As I mentioned in a previous post, one of the highlights of 2014 was a dog named Brady. This dog is so special to me that he deserves a post all to himself.
I met Brady when he arrived at the shelter in late 2013. He was a skinny stray Plott hound, skittish and untrained. Plott Hounds are the state dog of North Carolina yet it seemed that his state had not shown him much kindness. He was shy, anxious and painfully timid.
But he had these eyes. The kind that look straight past all your pretense, deep into your heart – the kind that see you. The eyes that ask, do you see me, too?
I did. His unknown past had draped him with layers and layers of fear and caution but shining through was the truest love and hope. I was determined to find him a home that would fully appreciate and care for him.
I carted him to adoption events, where Andrew would work with him on sitting and staying calm when loud cars rode by. This was no easy task for him – loud noise seemed to trigger a ‘fight or flight’ reaction, and for Brady, the answer was always flight, preferably to a small space where nobody could see him.
Brady also had zero manners around food. Treats came out and he would go crazy, jumping and drooling, no doubt owing to a past where meals were unreliable or unavailable. However, with training and patience, Brady learned to behave himself much better around treats. Before long he had morphed into quite a good dog … but one whose rough past seemed to haunt him.
Brady waited. And waited. And still no family picked him. And then the worst thing possible happened. He was adopted by the wrong person. His new owner promised to care for him and teach him but just a few weeks later, Brady turned back up at the shelter as a stray …. and his owner chose not to reclaim him.
I have no idea how much of those weeks Brady spent as a stray, fending for himself. He looked skinnier than he’d ever been and everything he’d learned seemed to have been buried under a sense of depression and anxiety that only grew with each passing day at the shelter.
At this point, I had 6 dogs at home. And having fostered in the past, I know that dogs have a way of teaching each other when we humans can’t. So, I brought Brady home to foster.
Our dogs welcomed him into the pack and then the coolest thing happened. We had a lounge chair on our porch that was basically Annie’s chair (she’s quite the sun-worshipper). She would never share that chair with any of the other dogs and everyone respected that.
But she shared it with Brady.
They both laid on that lounge chair for a long time on his first day with us and it seemed like she was telling him, ‘Hey I know where you’ve been. I was a skinny, unwanted hound – wary of everyone. But not all humans are bad – in fact some of them are pretty awesome and we’re gonna help you find some awesome ones.’
As Brady spent time with our dogs, he slowly stepped out of his shell. His carefully constructed walls of caution began to diminish. Brady settled into the routine of our house, learning to sit before he was fed (though drooling all the while), becoming slightly less insane about gobbling his food up in 8 seconds, walking on a leash and spending many afternoons napping & playing with Sasha.
I knew that having 7 dogs could not be a permanent situation but I also knew that Brady needed a truly good family. I prayed and prayed that he would find his forever family.
And then one day, it happened. I had been helping a woman search for just the right dog for quite awhile. She was looking for a German Shepherd but the match was never quite right. The more time I spent talking with her, the clearer it became that she was kind and conscientious and warm and caring.
She seemed like the perfect match for Brady.
So, an introduction was made.
And then Brady paid a house-call to see how he did with the resident cat. Brady adeptly realized it was best to let the cat have his way.
And then Brady was simply Brady, and his new parents fell in love.
He came back home with us until we could get his adoption finalized, and then it was time for ‘see you later’ … because with Brady, it will never be good-bye.
I made a solemn promise that if ever there is a need, Brady will come live with us. No questions asked. And that still stands, even though I’m across the country.
As it it turns out, Brady has the most amazing family so I don’t think that will ever happen.
His family is so wonderful, in fact, that Sasha got to have play dates with Brady right up until we moved.
And what a blessing it was to be able to see this special, special dog morph into a happy, healthy, loyal and loved hound. Brady was finally comfortable enough to share all of that infectious joy so unique to canines. He was home.
I still get regular updates from Brady’s mom about his life and what new thing he’s learned (or what stupid thing he’s done )and it brings me an indescribable joy to know that he has a family who sees him. He still has issues but they see the goodness and loyalty and love that resonate in him. They guide him with patience and forgive his stubbornness and praise his triumphs. They are family.
Being around Brady taught me quite a bit – about how some people can surprise you in the worst way and how others can surprise you in the absolute best way. Brady was the classic underdog – and he succeeded.
He is happy and loved and really, that’s all any of us could ever ask for.