Lessons from a Fearful Puppy

When I started volunteering at the SPCA, they had just started a new volunteer track called a Behavior Volunteer. Basically, I would work with dogs that may have some slight behavior issues to help them become more adoptable.  I have been taking classes, and plan to take more.  I have worked with both high energy dogs and high fearful dogs, walking alongside the behaviorists at the organization to learn techniques and policies when working with these types of dogs.  I had just finished the fostering class when this opportunity presented itself.

For the past two weeks, we’ve been fostering a puppy.  The puppy, along with her siblings, were found in someone’s backyard at 3 months old.  They had no human socialization.  In fact, they were terrified of humans.  I worked with all of the siblings one afternoon, and decided that I would take on one of the puppies in my home, working with her one-on-one.

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When she first arrived, she was so scared, that she pooped any time we made a move towards her or tried to get her to go anywhere.  She growled at my dogs.  She stayed in the back of her crate.

Then, a few days into the foster, I moved the crate upstairs, facing our guest bathroom (one of those long types of bathrooms).  For several days, I slept on a futon mattress on the floor, with the door to her crate open, hoping that one day she would come out on her own.

In the middle of the night, one night, I woke up to her crawling on top of me to fall asleep.  I barely breathed, so as not to scare her.  But it showed me that she did want to connect, she did want to socialize.  She just didn’t know how, and her fear was a prison.

So, for the next few days, I became determined to socialize her.  I would spend hours on the floor of that bathroom.  I would give her space, but there were times I would slowly, calmly pet her.  It made her uncomfortable, but it would only last a few minutes at most.  It was so frustrating to know that I could provide her the comfort and love she desperately wanted, but her fear stood in the way.

Then, I realized.  How often does God feel that same frustration?  How often does he come into my life, longing to reach out to me in love, wanting me to step out in uncomfortable faith, and my response is to turn away in fear?  However, the more time I spend with God, the greater chance I have to trust him, turn to him, and overcome my fear.

We are coming to the end of our first fostering experience.  The transition for this puppy has been remarkable.  Now, she plays with us, loves getting petted (even more than treats), cries when she can’t see us, and constantly wants to be in our presence.  She trusts more, though not always.  She has her moments of hesitation.  But the experience has inspired me to spend more time with God, to trust Him more, to step out in my uncomfortable faith, and allow Him to help me overcome my own fear so that I may have a deeper relationship with my Heavenly Father.

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9 thoughts on “Lessons from a Fearful Puppy

    • Also, we just adopted a dog who is totally blind. It took him a while to adjust, but he mostly just gets around our house now as if he can see. I think the same thing as you all the time — if he can live life with very little fear, then I should be able to as well!

      • She went back today. I was SO sad. And if she adjusts well today, then she could be adopted by the weekend. She was gorgeous so I totally believe it could happen. Can I secretly hope she’s still here when we get back?

  1. My sister was involved in a program similar to this, except she trained dogs to be service dogs. It was SO hard for her to give up the dog in the end, but it was also very rewarding!

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