“Does she act like this with other people?” I asked. Hopeful.
“Nope! She only gets that excited when she sees you.” Nick said.
I bent down and started petting her head. Scratching her tiny tummy. She was wriggling around, tail wagging frantically, her eyes staring a hole through me. She loved me. Her eyes were telling me. And then they were asking “Do you love me?” I just kept petting her. I didn’t want to tell her my truth. I didn’t want to tell her “No.”
3 months earlier…
“Brenda?” he asked.
“Yes?” I could immediately tell something was wrong in his voice.
“I’m going to be late getting there. I hit a puppy?” he softly said.
“A puppy? What?” This was not what I was expecting him to say.
My daughter’s boyfriend went on to explain that a couple of strays had run out in front of him on his way to meet me. It was dark. He had swerved and missed the first one. Not seeing the second one, his saving the first one meant the second one got hit. Even though he said it was a puppy, I heard Dog. He had said it looked like a stray. It had to be a Dog.
He and a friend took it to the night vet clinic and I said I would check on it when I got finished at my event. So there I was, 11 p.m. walking into the vet clinic asking about the Dog that had been brought in. The vet immediately asked “Puppy?” I gave in. “Yes, the puppy.”
She led me to the back and explained that the emaciated puppy had 3 broken ribs and a broken hind leg. She professionally explained that her injuries might be too severe for a shelter to keep her. I knew what that meant. Her life would be ended. Probably the next day or on some predetermined schedule when they do that sort of thing.
“I can put a cast on her leg until you can get her to your vet.” she told me.
“Ok. I’ll take her.” I said. Really, really not wanting to take her.
“Great. You will need to pick her up at 6 a.m. since we close at 7.” she went on with details.
Looking at the clock, I had to be back in 6 hours. Great.
Six weeks later after a major surgery to place two pins in her back leg, broken ribs healed, 24 hours a day living in a crate to keep her from re-hurting herself, and many dishes of dog food — she was always hungry — she was ready to be given away for Christmas. Finally! Oh and I had named her Maya. (Yep! Big mistake. I had named the
For weeks I tried to get someone to take her. But as it turned out, no one wanted her for Christmas.
Maya had been with Nick for two weeks. After my unsuccessful attempts to give her away, I accepted my fate. But I started realizing that I also had a problem. Maya was afraid of people. Weeks in a cage had taught her that if a human picks her up, not only is it going to hurt (3 broken ribs made it impossible to pick her up without causing her pain) , but they are going to put you back in that cage . With her leg healed she became a runner.
We had found a trainer that promised to teach her not to run from humans. She would live with him for four weeks which turned out to be six, and learn that humans could be trusted. And overall he was successful. Maya loved and trusted me. She loved and trusted other family members and a few friends. So after the six weeks were up, I brought her home.
And then I watched the love affair that began between Maya and my other dog Skeeter. Skeeter also had a hard puppyhood living on the streets. She too had been a Christmas puppy adopted from a shelter.
While Maya didn’t trust most humans, she trusted Skeeter completely! Skeeter was teaching her important life skills. How to use the dog door. How to get a drink by standing on the pool cover. How to sit for dog treats. How to be a dog loved by humans. How to be a dog loved by me.
As Skeeter loved her, I began to love her. I began to see that Maya was a lot like me. I too can be skittish with other humans, guarded, ready to run at the first hint of pain. I too fear living in a “cage.” A cage of my own making where I limit myself to looking out at the world instead of being in the world. I too ask “Do you love me?” hoping to hear “Yes.” as I look in the mirror.
Maybe, just maybe that’s why I couldn’t give Maya away. I couldn’t give her away because she already belonged with me. And she already belonged with Skeeter.
“I’m looking for a family to love…” my ad read. It took awhile, but she found one.
About her name —
I named her Maya because she lived the first weeks of her life in a cage. I named her after Maya Angelou’s book, “I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings.” I always loved that title even though I’ve yet to read the book. In writing this post, I discovered where it came from. It’s from the poem “Sympathy” by Paul Laurence Dunbar. Here is an excerpt.
I now know why I named her Maya.
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