Lay my head down.
Time is a funny thing it can slowly seep like blackstrap molasses onto a fresh baked biscuit until you are forced to grab a spoon and end the agonizing wait or it can fly by at the speed of light leaving you wondering where the hell it went.
Next month will be Tristan’s two year anniversary, when he first came to live in my home. Many would look at my list of accomplishments he has achieved and perhaps think I was crazy to call these victories or triumphs at all, especially given the time frame but they are and anyone who knows this dog’s story will understand.
In the last 3-4 months I have noticed some changes in my sweet boy, giant steps up the Everest mountain of trust he attempts everyday. It is not easy for him, but I have learned over the years what he needs and do my very best to be patient and understand. From the beginning he has been unable to let me cross in front of him, if he is lying on the floor or in a chair or on the couch if I move at all in the direction to go past him in a act of desperation he will find a way to scurry or belly crawl to his crate.
I was in the kitchen sauteing onions and chopping sweet potatoes the day it happened. Tristan loves to lay in the dinning room watching me cook, and this day was no different I knew he was there and did not think to much of it as I went about my cooking business. I forgot to set the DVR to tape a Christmas movie for my mom, so without thinking I went into the living room, which is past the dinning room, past the bed, past the dog who was lying on the bed. I realized as soon as I passed him what happened, and I felt my heartbeat strain and my eyes closed and the tears were already there. I stopped, hoping he would not move, and slowly I shifted my weight to my left leg and turned to look at him. Thump thump thump went his tail and I praised him and said his name mixed with words like sweet, proud, and brave. He knew and I knew and this has happened several times now but I don’t stop, I just go about my business but I still say his name and the other words to let him know what an amazingly brave boy he is time and time again.
He has made progress when I have friends over for dinner or game night, I am selective as to how many people come over at once and I have challenged him by closing his crate door. He has been amazing, and over the holidays he worked up enough courage to take food from a few hands that were not attached to me or my mom. He is more curious when certain people come over and will venture into the room to have a look at what is going on, many times retreating back to his couch in the front room but it seems easier for him. I think on some level he is realizing that if they are in this house they will not hurt him. I try hard when people come over to hug then when Tristan is watching and talk to them in the same “good boy” voice I use when I am talking to him.
Many times when he is scared and struggles I can almost see him working it out in his mind, it is painful to watch but when he is able to get himself to take a treat from a stranger, let me walk in front of him, or come into the house from the backyard without me stepping out onto the porch and turning away from him the payoff of his excitement is priceless. He watches Tully’s every move, and I know he mimics him and learns from him and finds his courage in part because he sees the little scrappy schnauzer have no fear as he goes through his day. (Except with the vacuum cleaner and I have told Tully many times that mommy is sorry she did not see him there, he is not so brave when is comes to the big blue upright Hoover.)
The biggest challenge Tristan has is being touched, petted, and kissed. When I first got him, he would shake, and he would shove his body into any place he could to avoid being touched at all costs. We went very slow, but it was hard for him. I can’t imagine what this dog suffered through, he is especially protective of his feet. There was a time if I accidentally brushed against them they would twitch and he would tense up and shake, I could feel his fear. Jessica would cut his nails for me and he was terrified and as amazing and gentle as she was he would still shake and try to shove himself through the back of the couch to avoid the contact. He learned it was hard, but nothing bad happened in the end. Each time he faces something hard, something new, my hope is that he has some realization that nothing changed, not really. He is still here in his home, still gets treats, gets to run around in the back yard and play with his brother and sister and is still loved.
Now every morning after the dogs come in from their morning romp in the backyard I ask the following question out loud ….”Who is ready for smoochy time?” and it’s as if he can’t get to the couch quick enough, all the dogs make a b-line for a spot, Tristan gets himself settled and I sit next to him cuddling up and kiss him on his sweet face, petting him slowly and gently. I can even touch his paws if I go very slow.
Yesterday morning I was sitting on the couch petting Tristan with my left hand and playing fetch with Tully with my right, Maggie was perched on the back of the couch (her security post) above me. I stopped petting Tristan and had moved my hand to get a better throw to Tully when it happened. Tristan moved ever so slightly toward me and rested his head in my lap. I closed my eyes and giving thanks for this moment hearing the thump of Tristan’s tail against the couch and the thump of Tully’s tennis ball against the hardwood floor. I can’t think of two sweeter sounds.
“i just get tired all of sudden taking it in
and i want to lay my head down on you
because you’re the only solid thing in this room
a room full of changes
i speak from my heart
but i’m not really sure
if its true
i wanna lay my head down on you”–e.sailers