The horrific events in neighboring Charlottesville a week ago profoundly impacted my recent writing. Today I pick up the thread where we left off awhile ago: Adelaide’s arrival at her new home.
Staff at the Humane Society felt Adelaide had most likely lived in a beagle kennel, in the manner many hunters house their numerous hunting dogs. My daughter felt she’d also probably never lived in a home.
So now we were home on our first day where I leashed and guided Addie from the car around the house and toward the back deck, where she dropped to the ground near the deck steps and would not move. I gently coaxed to no avail, then reached down and slipped my arms beneath her belly and carried her up into the house. She lay limp in my arms as I talked softly while taking her on a quiet little tour of the kitchen and living room, which was the space I planned for her to live in initially. When we finished, I placed Addie on the rug by the open door of her crate and watched her hurry inside and hunker down in a far corner. She stared up into my eyes with the saddest hound dog expression I’d ever seen.
I went to the kitchen to fill a water bowl for her and another with grain-free kibble. I sat with her as I placed them inside her crate and watched as she sniffed briefly at the food and ignored the water. After offering pieces of kibble for awhile, which she turned from, I told her I was going to the kitchen to make a cup of tea. She changed her position so she could keep her eyes on me. Again I spoke calming words to her as I reached into a cabinet for honey to spoon into my tea. As I pushed the cabinet door closed after replacing the honey, it made a small clunk sound. Addie jumped, looking fearfully around for the source of the sound. Crikey, I have to be really careful for awhile I thought, considering the vacuum cleaner and food processor sounds. I knew I wouldn’t be using them in her presence any time soon and will confess to a little smile that crossed my face as I realized Addie, at the moment was, quite possibly, my best excuse ever for getting behind in vacuuming.
Holding my steaming, fragrant tea cup, I sat on the floor by the crate and talked to Addie, as she stared at me with wary eyes that spoke chapters about her previous experiences. Following several minutes of gentle words and strokes beneath her chin, her eyes closed. When I soundlessly rose to return to the kitchen, her eyes popped wide open and followed every step I took, something she would do all day, every day for weeks, I’d soon learn.
“Everything’s okay now, sweet little girl. You are home. You are safe and, best of all, no one’s ever going to hurt you again.” She stared, not understanding my words, as far as I could tell.
My son, Chip, appeared at my back door, tapping gently. He’d come to mow the lawn. When he came inside, he talked gently to Addie, who cowered in the crate and stared fearfully at him. Chip stepped back after his greeting and I became distracted as we talked and moved into the kitchen. Thus, I didn’t notice my cat Button walk near Addie, whom I’d not yet either introduced or prepared for our new housemate. Her crate door open, Button hissed at her and swiped his paw at Addie’s face. My heart sank as I watched a scene I’d never intended to happen. Quickly I scooped up Button and removed him from the room, talking with and reassuring him that this was his home, and now Addie’s as well. He cried softly a few times as I talked and stroked his beautiful, soft black and white fur. Several minutes later, he’d calmed and quieted and I carried Button toward Addie’s crate again, telling him about his new sister. Addie barked at him and I found myself smiling at this first sound I’d heard from her. Good girl, I thought, it’s okay to give Button a healthy boundary! I petted and reassured them both and told them they were the absolute best kids.
A few hours later, I wanted to take Addie outside hopefully for a call of nature. When I approached her with a leash, she wouldn’t stand up or leave her crate. I eventually lifted her out, fastened the leash, carried her outside, and placed her in the back yard where she suddenly became very engaged in excitedly sniffing the ground as we walked through the glen. I was thrilled to see her tail way a little. Nature made no call after half an hour though and so we walked back to the house, where, as she’d done earlier, she dropped to the ground by the deck steps and refused to move forward despite my gentle urgings of, “This way, Addie.” She either didn’t want to step up to the deck, or go inside, or most likely both. I picked her up and carried her into the house to her crate, where she seemed relieved to settle back in.
Throughout the remainder of the day, she and Button saw each other several times from a distance and made no further negative advances toward each other. Also throughout the day, Addie displayed no calls to nature and I would later learn this was not unusual for animals who had been starving.
By the end of Addie’s and my first day together, I had to agree with those who felt she’d never lived in a house. This little girl was terrified by every sound in the house where my cat, Button, and I resided in solitude and in what I would have described as near complete silence. Yet the low hum of the refrigerator, a sneeze, a softly whirring fan, the burbling dishwasher, the soothing ring of my cell phone, a spoon accidentally dropped in the sink–all stopped Addie in her tracks and widened her eyes in terror.
When I turned on the six o’clock news hour on television, she cringed and pushed against the back of her crate, desperate to flee. I turned the volume to zero but her fear didn’t subside as she watched the figures moving on the screen. I didn’t watch news for a few days. When I tried softly playing classical music, she ran to the farthest corner of the kitchen, hunkered down, and shuddered.
I was concerned for her when bedtime arrived. Addie had not used our several walks outside to relieve herself in any way. Nor had she eaten any food. She’d lapped a small amount of water, though.
“Are you okay,” I asked with deep concern as I looked into her beautiful brown eyes, preparing to turn out the lights. She looked at me sadly.
“Addie, it’s going to be okay,” I promised, hoping my words spoke the truth I passionately wished for her. “I’ll see you in the morning,” I said, turned out the lights, and pushed a dimmer switch to give low illumination to the living room, where she was.
“Good night, Addie,” I called from my bedroom.
“I love you, Addie,” I said.
She didn’t bark again for the rest of the niight.