On Friday morning Dawn sat next to the kitchen door and patiently waited for me to reach around her neck, attach her training collar and leash. She acted a little jittery when I pulled out a red vest, put it around her flank and closed the plastic buckle, but it’s the first time she’s worn “working” gear.
I grabbed her lead, and she followed me with a wagging tail, effortlessly hopping in the Honda’s backseat, finding a spot between Meadow and Adriana. They sniffed the red vest for a second, acknowledging her new attire, before sticking their noses against the window, adding to the slobbery art already smearing the glass.
We were going to the Springfield Greenway for a four-mile walk; Dawn knew the drill. It’s hard to believe that two months ago she’d been feral. I thought about her first ride in a car, when she’d been thrashing in Donna’s van on that Christmas Eve morning, bleeding from biting her own tongue in fear. It wasn’t that long ago.
The only reason we’ve been able to socialize her in two short months is because of our pack. As I’ve said before, our dogs did all the hard work, teaching Dawn everything – from how to get into a car to where to go to the bathroom. They had even taught her leash etiquette.
At the greenway she jumped out of the car onto the sidewalk and walked the next several miles using perfect manners. Once in a while, Adriana, our eight-month-old mutt, would find a stick or chestnut and egg her on, tempting her to play. Inevitably, Dawn would cave and I’d let a half-assed, tethered wrestling match break out, but the game rarely lasted longer than a minute before Dawn was back to walking in formation, leash slack, right beside the rest of her pack.
Dawn’s not perfect. She still chews shoes. She’ll bark at other dogs on the greenway, not aggressively but enough, and she’ll bark for her food bowl, but these are minor concerns and easily changed with consistent correction. Her biggest problem is that she’s still timid around humans.
When we got home from Friday’s walk, I unhooked Dawn’s nylon vest, and she seemed extraordinarily happy to have it off, but I told myself there’s no way she knows what it says. Besides, she’ll have to get used to it.
I brush the fur off the bright, meant-to-be-seen vest, hang it in the dog’s closet – filled with leashes, food, treats, brushes, clippers, medicine, shampoo, and paper towels – and shut the door behind me.
Dawn’s red vest reads Adopt Me. It’s time for a happy ending.