I'll Sit With You

image of Dudley the Greyhound curled up next to me on the couch, his chin on my legs

Last night, Dudley crawled up next to my outstretched legs on the sofa, tucking his body behind them, and rested his chin on my ankle with a contented sigh.

When Dudley first came to live with us, in April of 2010, he was so desperately frightened of my touching him that he would roll onto his side and pee on himself if I got near him. I spent long hours lying on the floor beside his crate, where he felt safe, synchronizing my breathing to his, quiet and still. Not looking at him, just being there, to reassure him I would never hurt him.

One day, he tentatively emerged, and he laid down beside me on the floor. I put my hand on his side, across a long scar the origins of which we do not know, and matched him breath for breath. There we laid, until he let me know he needed to go out, and I put on his leash without making him fearful for the first time.

It wasn't until almost two years later that he initiated an intimate snuggle with me, after Zelda gave him an appreciation for seeking out a cuddle with Two-Legs.

Now, just past our three-year anniversary of finding one another, there is no trace of the frightened dog who arrived.

His foster dad, J, who is also president of the rescue, told me just today when I sent him this picture, that Dudley's progress "astounds me. His may be the greatest transformation I have seen."

Not long ago, J asked me if he could give my contact information to a couple who had rescued another "spooky" greyhound, C. C wasn't as shy and scared as Dudley had been, but still having problems, and his guardians were seeking advice. Naturally I said yes. I spoke to one-half of the couple, S, and listened to the issues they were having with C, and I recommended a few things, including the exercise of lying on the floor beside C, matching his breathing, being there. S thanked me and said they'd give it a try.

A few days later, I got an email from S, telling me that they were already seeing improvements. C was starting to trust them. A dog who they'd been told would never take treats from human hands was eating from their hands. A few days later, another email, detailing even more improvements. They started calling C their "miracle dog." I got pictures of C, looking happy and confident in the backyard of his new home. All the blubs.

The things my dog has taught me. He has taught me how to run at someone's side; he has taught me how to be there, still and patient, to make a safe space.

As his whiskers tickled the skin on the top of my foot, I was overwhelmed with gratitude that this gentle creature came into my life. And I resolved to remember, always, that he could only trust me because I made myself trustworthy first.

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