ball.
But she’d still go from 0 to 1000 instantly with the slightest knock on the door or sound outside. We still had a lot to work out between the two dogs feeding off each other’s bad behavior and we had to become much more strict than we had been with just Jasmine.
One afternoon I was stuck in traffic getting onto the Golden Gate Bridge. It was warm and sunny. Jasmine was sleeping behind my seat in the truck and Ree Ree was how she loved to be, standing in the passenger seat, her paws on the armrest, head out the window. I could see two motorcyclists approaching in between lanes in the rearview mirror. I didn’t have time to pull her in so she wouldn’t lunge at them but I didn’t have to. The motorcyclist slowed down and with one gloved hand reached out and gently caressed ReeRee from her left cheek, under her chin and over to her right cheek before accelerating past us onto the bridge.
I watched delighted, as ReeRee only smiled after him, smelling the bay air. She did not growl or lunge at him she just allowed a helmeted stranger to pet her while driving by. And the fact that a stranger thought she was so sweet that he couldn’t resist reaching out to her meant so much to me. I knew then that it was going to be okay.