When Lady Rose first arrived I let her out of her crate while it was still in the shelter. I had hoped she would want to stay inside with her puppies. I took advantage of her being in closed quarters and touched her while whispering kind words to her. She tolerated my touch but did not know how to trust it or what to do with kindness.
Lady Rose left the shelter as soon as I opened the doggy-door and she never entered it again - even though she could have come and gone at will. Her puppies were inside though so she sat at the door waiting and keeping them safe. Whenever we let the pups out to play Lady Rose actually became gleeful. She loved her babies but even they could not make her enter an enclosed area again. During this time, I managed to get her to trust me enough to take treats from my hand and the odd time she would roll over to have her tummy rubbed. Her pups were eventually placed but we received others and Lady Rose continued to guard the shelter. I thought this was touching until I let the new pups out to play and Lady Rose was intolerant of them. It seemed all she knew to do at this new place was to sit at the door. To venture further meant joining our dogs and she was unsure of that so she just sat and waited.
Rosie, as she was known in Attawapiskat, was supposed to come down to us two years prior but the night before she was to fly out she was shot at and the dog she wandered with was killed right in front of her. Rosie had never been a tame dog but she had allowed herself to get just close enough to people to be fed by them and she slept in a rescue worker's porch when it was bitterly cold outside. She was traumatized by the gunshots and death of her friend but still she was caught, crated and sent south as planned.
When Rosie arrived in Matheson, the first stop on her journey to us, she was put in a shed for the night. By morning she had chewed her way out and escaped into the nearby bush. She was clever and capable so she never allowed herself to be caught again. A man who lived back in the bush put food and water out for her once in a while and he renamed her Lady. He had no way of knowing her name was Rosie since the rescue worker she had escaped from didn't dare admit to the circumstances of her sudden arrival - it would have set rescue work back considerably.
Lady had a litter of pups during her first year living in the bush but she permitted people to take them from her when they were weaned. She knew instinctively that they needed more than she could give. When, in the second year, she had another litter the man in the bush announced he could no longer put food and water out for Lady as he was moving. The rescue worker knew she had to get Rosie/Lady out of there while she had pups nearby or she would never get the chance again - others had threatened to shoot the wild bush dog.
The pups were rounded up and crated and Lady was shot with a tranquilizer gun in order to get her in a crate. We received Rosie/Lady with her six pups November 3, 2008 and that was the day she became Lady Rose.
We had never had an outdoor dog and one of the hardest things we had to do was watch Lady Rose out in the elements. Paul built her a doghouse but she was wary of it. When we had freezing rain and Lady Rose continued to sit out at the shelter door I went out to her and begged her to take some kind of shelter. I cried and broke icicles from her fur. We would look outside and see her covered in snow, she would blink and flakes would flutter down in front of her. One night, while looking out the window, we realized that Lady Rose was not at her usual post - she had gone in the doghouse. We slept better that night than we had in weeks.
All our dogs had met Lady Rose and had invited her to join them. She seemed to thank them politely but remained wary of their play. They have shown great patience and an understanding I wished I possessed.
We made progress and every day I tried to push Lady Rose a little further. First, she would take a treat from my hand, then she allowed me to pick her up - I managed this a few times. Feeling her heart beat against my chest was such an accomplishment for us both. After putting a leash on her two days in a row she became too suspicious for me to try it again. There were times she would let me touch her and other times she would simply dance and prance in front of me. If I walked back into the bush she would follow me so we did that often as a way to build trust. Each walk included one of my dogs so that she would become more familiar with them. I was determined that Lady Rose would, one day, come in the house and lay on the couch by the fire. She would lift her head and give me a look of boredom - one that suggested I could be doing more for her. That, at least, was my goal.
There came a time when Lady Rose showed no indication of moving forward so I took leash in hand and made the decision for her. As she was taking a treat from my hand I slipped the leash loosely over her head and though she jumped around in protest I waited her out. When she was calm, we moved forward together. After a bit of a walk and many treats I released her once again. The next day we repeated the performance but this time, after the walk, I took her to the front door and pulled her inside. After some fear and much caution she began to sniff about and show interest in her surroundings. I pretended to ignore her and went about my business. In time, she found her way to my office where I was working and joined my dog Ruth on the rug for a nap. It was January 4, 2009 and the beginning had begun.
We thought Lady Rose was going into heat so we made an appointment to get her spayed. It was actually very optimistic of us since Lady now avoided the leash like the plague so there was really no way of capturing her. The night before her appointment we casually walked down the road with all the dogs. When I saw the opportunity I pounced on Lady Rose and caught her up in my arms. I carried her into the house and she slept in a crate in our room along with all the other dogs that night. In the morning, Paul picked her up to carry her to the car but at the door she managed to jump out of his arms and escape into the outdoors once again. So close and yet so far away. It turned out she was not in heat so it gave us a little more time to try again.
It was crossing the threshold that scared her the most - she was comfortable once inside. The panic occurred while going through the actual doorway. When I had been able to leash her I had pulled her in and out several times and all that had done was fixate her even more. There was little more I could do without her cooperation.
The time came, once again, to make an appointment for Lady Rose to be spayed. This time we had to trap her inside her doghouse and put the leash on her that way. We had been moving the dog house closer and closer to our front door so once we pulled her to us we were just steps away from getting her inside. Once again we crated her overnight and in the morning Paul put a leash on her and I held one end of it as he held her. She sat on my lap for the car ride to the vet's office and I dreaded getting her from the car into the clinic. If she got away from us here we would never see her again. The thought of Lady Rose running and hiding again would be more than I could take. In the end, all went well and we got her home right after the surgery was completed. We kept her in the laundry room so she could be still and recover. That night I put her on a 30 ft. lead and as much as she argued with it she did manage to do her business outside. In the morning, however, Paul took her out on the same long lead and she managed to pull out of her collar and escape. She had dissolving stitches and it was winter with plenty of snow all about. There was no catching her again so Lady Rose healed from surgery just as she had lived most of her life, outside and free.
We had made great progress but there came a time when I had to question how far Lady Rose would let me take her. It may have been slightly arrogant of me to suggest that one day she would live in the house and sleep on the couch.
The next time Lady Rose entered the house it would have to be through her own will. I wondered if this would ever happen though because every day she seemed to show more signs of being wild. As spring approached she roamed further from home and I prayed no one would mistake her for a wolf and shoot her. She began to bark throughout the night but I was unable to make out what she was saying or what it might have been she was asking for.
She began looking in windows at me - like the child that hadn't been invited to the party. At these times I would go outside and beg her to trust me, to want me and to love me. I don't think my groveling was the way to become her pack leader but I couldn’t help myself.
She allowed me to give her affection and when I told her how much I loved her, the loveliest look came over her face. She seemed happy with her life and I thought perhaps that was all I should be hoping for. She lived on her own terms and not ours. I felt acceptance and patience was what she had been sent to teach me.
Lady Rose appeared the morning of June 18th with a snout full of porcupine quills. She had them under her eyes and in her mouth. First thing to come to mind was how to remove quills from the snout of a "wildish" dog. I walked outside and past her - seeming to ignore her. She had been pawing at her face but when I walked by she followed me. I stood still for a moment and immediately felt her paw on the back of my leg. I turned to look at her and she lay down on her back - she was asking for help. I bent down and stroked her gently before picking her up. She didn't resist while I carried her through the house to the back screened in porch where we keep the grooming table. I held her on the table while Paul pulled out the quills with pliers. Not once did Lady Rose make a sound or attempt to pull away. She leaned against me and allowed us to do whatever was needed. Some quills required two or three pulls before they came out and I know it was painful but not once did she react. We felt inside her mouth and down her chest for quills and all the while she trusted us. When we were done I carried her to the dining room and put her down on the rug. She went under the table and slept there for several hours before going back outside. After that, Lady Rose became more affectionate and showed her appreciation for what we had done for her.
I was determined that the next time she entered the house it would be through her own will and that day came on July 7th, 2009. Paul had come in the house and left the front door open. When he turned to to go back outside he saw Lady Rose under the dining room table. She had walked through the dreaded front door on her own. When I saw her it was all I could do to stay calm and nonchalant - what I wanted to do was blow up balloons and bake a cake. She stayed for just a short time before running out to play with the other dogs.
I learned then, to trust her wisdom. I waited for the moments she would give and appreciated whatever she shared.
She continued to come in on her own once in a while but on August 14th all that changed. Another dog in our care, Two Paws, gave birth that day and Lady Rose was interested and concerned. She had had litters of her own so she knew the smells and energy in the air. She went upstairs and stood outside the room the pups were being delivered in. Never had she entered that far before. Five puppies were born that day and that night Lady Rose slept in the house for the very first time. She must have felt she might be needed. That day she became a housedog.
One morning, when we came downstairs, we found her asleep on the couch. Glory be to all that is wonderful!
It took nine and a half months to gentle Lady Rose. She still doesn't trust the doorway entirely and sometimes has to be tempted with a treat to get her to come all the way in. She shys away from strangers but with us she is affectionate and loving. She has an enormous crush on Huck, our male dog, and she actually flirts with him. By December 2009 she felt comfortable enough to pose for our Christmas card photo.
I cannot imagine not knowing Lady Rose and we spend much time contemplating the lessons we were brought together to learn. This dog will never be tamed completely but we have managed to come to an understanding whereby she loves us and we love her.
March 16, 2011: Lady Rose is still our "wildish" dog but she is a full family member now. She sleeps in our room, eats every meal inside and complains when there isn't enough. She has begun a ritual that all the dogs love - a treat almost every time they enter the house. We celebrated Lady Rose coming in and out so often all the dogs got in on it. She has actually allowed the two people who come in to let the dogs out when we are away for several hours to touch her.
I will never be able to stop imagining her living in the bush for so many years without us. What she went through and what she did without. She asks for love and affection every day now so I know her loneliness would have been immense.
Lady Rose is still teaching me patience, acceptance and that all things are possible if you want them to be. I am grateful for her every day