8:19 pm   

STELLA

We call her "Stella the Wonder Dog" because she can leap six feet into the air and catch a frisbee. When she's excited, it's as though she switches off the gravity -- she bounds up and gives Tom or me a kiss on the face. We also call her a wonder dog because we are constantly amazed that a small black dog survived such abuse during the first two years of her life and has retained a sweet and fun disposition.

We know a lot about the horrible conditions that Stella was living in before she was rescued because the staff of the county animal control office kept records of the times that neighbors reported Stella's previous owners. Stella and her sister were kept outside all the time, chained to cement blocks or to a fence, frequently without food or water. Sometimes the people had put food and water outside for the dogs, but had left the bowls just out of the dogs' reach. The dogs were beaten severely and often.

When Stella came to us, her time in foster care had helped her to start trusting people, but she was still extremely distrustful of men and of other dogs. During her first few weeks with us, taking her out for a walk was an ordeal every time -- she would bark and jump every time we saw a person or another dog on the street.

After a few days of trying work with Stella on our own, we realized that our limited knowledge did not equip us to train a dog whose life had been so traumatic. We were very lucky to have gotten the name of an excellent trainer who had worked with many formerly abused dogs. Kathryn has helped us to understand how Stella's former life affected her behavior with us and has taught us how to work with her. Stella is extremely smart and enjoys learning -- within the first week of training she had learned her name, "sit", and "in" (very useful in crate training!).

Stella has had a difficult time learning to trust people. During her first few weeks with us, she grudgingly allowed us to pet her but didn't like being petted or played with. One of my most remarkable moments with her was the first time she brought one of her toys over and dropped it in front of me for me to throw to her. Another was the first time she licked my cheek! A couple of weeks ago, Stella followed Tom around, with her stuffed giraffe in her mouth, while he was loading the car for a weekend trip. Every time he went to the car, she would drop the giraffe at his feet to say "Don't forget me OR my giraffe!"

It is hard to believe that Stella has been part of our family for only six months, but we are also amazed to think about how far she has come in that time. With patience and help from a wonderful trainer, we have seen her blossom into a happy and playful dog. Seeing the changes in her has meant all the more to us because we know how much she had to overcome. She is a delight -- we feel very fortunate to have her in our lives!


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