great expectations

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a little over 3 years ago i travelled to michigan to pick up a mess of a dog who has, as layer after layer has been removed, revealed himself to be an amazing being.  flanagan’s previous “owners” kept him tranquilized 24-7 and in various other ways medicinally altered his brain chemistry and then they dropped him in a kill shelter with no meds.  you can read about our first meeting and journey home here.

flanagan turned out to be one of the toughest to get through to and longest to open up dogs we’ve had in our life.  when he first came to us his tail didn’t move, he didn’t like being touched (forget about hugging him) and he was overly aware of everything that went on around him.  in the beginning it was slow going and i think at some point we stopped expecting any change – we just accepted that he was who he was.  after a few months of him being in our care and several discussions with our vet we decided to try him on prozac to see if it would allow him to be more comfortable and give him the ability to relax.  i can’t say there was a marked difference but it seems there was enough of an opening to allow us to slowly but surely get through to him.

admittedly it was hard for me to have a dog i couldn’t hug and seemed to garner no comfort from me but i slowly learned that if i started out just putting my arms on him and then removing them i could maybe get somewhere.  it was a bit of a blow to my ego but a blow that was well worth it.

after about 6 months on the prozac we decided to wean him off and see what we had.  i can happily say that over the last two years flanagan has blossomed into a more confident, seemingly happy, strange and mind-blowingly awesome guy.   last week he jumped on a table to get to dave & i on the couch and i cheered.  the other night he stole some food off dave’s plate and i cheered.  yes, these are bad behaviors that i don’t condone but they are also normal behaviors for a “normal” dog and for now i’ll cheer because it means flanagan is overcoming his past and becoming his own being with only the influence of love.  we influence our pets with our behaviors, we influence our pets with what we expect of them and when they aren’t what we expect them to be we work to try to get them to fit in that box.  the lesson with flanagan is that he ain’t going in any box.  flanagan may never act like the “perfect” dog but holy god if he isn’t just an amazing, loving being that i am so thankful to have in my life and his small victories are huge victories to me. 

this video makes me cry every time i watch it because it’s direct proof of how far flan’s come and it makes me so proud of him…he’s overcome so much.


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