Abused dog learns to love, trust again

features@islandpacket.comJuly 23, 2012 

  • Email David Lauderdale at dlauderdale@islandpacket.com.

Thanks to Lindy Aragon of Bluffton for sharing an update on her earlier contribution about a dog rescued from abuse.

'CONNECTIONS AND A TALE OF TWO DOGS'

By Lindy Aragon

Nearly five months have passed since I wrote about Luke, an abused dog healing at Marantha Farm in Ridgeland and waiting for his forever home.

On March 17, as I volunteered for the rescue organization, I took Luke for an evaluation to try to determine the extent of abuse-induced emotional damage that he had. The recommendation from a well-respected local animal behaviorist was that Luke needed to be paired with a well-balanced dog in a home setting. I looked around me that day, and I was the only other human standing there with Luke. It was right there, at that moment, that I began to realize the connection, and hence the responsibility, I had to Luke.

It began in November, when the Quiznos corporate office suggested stores should participate in some form of community service project in order to stimulate exposure and give back to the community. For my husband Leon and me, the decision was easy -- to do something for Maranatha Farm. We began a five-week pet food collection drive in order to assist Marantha Farm and Karen Wilkins in her ministry to provide pet food for people who struggle financially to purchase it for their pets.

In connecting with Karen at a Petco adoption event and in two trips to the farm to deliver food donated by our customers, I had my first exposure to Luke and learned his story. He was a 28-pound dog with three legs and physical and emotional scars due to severe abuse from being used as a bait dog. Something inside of me made me want to reach out to this fearful dog and help him trust humans.

I began to spend an hour on Fridays and on Sundays sitting on his bed in his kennel and petting and talking to him. This graduated to Luke allowing me to gently pull him into my lap. He was fearful all the while but never aggressive. The day I pulled him into my lap, and felt him lean his body into mine, was a breakthrough. Another came when he licked my hand, just once, one day. There also were days I had to pull Luke out from under the porch steps, as if I had become a stranger to him. I knew this was probably a post-traumatic stress response and persisted in my attempts to interact with him.

So on March 17, Luke entered our home as a foster dog -- joining one headstrong alpha female Carolina dog and five cats -- two with special needs. It was an unlikely setting for a traumatized dog who was in a horrendously abusive environment before his rescue. Over the course of two weeks of gradual introductions, using a crate and a baby gate, Luke assimilated into our family life.

Luke learned about walks in the park. He learned about the delectable scent of deer and other creatures and about the sport of barking at armadillos. He learned the routine of mealtime, dog biscuits, hanging out with humans, and lounging on the couch. His greatest teacher was Shelby, our 5-year old dog, who has never liked other dogs, yet took him on as an understudy. Somehow she understood Luke's needs. She provided confidence, leadership and companionship -- all the things he desperately needed to move forward in life.

Initially I had great concern about Luke's safe interaction with the cats. He soon showed us that we need not worry. He regarded the cats as though they were furry fairies. He studied their moves and mannerisms. One day as a cat passed closely by, Luke managed to drink in the smell of its furry tail as if it was an exotic flower. Indy, Leroy, Smitty, Grace and Jazzie Rae also have been impressive teachers. Luke has even come to nurture and assist the cat who has cerebral palsy -- gently nudging her with his nose when she falls down. This tenderness he learned from dog friend Shelby who does the same.

Luke and I continue our unique bond. He is affectionate and playful with me. He loves to cuddle. He continues to prefer women to men -- still a fearful reminder of his past. Every day Luke takes another three-legged step forward with Shelby at his side and with the feline fairy team cheering him on. Our unique connection began with a corporate holiday initiative. It is an ongoing tale of the bond formed by two dogs and of the heavenly gift Luke received along the way, allowing him to trust and love.

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