Sadie was a young dachshund mix that was found as a stray and surrendered to a shelter. She moved into a foster home where she lived for two months before transitioning into her forever home. Before we officially adopted her we went through a two-week trial period with her to make sure we were suited to each other. The moment Sadie walked into our home, we knew she was never leaving. She was timid, filled with anxiety, and slept 23 hours a day but we could see the potential for a joyful life in this fearful little dog and we were willing to put all our efforts into making that happen for her.
February 19th was the day that my husband and I adopted Sadie, which changed our lives for the better. Our first year was filled with so much love, and many challenges that have helped us all grow as individuals.
Below are 12 things that our rescue dog has taught us in the last 12 months:
1. Routine is important
Routine provides structure and stability in our lives. Our daily routines create a sense of comfort and security knowing that all your needs are going to be met consistently. Routines help reduce stress and anxiety which is very important especially with a high anxiety dog. As soon as we were able to get Sadie on a daily routine we noticed that she was less tense.
2. Step out of your comfort zone
Sadie has a lot of anxiety, especially when going outside. We believe this is a result of her experience as a stray. For the first month, we had to carry her outside as she was shaking with fear. The months following she was more confident going outside, but needed both my husband and me there to reassure her! One year later, she comfortably goes outside with only one of us and enjoys her walks. We are still working on exploring new walking routines with only one of us as she isn’t completely comfortable with that yet. I am so proud of how far she has come in one year. Stepping out of your comfort zone can be scary but she has shown me that with patience and encouragement, stepping out of your comfort zone is possible, and even rewarding.
3. Don’t rush, take your time
For 9 months Sadie looked away and cried at the sound of toys. Having the toys in her presence was enough for her to handle and process. She took her time getting comfortable with the idea of the toy then started to explore it on her own time. We encouraged play with her eating her food from a tricky ball a few times a week. In the following months, Sadie carried her toys away to hide them anytime they made a noise. One year later, Sadie loves to play. Her favourite time to play is in the morning on top of the bed with her squeaky or tug toys. With a little persistence and some patience, even the scariest things can become a new hobby.
4. Open your heart to love
Open your heart and give others the chance to feel and receive your love. Spread your love. Building strong relationships can take time, but being open to love is one of the first steps in starting a new relationship. When you are open to giving love, you will receive it. We opened our hearts to Sadie before we even brought her home. In that first year, we can see this once fearful dog accepting our love and giving us true love in return. Sadie is now sharing her love with new people she meets.
5. Trust those that care for you
Building trust takes time and that’s okay. Our past experiences influence our ability to trust. One of our biggest challenges this past year has been leaving Sadie home alone. Both my fiance and I work from home so she has become very attached to us which makes it difficult for us to leave her at home by herself. We have been working on leaving her alone for up to one hour, ideally without crying and howling. Slowly, I know she will feel comfortable at home by herself for a small amount of time. Even though we have a very close relationship with Sadie, she still has issues with being left alone. I remind her every day that we will always come home because we love and care for her.
6. Tell your loved ones that you love them at every chance you have
From day one Sadie showed us love in her own way. They were small gestures that showed she loved us and her new life. One year later, she is always showing us and those she trusts her love and gratitude. Cuddles and kisses are everyone’s favourite. Don’t forget to show your love towards those you care for.
7. Independence is good
In that first year we were working on crate training Sadie at night. It was very difficult for us all but such an important stage in Sadie gaining confidence and some independence. Crate training has been a long journey but we are at the point where Sadie settles into her crate for the night with her blankets and sleeps right through the night.
8. Get fresh air as much as possible
Being outside in the fresh air is great for your body and mind. Walking or just relaxing on the grass, embracing your surroundings can give you a new perspective and appreciation for your life. The fresh air regenerates your heart with love and confidence. Being outside for a stray dog is difficult but with patience and showing them they are safe will improve their well being. The fresh air will help clear their mind and expose them to new things they wouldn’t have experienced otherwise.
9. Take time to rest and relax
We live in a very fast-paced life and our lives can get really busy and just stay busy. Having a dog has taught me how to slow down and take time to relax. Relaxing became easy with Sadie. Anytime you look at her she has these ‘come cuddle’ eyes that you can’t resist. My favourite parts of the day are cuddle breaks with her. It’s so important to slow down and not work yourself physically, mentally, and emotionally to the bone. Take time to relax, re-energize, and love yourself. Take care of yourself.
10. Be a big kid sometimes
One of Sadie’s favourite things is a blanket. Her eyes light up when she sees one. After we got Sadie we decide to make our living room into a massive blanket fort for a night every few months. Using all our blankets – it is Heaven for our little dog. She is in her element in these blanket forts, rolling around happy as can be. Hanging out in a blanket fort playing board games might seem slightly childish but it’s fun, so why not do what makes you happy?
11. Adventure shouldn’t have to be scary
Adventures can cause a lot of anxiety. In that first year we made several 14-hour drives to visit family. During the first trip, Sadie took half the drive to settle down and become comfortable. After arriving, she was disoriented with her new surroundings and meeting a lot of new people. She was brave that first trip and with every new trip or adventure we have been on she has become more confident and excited. Adventure might seem scary at first but it doesn’t have to be scary the whole time. Explore your surroundings and find comfort in what you are doing.
12. Never stop trying
Sadie is a completely different dog from when she first came home. Her determination, combined with our desire to improve her life, has changed her drastically. Life is hard, sometimes harder than we would like. There are experiences in our life that we are going to struggle with and that’s part of living. This past year Sadie has taught me that no matter how bad a situation is, it will get better. Never give up hope. Never give up on the life that you want. Keep trying even if it is hard at first. Work towards the goals you have and make the best life possible.
I am forever grateful for the opportunity to have something as special as Sadie in my life. I know our paths were supposed to cross and she was supposed to be in my life. She will never understand how much she truly means to me as there are no words to describe my love and devotion towards her. Sadie is my everything and I am so excited for all the cuddles and non-scary adventures we have in our future together.
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