But first, a little backstory! (Yes guys, this is gonna be a long one~)
I live in rural Virginia, in a extremely small town built solely around coal mining, smack dab in the middle of a national park (deer for days), surrounded by people whose English is so bad they get subtitles when they're on TV. The only form of entertainment around here is the (super)Walmart.
Sounds fun, right?
So two years ago, I was a junior in high school (with a whopping 300 people in the whole building). I was your typical angsty, awkward teenager, stuck in a permanent slouch with (albeit natural) jet black hair. I had two friends and a handful of bullies that saw I had no confidence and decided to take advantage of it.
I had no social skills. At all. I'd get nervous making blog posts on the internet and was so afraid that people would make fun of me that I didn't upload a Facebook pic for months. Everyone spent their high school years going on dates and having fun and I spent mine trying to disappear.
Around here, if you want to go shopping at anywhere but the (super)Walmart, you had to pack up and drive an hour to another city, in another state, that had a mall.
So, while I was out there, I decided to take a small side trip to the PetSmart to stock up on stuff for my lizard. But when I actually got there, I saw that they were having one of those adoption events, or whatever you call it, where some local shelter sets up camp out front and hopes for the best.
I decided to look around at the dogs they had for adoption. I didn't even know if my parents would let me have a dog (we hadn't had a dog since our last dog, Eve, had passed away), but I figured that some of these dog really appreciated the attention and a calm voice. While I was looking around, I came across a small makeshift pin made out of chickenwire, in it were two pups. One was social, running along the fence and getting plenty of attention from anyone nearby. He got adopted only about a minute or two after I got there. The only one left was a poor little girl curled up on the far edge. She wouldn't go to anyone, but I got her to come to me.
Some phone calls and a mountain of paperwork and she was mine. The adoption agency gave me a folder with what they knew about her, a leash, collar, and some puppy kibble.
(We didn't bring a carrier so she rode beside me on the trip home)
They told me she had been rescued, along with 7 siblings and a mama dog, from a "rough" home. I didn't need them to tell me that though, the look in her eyes said enough. In the car, I really looked over her. She wasn't as old as they had on record, as her back teeth had barely started coming in. Her nails had been worn to short little nubs. In her folder it was written that she had been rehomed 3 times, but had been returned every time.
She grew fast, and was a rowdy, headstrong pup. She didn't know how to play with toys, or how to drink from a water dish, and was actually scared of grass. She had bad separation issues, and would panic if I left her alone anywhere for any length of time (she insisted on following me to the bathroom). She'd flinch if you moved too fast, and would even urinate out of fear if you talked too loudly.
(She quickly became my couch buddy, though)
By some curiosity, she was already leash broken. We started small, taking her on small walks, trying to get her used to sounds and other people. The big wide world scared her, and it took weeks to get her comfortable enough to get her to go any further than a block from the house. In retrospect, I was benefiting as much as she was. Because of her, I had to go out, I had to interact with other people. We both grew a little less timid.
(Our vet nicknamed her "Dingo Dog")
Her vet check up confirmed what we already knew: She was months younger than what the shelter had estimated. And she was going to grow bigger than the 50 pound estimate. But he brought news we didn't know: She had been spayed. Far too young. And that she may have urinary problems later in her life. Other than that she was a healthy, 40 pound puppy. (Now she likes going out in the woods.)
I worked with her all summer, and part of the fall, just getting her socialized. Slowly but surely, she became more comfortable around the house and around people. After 6 months, she started letting my friends pet her. I still spent many nights sitting on the front porch because she refused to go outside to do her business unless I was there with her.
She let me talk to her, and would respond to long, drawn out vents, with periodic grunts and growls. And even though she didn't know a word I was saying, having something living to talked to was a godsend.
And even after my friends moved off to college, she was still there for me. Always by side, she even sleeps on my bed. She watches TV. I taught her several tricks, and she can even read. She gave me motivation to get out of bed. She gave me the motivation to get out of the house. She kept me going, if only to keep her from reliving the pain of yet another owner letting her down. I protect her, and she protects me.
Today marks two years of owning her. May many more follow. Love you, Ellie <3
(Sorry for the tl;dr!)