Tell us about a time you went to a zoo, aquarium, pet store, or animal shelter. What did you notice about the animals who were inside the cages? How do you think they felt about being there?
“My name is Tilly (well, I used to be called “Princess”, but I rebelled against that!). I’m a cute little mutt with a sweet disposition and live in a really loving family in the country where I can roam freely and even wander off when I feel like. We also have friends who visit who love me, too. In fact when they come, I hang out with them more than my parents.
But, it was not always thus.
My earliest memories are being carried off with all my litter mates and my mother (dog mother, that is) to the animal shelter. We were put in cages with one or two of our litter mates, which was OK, I guess. At least we could play with each other. Then, one day a nice young man came around and picked me up and played with me a bit. He played with a few other pups but lucky me – he picked me to take home. And, lucky me again – there was a little human puppy just about my size to play with. It didn’t really look like my siblings, but it crawled around and seemed to like to play. But, that nice young man started yelling at me and hitting me with whatever seemed handy. I was so confused! He liked to play with me, but there was something very wrong! I became very afraid of this man and started to cower with my tail between my legs whenever he was around. I still wanted to play with my “puppy substitute” – that seemed like the only fun thing to do in that house.
The next thing I knew – this not-so-nice young man took me back to the shelter. I was bigger then, so I was in a cage all by myself and I was very lonely. There were other dogs and pups there, but all they did was bark and jump around in their little cages. I needed to get out of there, so I tried a new strategy when people came around. I tried to not bark and jump when people came – this was awfully hard because I really wanted to get someone’s attention who could rescue me from this place.
I started sending vibes out to the staff people to help me find the right family. One day a woman came in looking for a dog – she didn’t look at the other dogs, only me. (I found out later that I reminded her of a dog she had 20 years earlier). This was the one, I thought. Now I had to woo her, but how? I already knew that there was something people didn’t like about me. But I really didn’t know what it was. So, I was afraid of all people. I had a sad look and my tail stayed between my legs. Even when this woman came in, I tried to smile and tried to lift my tail, but my fear prevented me. She took me out on a leash to walk around a bit and this almost worked, but I was scared she’d hit me with something. She went away without me and I moped around, so disappointed, thinking no one will ever come to take me home. But, a couple of days later, she came back with another person and they took me out to the big open field where I could romp around freely. Again, I really tried to put on a happy face and lift my tail – I think it worked a little bit. After this little test, she took me home. Those first few weeks were kind of tough – there was all this business with a kennel and I had to be on a leash every time we went out. We went visiting that guy who helped my new mom decide to take me home, but he made us do weird things which we kept repeating over and over at home. At least I got a treat every time I did whatever they wanted me to do. I figured if I had any chance of staying at this new home, I’d better do what I was told and be happy about it. I learned pretty quickly and soon I was able to be out on my own.
Now, I do whatever I want and they seem to think I’m doing what they want.”
[Ed. note: when our dog, Tilly, died at 17 years old, I found this story among her things.]