Tristan’s first Christmas.

Sometimes when I look at him I can’t comprehend how anyone could have hurt this dog to the degree that he still suffers from night terrors, still has doubts that I might turn against him, and still belly crawls back to his crate if I move too quickly or mindlessly pick up an object that he assumes will be used to beat him. It has been 10 months since Tristan came into my world and he is a new dog in so many wonderful and heartwarming ways, I don’t ever want to forget how far he has come but he still struggles with fear and anxiety of new people, new situations and our biggest challenge… the leash. He is terrified at the sight of it, and I have no idea of what it represents for him but I can assume that it would bring me to my knees to know what has really happened to him in the past. I walk the fine line of acknowledging his past but refusing to let it rule his present life.  I push him everyday to be brave, to trust and to work toward exploring the world he has not yet seen. It is a slow process and only I know the terror that can manifest itself in an instant for Tristan when he is pulled down into the fear again when he is pushed too hard too quickly. How he shuts down no longer in control of his body, unable to move, unable to control his bowels or bladder and the look of sheer terror in his eyes.

As I watched him lay on the couch last night in the most contorted position you can imagine, snoozing and snoring, belly exposed, happy as can be I thought to myself what a difference this Christmas is for him. I would imagine in the past Christmas was just another day existing in fear for Tristan. Now he has the love of his brother and sister, he has my mom (his G’ma) whom he adores and she could not love him more! He has a promise from me that I will never give up on him and will love him unconditionally for the rest of his days, and protect him and do what is best for him  He also has a whole team of people that are on his side, fighting for him and helping him along the way. He has many of my  close friends who come over knowing it is going to be hard for him and are patient and kind loving him through his anxiety. His Aunt Lauren who crawled in his crate with him at the beginning just to calmly sit with him, to show him strangers can be kind.  Then their  is Jessica who adopted Journey the other dog taken from the same abusive house…these dogs are forever bonded and when Jessica adopted Journey I knew that to be able to give Tristan the gift of being in Journey’s life was priceless. The bond these dogs share is unbelievable, the connection unbreakable and to see them together brings tears of joy every time.  Jessica brings Journey to Tristan because for now it’s what is best, and I can’t thank her enough. I try to feed her well when she comes! His whole Recycled Doggies family is there when I need something for him, when I have questions or just need folks to bounce ideas off of…and he would not even be here if it was not for Shannon DeBra and Shera Keeton that give so, so many dogs with no hope a new lease on life in a loving home.

Tristan has had a special guardian angel from the very beginning when he was taken from the shelter she saw the devastation, the broken dog that he had become and the hopelessness in his eyes. She showed him kindness and felt a connection with him that would prove to resurface a bit later down the road. Once I decided to start the “doglbs” project I received a note from her soon after the website was up and Tristan’s story was out there for all to read. These are the words she wrote:

“I’m so overwhelmed right now, I can’t tell you. I was there the day Tristan came out of the shelter, doing transport for two other dogs. They managed to drag Tristan out of the shelter and they asked if I’d hold his leash while they went for the others. He was plastered to the ground outside, not moving a muscle, and more terrified than any dog I’ve ever seen. Snow was coming down and I tried to squat to his level and talk to him and stroke his head. He didn’t move, he was lifeless. It was so heart-breaking I couldn’t think straight. Now to read this story and know how far he’s come because somebody took a chance on him is just remarkable.”- Shannon B

Then she made a very generous donation in Tristan’s honor when I started the weight loss project. The story does not end there, she has continued to care, to love him and to spoil him rotten! When I adopted him she sent a care package filled with so many toys and treats all in celebration of what I am sure she knew before I did…he was not going anywhere! This week I received a package in the mail addressed to Tristan and it was a giant care package filled with Christmas treats and toys for Tristan and his brother and sister to share but there was one very special item in the box. It was a handmade toy that she made for him, a knitted soft tubular toy in green, red and white stripes that is just perfect for tug-o-war with his brother. When I gave it to him he did what I have not seen him do with any of the other toys, he carried it around, he laid it beside him and as he drifted off to sleep as he held it close by. I have to believe he knew where it came from.

All of this reminds me of the true meaning of Christmas, the gift of giving and the act of unconditional love and acceptance and how it can make the world a better place.

I believe in Christmas miracles because I have one laying on the couch next to me peacefully sleeping next to his brother snoring away….







  1. Shera says:

    I wish that we could make him understand that those horrible people and things are gone forever. It’s heartbreaking and he’s even one of the lucky ones. Some poor abused dogs never escape their painful prisons or ever get to enjoy life. It is so sad. But we can rejoice in Tristan’s continued progress!

  2. Bobbie says:

    Love this post! Merry Christmas and thanks for all you do for homeless pets!

  3. What a beautiful post. I’m Shannon B’s mom and was with her the day she first met Tristan. I didn’t see him – I was in the van with big, happy Jumpin’ Jack, trying to keep his enthusiastic kissing under control. We’ve always followed Tristan’s progress and expect the very best to come.

  4. Jessica says:

    I love this blog post! I had one of those moments with Journey last night. He was hopping all over the living room, crazy excited, giving me kisses! When I see him so happy and can’t help but think back to the dog he was in February. Tristan and Journey have come a long way! I do miss going up to CC every Sunday, so many doggies saved.

  5. Denise says:

    As I sit reading this my own “specially picked” recycled doggie came to sit next to me. She won’t get on the furniture and I often wonder if her manners were taught kindly or with fear. She doesn’t give kisses and reacts to a firm voice with the sadest face ever. I wish I knew that her life here is better than where she was or if she mourns a loss of a family she loved. I can only go forward with the knowledge that I love her like you do Tristen and she is spoiled rotten! She has come a long way, she plays now and we are awed by any doggie behavior she does that we haven’t seen in her before. We labled her dog aggressive but she now has a sister who cleans her face daily and kitties that rub up against her. Love can truly build a bridge and this one lead straight to this blessed family! Congrats on your success with your weight loss and Tristen!

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