I remember this day so well. We were in agility class, the photographer was shooting us for the book; Sheila was scared. Her ears were back–always a sign of fear. She wanted her treat, for sure, but she was nervous, hyper-aware of the man with the camera, unsure of what it meant. I can read her emotional state in this photo because I lived through this moment–and so many others–for years. The photograph shows a slight wrinkle in her ears. That happened when she was uneasy. It’s subtle, but I know every inch of her.
Now, five years later, I never see this. I see curiosity, occasional embarrassment when she’s in trouble, assertiveness when she’s protecting hearth and home (and me), but I don’t see fear. I never see the contraction of her flesh that wrinkles in response and echos so painfully in my heart–as if all the moisture was drawn out of her all at once, and vitality drawn out of me.
What do I experience now? I feel a brave companion by my side–an attentive dog that’s ready for whatever comes our way. I finally have a friend who can play with me, join me on long walks, and demand attention and affection when she needs it.
Is that how long it takes to be strong? Five years? If so, it was wholly worth the wait.