When word got out of America’s passing, condolences came flooding in, and almost every one of them included the word “sweet.” America had indeed become a very sweet, lovely, and mellow dog. Which is remarkable, because she was a mess when Claire dropped her off at our home to become our eighth NorCal GSP foster dog.
She had sad eyes, a cyst the size of a tennis ball below her jaw, and an oozing gash on her cheek. She’d lived for five years in a large metal cage, taken out only occasionally to hunt. A sawed down plastic barrel was her only shelter her from the elements. We cleaned her up and took her to a vet. We’d feared that cyst might be a cancer tumor, but it turned out to be a burst salivary gland. Once it was drained, it never returned.
We quickly discovered that America hated water, and would run far from any hose. She’d also freak out whenever anyone would pick up a linear object—a rake, a pipe, a broom–tucking her tail and zooming out of reach, with a look of fear and dread in her eyes. The poor girl had no idea what to do with the dog bed we offered. She spent several days trying to hump the fluffy thing, until she finally realized she could flop down on top of it and rest. (She would later advance to become a champion sofa snoozer).
We had no idea America was afraid of men and boys until our handyman came by one day with his grandson. She greeted them with loud, menacing growls. When we left the ranch and took her to the city, we discovered she would go nuts at the sight of any other dog, even blocks away. It took several training sessions, lots of consistent practice, and a steady supply of
comfort before she decided to just let go of all that old baggage. She got over her thing about male humans. She stopped barking, growling and lunging at dogs. She became interested in interacting with them, approaching them to sniff–but if they showed interest in playing, she had no idea what to do next, so would bark and scurry away. Poor girl had missed the
opportunity for proper socialization.
America was our foster for more than half a year. She made huge progress, but no one showed interest in adopting her. She came to really love her new life, so she began her campaign to go nowhere. She got easier and easier to care for—no accidents in the house, sitting patiently for her meals, sleeping soundly through the nights, behaving well around strangers both human
and canine. She wheedled her way into our hearts, and we eventually realized we didn’t want her going anywhere, either. She never was a snuggly GSP, but she did become an excellent constant companion for us. We enjoyed her company for four years, until cancer claimed her, leaving a big hole in our household. Rest in peace, sweet girl.
-Mara and Deborah