This pretty girl is Holly, and her story is longer than most. But she is different and special. She came from a shelter, and all we know about her previous life is that it almost broke her. When we met Holly last year, she was petrified and tense even being close to humans. Every movement she made was frantic, because of her constant fear and desire to escape. Anything that moved scared her. She was too frightened to accept treats, so we couldn’t get her out of her crate. For months, her adorable, big-as-saucer eyes were filled with anxiety if we even came close to her safe zone. Unless we closed the door to her crate, she never relaxed. 

We opened and closed her crate door on a schedule.  We fed and walked her at the same time every day, to establish a routine that she could count on. These baby steps gradually provided her with a sense of security, and the terror in her eyes softened.  Holly slowly began to show us when it was time to expand her world.

When we first started taking Holly outside, we kept her on a long leash within our large, fenced yard. After a while, we started to let her explore on her own. Immediately it was obvious that being outside, untethered from a human, made her come alive.  Before our very eyes, she started to blossom and find joy. In those first months, her time outside was the only time we would see her tail come out from between her legs, her ears perk up, and a bounce in her step. Being outside, hunting and exploring and bird watching are her absolute favorite things in the world. 

Holly’s recall in the yard is excellent, but she does have some peculiarities. Like many anxious dogs, she has to follow a pattern. She will go out through the deck doors, but she won’t come back in that way. She only comes in through the garage.  We have no idea why, since she isn’t at all afraid of the deck. This is just one of those endearing things about Holly.

We have established a daily routine, and Holly knows exactly when it’s time to eat, rest, go outside, go for a walk, etc. Routine is vital to Holly’s comfort and makes her confident in her own way. Her safe zone has grown quite a bit since she came to us afraid to leave her crate. She often stays close to her crate, but her visits to other rooms are becoming more frequent. It’s precious to see her peeking around corners to watch us, as if she doesn’t think we can see her if she uses just one eye to spy on us while the rest of her body is still behind a wall.

Holly is treat motivated, and as long we approach her slowly, with loving intentions and words, she now allows us to get close and touch her. She almost willingly allows us to put her leash on and to use a towel to dry her or get mud off her legs. Human contact is not a reward for Holly as it is for most dogs. She has learned to tolerate us and to live parallel to us. Cuddling may not ever bring her joy or comfort, but she has made tremendous progress so far, and nothing about this smart girl should surprise anyone.

Holly is now on fluoxetine, an anti-anxiety medication. She is less frantic, but she still darts and makes rash choices if she is pushed too hard. We have let Holly set the pace for expanding her world. I do feel that she is now stable and confident enough to successfully move into a forever home.

If you have room in your heart and your life for a special needs dog, please consider Holly. If you are patient and gentle, and can provide the routine and structure she requires, she will slowly show you her heart. She needs someone who can be home with her a lot and at least one other confident dog she can follow. She definitely has to have a large, fenced yard. She requires a space with her crate that can make her feel safe. Holly would not be happy in a home with children. We have fostered over 80 dogs, and Holly has been one of our greatest challenges and our greatest joys. Seeing her progress is the reason we love to foster.