The first time I saw Bobby on Petfinder, I fell in love. It wasn't hard. He was adorable and winning and it was hard to imagine that there could be anything but sweetness in that doleful face. I hadn't lived with a Cocker Spaniel since I was a young child, but having shared my life with Springer Spaniels for almost 20 years, I figured I knew what to expect. I was wrong.
Bobby was a doll during the long ride from New York to Massachusetts on the warm September afternoon that I met him and brought him home. He was coming with a rap sheet, so I had entered into our adoption contract advisedly. Through no fault of his own, he'd landed in a kill shelter, but had been miraculously rescued by Pamela Schechter of Companion Critters, who cuddled him and coddled him and gave him a spiffy haircut so he'd make a good impression. Bobby had lasted at his original adoptive home only 48 hours, having been asked to leave after he bit his adopted "father" as he tried to collar him when he fled from their fenced yard. I was cautious, but initially undeterred.
After only a few days, I was ready to bring Bobby back. His fascination with my cats bordered on mania. They were terrorized, spending their days quivering under my bed while Bobby strutted his stuff. I couldn't believe what I'd done to them; I had been assured that Bobby liked cats, but he sure didn't show any respect or affection to Neil, Glenda, and Django.
But instead of relinquishing Bobby, I decided to take him on. A few sessions of training were only marginally helpful. The trainer thought she could use conventional methods to bring Bobby around, but none of them worked on a little guy who wasn't used to being told what to do. I tried EFT and though for 24 hours, Bobby didn't flinch when he spied one of the cats, the magic quickly wore off.
It finally hit me that Bobby was like no other dog I'd ever had. I had to learn his rules, and play by them, if we were going to make any progress. That meant lots of sweet talk and encouragement, and never trying to grab an item of contraband from his mouth, lest I become bite victim #2. I praised him and loved him and even when he exasperated me, I forgave him. Again and again. And he forgave me.
I became the student, and Bobby, the teacher. As I softened, so did he. We grew closer, in spite of myself. Even the cats noticed the difference, gradually gaining the confidence to mingle with Bobby without fear. On days when I spend hours bent over a computer, Bobby's little face peeks up from under the table as if to say, "Take a break. Pet me." And I do.
Yet I hadn't understood how much Bobby meant to me until this morning, when somehow, he scooted away as I opened the door to retrieve a just-delivered package. Perhaps because his mostly white coat blended with the snowy driveway, I didn't see or feel him go. It was only when my other dog, Tennessee, tried to push the door open as I was closing it, that I realized something was amiss. I turned around expecting to see Bobby waiting in the hallway behind me, but he wasn't there. I rushed around the house, frantically calling him, but then, in horror, I understood that he'd bolted. My heart sank. I could feel the adrenaline rising as I flung open the door and screamed, "Bobby! Where ARE You?!"
And there, sitting quietly as though nothing had happened, was Bobby. Not a fugitive, but just a little Cocker Spaniel who, after more than a year, understands that this is his home--a place where he is loved and appreciated for who he is. A place where he belongs.