Over the next few weeks, I want to introduce the residents of Appy Creek Farm, starting with our sweet therapy-dog-in-training Bear. Bear is a 5 year old Lab/Dane mix, who got a rough start in life. When we met him at Rutherford County PAWS, his adoption fee was only $15, because he’d already been at the shelter for more than 60 days. At 90 days, he would be euthanized. He was picked up as a stray and had a collar but no tags. No one claimed him, which means he was probably abandoned. At almost a year old, he weighed 85 pounds. His age and weight mean his chances for adoption were pretty small.
My daughter and I were at the shelter because she had lost her dog of 7 years. She was heartbroken and wanted to give another unwanted dog a home. We were only looking at dogs with less than 30 days left. She walked nearly every one, but I didn’t feel the others would be a good fit for our home, where we had a rather cranky, dominant senior dog. She was ready to give up when I spotted a dog laying in the back of his cage. He looked like he had given up hope too.
After convincing Kelsey to take him for a walk, they walked slowly out the back door. She sat on a bench and started to cry. Bear climbed up on the bench next to her and licked her tears. She hugged him as if she was hanging on for dear life. I knew we were taking him home, which is where the adventure started.
He had little to no training and was an 85 pound nightmare on a leash. He refused to get in the truck, so the two of us had to pick him up together to get him in. When we went to the pet store for supplies, one of us shopped, while the other used all her might to control our new unwieldy beast. We decided to take him to a friend’s farm to let him play with her dogs. Unfortunately, one her dogs decided to go after a horse, and poor Bear got caught in the crossfire. The next morning, a trip to the vet revealed he had a broken toe, so for the first 6 weeks, he would have to leash walked despite our big fenced in backyard.
The next few weeks were almost as bad as having a new puppy. Bear threw up almost every night for 3 weeks. The first time we left him home with our other dog, we didn’t have a kennel his size yet, so we used our gates to keep him in the kitchen where our other dog was kenneled. He ate the window sill. 😦 Kelsey decided she didn’t want him, but I didn’t have the heart to take him back. He’d been through enough and deserved a second chance, so he became my dog. One of the greatest blessings of my life!
We enrolled Bear in a basic training course with our favorite dog trainer Cynthia Hollis of Sit-n-Stay in Christiana, Tennessee. He was the star of his class. During those six weeks, he and I bonded. I too was going through a very difficult time in my life. I had lost my horse, my grandmother, and my Dad. Losing Kelsey’s dog hit me hard. I was soon going to endure one more loss–my big brother Steven, which also hit me hard. During that time, Bear was always at the ready with snuggles. He never left my side.
In the past four and a half years, Bear has gone everywhere with me and is helping to fulfill my dream of having a therapy dog. Bear and I are working toward registration as a therapy team with Pet Partners, after which I hope we have many years of comforting others! He is a constant remind of God’s love and compassion. Being with him has taught me how to slow down, how to love myself, and how to being a more compassionate and loving person. I thank God every day for this wonderful creature!