Friday, April 06, 2007

The No Longer Invisible Dog

Sometimes I see myself in the dogs we foster, and I don't mean that we're both hairy, stinky, and poorly trained. Animals have personalities, and on occasion I see my own basic type reflected in one of the dogs we have in our temporary care.

Mombo is one of those dogs.

When Annie first pulled him out of the shelter and brought him home, his main goal was to be invisible. He stayed in the pantry room where we'd made a bed up for him, and didn't say much of anything. He cowered if you tried to touch him or take him by the collar. That, combined with the sun-bleached condition of his fur, led us to believe he'd been neglected at best, abused at worst. Whatever the case, he responded by trying very hard not to make any waves.

The quiet ones get to me the most. That type always has, ever since I was a kid. I sympathize intuitively with the reserved, shy people who seem to hover on the margins of a group. I can feel their discomfort, their lack of confidence and self-esteem blaring at me with every movement. Mombo was like that, just beaten down by poor health and abuse.

The thing about those kinds of people or animals, though, is that once you finally get through to them and they start to trust you, it's a gift beyond measure. It's special. I don't begrudge those who bestow their affection willy-nilly on everyone and everything they meet, love and happiness beaming forth like the rays of the sun. But I'm not like that, and when I see a kindred spirit I know how much courage and effort it takes to let someone else into their circle of trust.

That's why the first time Mombo put his paw on me after I had petted him, silently saying "Hey, that's pretty nice, you can keep doing it if you want", I felt just wonderful. Mombo will never be one to leap into your lap, tongue and tail wagging to beat all, bestowing kisses with abandon. But he lets you know in small ways that you're all right with him. He might still hover on the edge of a group but you know he's watching out for you anyway behind those silly bangs and the impossible mullet.

I remember the first time I heard a strange sound like a cross between a bark and a washing machine on the fritz when Annie and I were taking the other dogs for a walk. I headed back to the house, expecting that something was about to explode, only to discover that it was Mombo. He of the sore hips and pudgy belly, who had lain quietly for close to a month without making a peep, was letting us know in no uncertain terms that he did NOT want to be left behind.

So we took him with us, both on our walks and in our hearts. When you get a rare gift like the trust of a dog like Mombo, it's not something to be treated lightly.

That's why it was so hard for us to say goodbye to Mombo today as he rode off with his new family.

We were taken a bit by surprise -- Mombo's been with us for three months now, longer than most other foster dogs, and I think in the back of our minds we had sort of assumed no one would ever adopt him. But suddenly this great family's application (a young husband and wife and their toddler) was approved, and they were on the phone determined to come and meet the dog they'd already fallen in love with online. Before we knew it they'd met, agreed that they'd all like each other, and Mombo was in the car heading down the road, Annie and I left a bit bewildered behind.

Now that he's no longer trying to be invisible, it's right and fitting that he's got three people dedicated to loving him full time, but darn it ... I let Mombo into my circle of trust, too, and I'm going to miss him terribly.


Denise said...

You made me cry with that one, Jeff. I think what I've learned from these dogs is that they trust even when there's no reason to, and they do so whole-heartedly, tail wagging and thumping and with everything. If only we humans could be so unreserved once we've been hurt. I remember Mombo and your descriptions of him are right on the money. Know that you gave him to a young family a different soul -- a trusting dog who knows that hurts heal and it particularly doesn't hurt to love again.

sph said...

I am crying with you, Denise. I fell in love with Mombo from a picture and have been so blessed to watch his transformation, both physically and emotionally. Words cannot describe the privilege of knowing Jeff and Annie. They do all the work and allow others to share in the transformations of these four legged mammals. Dogs like Mombo have an amazing effect on the more recently, upright mammals that are fortunate enough to pass through their lives, no matter how briefly. Long live Mombo. Thank you Jeff and Annie, I miss him too. I really miss him.

annie'sbuddie said...

Trying to decide whether I'm happy or sad about Mombo finally getting his own family. I too fell in love with him via photos & the internet and hoped to be able to meet him in person one day...even tried convincing a friend he was perfect for her so he'd be in my neck of TX.
Thanks for holding out until the absolutely right people came along, Annie. Now there is room for you & Jeff to work your magic healing on the next creature that is so fortunate to come into your home.