Four years ago, we picked you up from the shelter in DC. You had already been through so much. When the shelter got you, you were skin and bones, you had mange and tapeworms, and you limped. But the second I saw you, I know you were ours.
We were so happy to bring you home, but you did not want to get in the car. You were so frightened, you flattened yourself right there in the parking lot, and John had to pick you up to put you in the backseat with Emmett. Emmett was ready to welcome you. In fact, it was because of Emmett that we even ended up with you in the first place!
The day we met you at the shelter, the staff told us they didn’t want you to go into a home with other dogs. They said you didn’t like other dogs. But your eyes were just so sad and so lonely. We told them that you could be with Emmett! They were skeptical, but they let us come back with Emmett for a formal introduction. You probably don’t remember this, but you tried some shenanigans for the first few seconds. Emmett told you no, and you fell right in line behind him – and you’ve followed his lead ever since.
That first year was really hard, Lucas. I hope you don’t remember too much of it, or, if you do, that you’re as glad as we are that we’re long past it. You hid under the kitchen table when the TV was on. We couldn’t walk you around the block because you were terrified of buses, bicycles, strollers, children, strangers, rustling plastic. You didn’t wag your tail for many, many months.
You couldn’t see another dog without going ballistic. Luckily, we lived in a very dog-friendly neighborhood with a lot of very patient people who helped us along the way.
One day, we were walking down the street in front of our building. I walked you, and John walked Emmett. Our neighbor drove by and yelled hello out his car window. That scared you so badly that you took off at a dead sprint. You pulled me sideways, straight into a no parking sign, and down on the street. The very next day, covered in cuts, scrapes, and bruises, I had my performance evaluation at my new job. Imagine me having to explain that one in front of my new bosses!
But that’s so far in the past – four years in the past. Since then, Lucas, you’ve come so far. I am so proud of you every single day. Today, in fact, John took you on a long walk around the neighborhood. You weren’t scared of a single thing! You’ve been to pet stores and on doggy play dates. You have a lot of really good dog friends, including Cady, your neighbor dog and best friend in the whole world.
You’re not scared of bikes or the TV anymore. You can walk right by a stroller. Buses can whiz past, and you’re a-ok! You still get scared of some things, some things we can’t even plan for like the baby gate we use with Cooper. We still can’t introduce you to new dogs on leash so well – unless they’re really, really tiny – but that’s alright. You have overcome so much, Lucas. You inspire me every single day with each and every victory.
I took you to the vet two weeks ago. The vet used to be a really scary place for you, but you nailed it! There was a dog coming out when we pulled up, and you didn’t react. There was a dog in the lobby when we were checking out, and you didn’t react. I’m sure the constant stream of American cheese didn’t hurt, but mostly, it was you. You’ve learned to trust the world and to trust me and John. And if Emmett’s with you, too? You can take on anything!
Lucas, four years ago, I had no idea what “fearful dog” meant. I had no idea that there was a such thing as fear-based aggression. I had no idea that you would teach me as much as you have. Because of you, I learned unending patience. Because of you, I am always, always aware of my surroundings. Because of you, I met so many wonderful dog people, took so many training classes, and you got me writing about dogs. Helping you has been one of the most rewarding things I’ve ever done.
And now? Seeing you have fun is one of the greatest joys in my life. Knowing where we started and how far you’ve come, when you’re playing, it’s absolutely incredible. Just the other night, you were having a ball with Emmett and Cooper doing our indoor “agility” course in the basement. You were smiling, Lucas! John and I talked about it for the rest of the night.
Four years ago, Lucas, you came crouching and hiding into our lives. You hid, you cowered, and you aggressed. But I knew from that very first day, when you lifted your little (at the time) head with your giant ears off that cot in your kennel, and you looked right into my eyes, I knew we’d get here. I’m so proud of you, Lucas, and I’m forever grateful that you came into our lives.