Reese's Rescue Story
Today, June 6th, is Reese's gotcha day. This boy has been in my home for two years and it has been... difficult. Very difficult, I'm not going to sugarcoat it. However, it has been one of the most rewarding two years of my life.
I'll share briefly, or I'll try to, about the adventure that has been meeting Reese, bringing him home, and the trials and joys that followed. (A few things in this post will be repeated from my 'Why A Rescue' blog - this is more detailed into Reese's story).
May and June of 2018 were the most eventful two months of my life to date. I had just turned 22 that month and having just purchased my first home there was one thing on my mind - that's a complete lie, my mind never stops - but the main thing on my mind was that I ̶w̶a̶n̶t̶e̶d̶ needed a dog. I would be moving into my new home in June and I didn't want to move in there alone. (I'm being dramatic - I was moving in with two roommates. Still needed a dog). The search for my perfect pal began.
At that time I was volunteering weekly at Homeward Bound City Pound walking their shelter dogs and I just absolutely fell in love with all of their dogs but most of all their Pitties. I began searching every shelter in Nova Scotia for available dogs. This is when I came across the sweetest face of a 1.5 year old boy named Reno at Cali's K9 Rescue.
The description below his face said that he was a local surrender with a history of abuse which is the cause for his fear aggression directed mostly towards men. He would require a lot of dedication and training to overcome this. I saw his face and the plea in his eyes looking for someone to love him and keep him safe, and I emailed the shelter immediately.
I had a date to go meet Reno for the first time on May 12th, and I told noone. I drove excitedly, an hour and fifteen minutes to Auburn, NS. I was greeted by Taarna, the lovely owner of Cali's K9. She led me into the kennels, directly to Reno. The first thing I noticed about Reno was that he could jump. I'm telling you, super high. He was bouncing off of his kennel barking. Poor guy, he's in a new 'home', meeting strangers and he just doesn't know if he's safe.
Taarna opened the gate and he avoided me and hid behind her while she put on his harness and halti for us to go for a walk. He walked calmly beside us as we went down the quiet road. She talked about Reno and what he has been through - he was kept in a kennel nearly 24/7 but there was one instance when a neighbour saw the man drag Reno across the backyard, by his hind legs. That image makes me feel sick; no wonder he was nervous of people.
I explained more about myself, that I was moving into a home, with two other females, that there was a backyard with plans to put in a fence. I was in the interview process for a new job as a remote bookkeeper, this would allow me to be home with Reno and provide him him a lot more training than if I were working a job in the city. Spoiler alert: I got the job June 25th (YAY!) one of the big happenings of 2018. It is amazing working from home with Reese and training him on my lunch hour and throughout the day. Every moment is a training opportunity.
When we were headed back towards the house, Taarna's husband was out front, and the second Reno noticed him he started barking and lunging. He would try to run away or behind us, but then realizing he was stuck (on leash) he would revert back to lunging and barking. He was making it as clear as possible that Sean's presence was not wanted and he had better not come any closer. The message was received.
I left Cali's K9 Recue and Reese knowing that I needed to go back for him, I needed to take him home and love him and show him that he doesn't need to be afraid. I thought I needed a dog, but more importantly, Reese needed me. So knowing that it had to happen, I finally told my family.
I made a second trip with my sister who fell in love with him as well. It was raining so we didn't get out to walk him (just coming from work, our outfits were not quite suitable for the weather). However, this allowed me some more personal time with Reno. I went into his kennel where he first avoided me. I sat down and tried to pet him but he wouldn't settle down. He was on high alert and wasn't letting his guard down. Until he did.
In those few minutes something switched and Reno felt comfortable. He approached me slowly and sniffed me, then he started giving me kisses and jumping on me excitedly. I was absolutely thrilled. I knew this had to happen. He had to be mine. I drove home with tears in my eyes - I wasn't crying though - I was 100% having an allergic reaction. My eyes were almost completely sealed shut (Courtney was driving, don't worry), both my eyes and nose were running, and my asthma left me wheezing. It was 100% worth it.
Side note: If you bring this memory up to Court she will lose her mind trying to explain how it looked. She thought it was hilarious. Apparently I did not look too hot. Whatever.
This trip back to see Reno was a special trip - I was bringing my Dad, one of Reese's now favourite people. When I asked Taarna if I could do so, I explained that my Dad would not fear Reno and he was amazing with animals. On the way down I explained to my Dad again Reno's fears and I said "You won't be able to get near him right now - but I'm hoping that will change quickly" My Dads response to that was "Yes, I will." His stubbornness frustrated me, I didn't think he understood just how severe Reno's fear was. He told me Reno would be all over him before we left.
As we approached Reno's kennel his barking worsened at the sight of my Dad. I tried to use my body to block Reno's view of my Dad to get his attention on me. Useless. Reno had his eyes on his target and he wasn't even going to blink. My Dad moved from behind me and approached the kennel, Reno continuing to bark ferociously but backed up. Then my Dad did the unthinkable, my mind still explodes at the thought of it, he slid his hand through the gate, into Reno's kennel. I held my breath. Reno stopped, slowly approached his hand, and licked it. What? He licked my Dad's hand. I thought we'd be taking a pit stop at the hospital on the way home for stitches. But, I like surprises.
We walked, just my Dad and I, with Reno muzzled, down the same quiet road as before. Reno stood on the other side of me, away from my Dad, still nervous. I put Reno between us and he hugged my leg as we walked. I gave the leash to my Dad and Reno stayed beside him but got as much distance away as he could. I took back the leash and we walked together. Reno's lack of pulling amazed me and my Dad and I discussed how absolutely beautiful Reno was, and how reckless I thought my Dad was for the stunt he pulled. He didn't think so.
When we were deciding to turn around to head back, my Dad knelt down a few feet behind us and stayed there as Reno and I were making our way to pass. We wanted to see his reaction to him. As we came within a few feet of my Dad, Reno ran to him and jumped, but not in an attack. He was trying to lick my Dad through his muzzle and was demanding pets from him. Again, leaving me surprised and this time with real tears. (I took Benadryl so there were no allergic reactions this time).
When we got back to the kennel Taarna wasn't outside yet so my Dad sat down on the steps. I held Reese but he just wanted to be with my Dad. He stood in front of him while my Dad pet him. When Taarna rounded the corner she stopped in disbelief, and with a smile she grabbed her phone.
She took this photo that became my reminder that Reese could change, and he wanted to. Reese truly loves men, but he doesn't trust them. His person hurt him, but he was still his person. Even today the same guy that Reese will cuddle with on the couch in one moment, he will act terrified of in the next. Reese doesn't know if your loving actions will suddenly turn to pain.
We drove home and my Dad said "I told you." And I'm not at all mad that he was right. Good luck beating the relationship that my Dad (Granpa) has with Reese today.
On moving day for my roommates, I had only had Reese for three days, but I left him with my Dad to watch him. He took Reese out and just spoiled him. When he brought him back he had bought Reese a bone, and he was chewing it on the front lawn. As we all stood there my Dad said "Let's see." and he bent down towards Reese, chewing a bone, and took it from him. I didn't know whether to italicize, bold, or underline that because, again, my mind exploded. Reese didn't care. This dog with fear aggression beyond belief, didn't flinch when my Dad took a bone right out of his mouth. Okay.
This trip created another special relationship for Reese. I brought my Mom, who Reese immediately fell in love with. He spent the whole visit with her getting pets and pats.
She has been our biggest supporter, encourager, and hugger on the hard days. She's the first one I call when there is a break-through. There isn't much of a story with this trip to see Reno except that it changed his life.
He knows when we're heading to her house and cannot contain his excitement when we pull into the driveway.
He loves his "Grammy" to death, and he always will. She loves him right back.
Round Four - Headed Home
This fourth trip on June 6th to see Reno was the last; it was the trip to pick him up and take him home! I drove over with a new collar in the passenger seat with a name tag attached that said 'Reese'. We were leaving the name 'Reno' behind as well as the memories of his past. He needed a completely fresh start.
I signed the documents claiming Reese as my own with a promise to keep him safe and provide him with the necessary training. A promise I made with whole intent to keep, for the rest of his life. We took that drive home together as he sat uneasily in the kennel in the back of my car. I sang to him the whole way, including a song that today puts him to sleep, 'You'll Be In My Heart'. Love ya, Phil.
We made one stop before officially going home, to my sister Kelsey's apartment to meet her and her husband Jo.
They were already well aware of Reese's behaviour and we had a plan. I would let them know when I arrived and they would head outside, without Reese seeing, and Jo would sit on the curb behind some cars.
I opened the trunk and with Reese on leash we walked around the cars to where Jo was sitting. When Reese noticed him he approached him cautiously but did not react. He sniffed and allowed pats from both Kelsey and Jo. The perfect introduction.
Home at Last
We arrived home where my Mom, Stepdad (Mr. Bill) and Brother were waiting for us. They all new the drill as well - sit and allow Reese to approach on his own. I opened the front door and dropped the leash, giving him the opportunity to explore at his own pace.
He was more cautious this time but showed no sign of aggression. When either Mr. Bill or Frank stood, or moved, Reese would flinch or jump back, but he was doing so much better than I anticipated.
Reese still has a nervous relationship with Frank and Mr. Bill today, he loves them sometimes, but for the most part whenever they have come over they have been carrying large tools and making loud noises doing renovations in our home. He is just cautious of them. However, I'm thankful for the work that they do (not just because it makes my home look awesome) but because it gets Reese used to these types of noises. He is learning that big noises or big tools will never mean that he is getting hurt.
Happily Ever After
This is certainly not the end of our story, but it's the end of this story, for now. The first few nights were both of our first nights in the new house, and we got to enjoy them just him and I - my roommates would not be moving in until the weekend a few days later.
Our room wasn't ready yet and we had no bed, but I had a futon set up in my (now) office. The first night we started off on the bed together, but he opted for the floor, the bed was not something he was used to. Trust me, he is now VERY used to the bed, and refuses to be anywhere but under the covers.
Reese's day are not always easy, and sometimes we both struggle. This was actually a very rough week for both of us. What I have to remember is the promise that I made, the promise for the rest of his life. He is my boy, and he is frustrating, and sometimes I don't want to deal with the frustrations, but I love him and we've come too far. My life would not be the same without him.
I'm thankful for Reese and what he's taught me. Thank you for being a part of our story.