White Dog softly said, "I am not sure whether you want to shout YES! or NO!! right now, momma." I was looking at the stuffing pulled from the pillow on the couch and the hole in the fabric. Scattered like spaghetti were strands of the tassels that surrounded the edges.
WD was right; I wasn't sure. There is that moment in forming a relationship with a rescue dog, especially one who has had a particularly hard life, when you KNOW they finally are beginning to understand and trust. It is that moment that they begin to LIVE their new lives...they stopping treading on eggshells and flinching at nothing. It is a fragile delicate window that is the difference between a bloom beginning to unfurl and reinforcing caution that keeps the pup at the edge of truly being part of the family.
"I know it is not fair," I told WD, "but there is a different standard in play here. What would not be acceptable for you I think shows that progress is being made with Opal. She must learn to trust before she can learn to respect the rules."
I was beyond thrilled earlier in the day when I glanced up from the budget work I was doing to discover Opal had braved jumping up on the fainting couch. I tried not to notice too obviously but she was stretched out and relaxed. A while later some call of the Army in the yard sent her scurrying out the dog door. I am not sure she even knew I had observed her. But there she was, confident enough and trusting enough to be ON the couch without an easy escape route. I smiled to myself.
Before he left for work, Steve asked about the strings all over the couch. I had my suspicions but let him sweep them together without answering.
Opal was unusually interactive across the afternoon and evening, checking on me in the office, coming close enough to touch my outstretched hand with her nose and reclaiming some couch time. It was natural and not intimidating as the White Dogs shifted and resettled in typical fashion.
Shortly before Steve's return, we all went back out to the living room where I discovered the mangled pillow. None of the others have shown any interest since WD went through a tassel chewing frenzy right after we bought the fainting couch years ago. The new factor was Opal's discovery.
I saw her watching from the hallway at the edge of the pack's action. She clearly was waiting for my response. I looked at her. "Did you enjoy napping on the couch, Sparkling Girl," I asked her gently. "You looked so comfy and natural. It was nice to see you spending time with us." She looked pointedly at the pillow. In the same tone I continued, "You probably did not have toys or chewy things at the Puppy Mill. We will have to make sure we get you some toys of your very own to enjoy."
She seemed tentative, as if she was thinking it through. Then she moved calmly into the room, tail curled over her back, ears erect...and jumped up on the couch next to Nilla.