Home > Animal Rescue, Daisy, Pet Adoption, Pet Ponderings > The Trust of a Dog

The Trust of a Dog

IMG_7097There’s something to be said when a writer can move you emotionally, or leave you thinking long after you have read his words. Tom Ryan from Following Atticus is one of those writers. I always love to begin my day by seeing what words of wisdom or insight he has to share for the day. Almost always I find myself inspired, but just as often I am left with much to ponder. Today was no different.

Today, Tom wrote about his dog Will, a neglected and abandoned 15-year-old dog he rescued last year. I couldn’t help but be moved. I also couldn’t help but take in the importance of his words and see how closely they resembled the key component in my relationship with my dog Daisy.

An author learns something new whenever he’s in the process of writing a book. I don’t think anyone will be all that surprised to read that my epiphany in writing my next one comes from Will, who has already taught me much. Then again there’s a reason so many relate so easily to Will. For he, like many of us, has been broken, battered, and mistreated by life.

For the longest time I considered the state he was in when he came into our lives and I talked about the lessons he teaches us are threefold:

It’s never too late to live.
It’s never too late to love.
And it’s never too late to be loved.

I believed that his greatest accomplishment was the third one – he allowed himself to be loved again because that’s not an easy thing to do. Many can give but they have a hard time receiving…especially when it comes to love.

But as I’ve been writing the last few days I realize there’s more to it than just letting love in. Will wouldn’t have come so far, wouldn’t be thriving as he is today, and accomplished so much without trust. That’s the key component for letting love in again. Will teaches us that you have to take a chance again, risk being hurt once again, be willing to let down the walls, unlock the doors, and be vulnerable to receive the greatest gifts.

When I carried him down the stairs out into the falling snow this morning, I thought of how he was that first week whenever I tried to pick him up, the way he’d lash out at me, trying to bite me (and succeeding quite often). That’s why you used to see photographs of him wearing that blue harness. It gave me something to grab hold off where I wouldn’t be close to his teeth. But there we were this morning walking down the stairs, no harness, not even a collar, his relaxed body cradled in the crook of my elbow, his cheek pressed next to my cheek. Trust.

He allowed love in because he was willing to trust. One is not possible without the other.

So I need to amend my earlier thoughts.

It’s never too late to live.
It’s never too late to love.
It’s never too late to be loved.
And it’s never too late to trust.

Thanks, Will. (Following Atticus on Facebook, January 16, 2013)


The one thing which you do not have when you take in a fearful or emotionally and physically damaged dog is trust. It’s also the one thing you must work so hard to build. I learned that from Daisy.

Emotionally haunted, unsocialized and extremely fearful, Daisy had anything but trust for me when I first brought her home as a foster dog. Earning her trust took time and patience. It took recognizing that even the simplest things could make all the difference between building it up or taking it down. Giving her the spatial distance she so badly needed early on in our relationship showed her that not all humans would manhandle and mistreat her. It also showed her that I was willing to let her set the boundaries of our relationship based on how comfortable she felt, not how I felt. Keeping my voice low and unexpressive allowed her a chance to get to know me without a lot of overstimulation. She could learn to read my movements and the sounds I made moving from room to room without feeling threatened or anxious. I gave her the time she needed to learn about me before she got to actually “know” me, and eventually, to trust me.

Tom’s words resonated so much with me today because they made me realize how much trust has played a role in who Daisy is today. It also made me realize how much I value the trust she places in me. We worked so very hard to get to this place of trust. It didn’t happen overnight. It didn’t even happen in the first year – or at least not all in that first year. But, it did happen.

Earning a dog’s trust is not something one should ever take lightly, but when that trust comes from a fearful or emotionally damaged dog, it should be all the more treasured because it was not so easily won.

  1. January 16, 2013 at 10:56 PM

    This is so true Mel. I had to learn not to take it personal when she first came here, Lacy would run and hide from me in fear. It broke my heart that I caused her such emotional pain that she would just shake in fear of me.
    Trust is earned slowly with an abused dog. They must be the ones to set the pace even if it means losing some progress you have made, you have to give them the space they need to start to trust.
    It is amazing when you can look back and see how far you have come. I cherish the trust we now have.

    • Mel
      January 16, 2013 at 11:05 PM

      I know what you mean Carole. I gave Daisy all the space she needed because I knew that building trust with her could not be done with force or reassuring words. It had to be demonstrated with distance and time and patience and hard work. You are so right. It is earned slowly, but it’s all the more sweeter once earned.

      I cherish the trust now too. I look back and am amazed Daisy is the same dog I adopted 5 years ago. So worth every moment I have had with her. I imagine you feel the same way. 🙂

  2. January 16, 2013 at 11:03 PM

    Amen … and more …

    • Mel
      January 16, 2013 at 11:15 PM

      I had a feeling you could relate Eleanore. 🙂

  3. Will and Eko
    January 16, 2013 at 11:03 PM

    Outstanding point. A dog’s trust is entirely unconditional and that means it is that much more important you handle it with care!

    • Mel
      January 16, 2013 at 11:14 PM

      Thank you for validating that my words made sense. You caught exactly what I was trying to say. Yes. We must handle that trust with such great care. Thanks Will.

  4. To Shea
    January 16, 2013 at 11:13 PM

    It takes a lot of effort and patience to gain a dogs trust, I will always admire you for the work you put forth with Daisy…:-)
    When it comes time for my wife and I to adopt again, I hope we have the same patience and fortitude as you have.
    Alex, Penny and my wife Trish….:-)

    • Mel
      January 17, 2013 at 6:43 AM

      I think you already have that patience and fortitude Alex and Trish. Penny wouldn’t be the great dog she is without you being so. She is a very lucky girl. (Hope the job is going better Alex. I’ve been meaning to respond to your comment, but time got away from me.)

  5. January 16, 2013 at 11:46 PM

    Lucy and Sally both were like that when I first got both of them.Lucy from the local animal shelter and Sally from the snow bank where she had been discarded into.Lucy had been badly abused by a previous owner,kicked in the throat resulting in voice box damage.Sally had been starved since I had never seen such a skinny chihuahua in my life.I believe Sally’s previous owner had died and their family didn’t want her.

    It took about 2 weeks for Lucy to calm down and respond to kindness.When she finally barked and I heard the distorted muted bark she has,it just made the little gal that much more special.
    Sally,who is a long legged standard Chihuahua,woke up tucked into the parka I was wearing,since she was unconscious when I found her on that very cold January morning 2 years ago.Adult Chihuahuas do not normally take to strangers,but Sally took to me within an hour.As it turned out,Sally was pregnant too. So when she had the 2 puppies about 6 weeks later,I expected to get eat up.Instead,Sally allowed me to check out her newborn pups.I would up keeping 1 of them(Marcie)Linus was given to a friend’s daughter who has spoiled the little feller rotten
    As it is ,Lucy,Sally and Marcie live together peacefully,most of the time wrestling around together.Sally won’t hardly let me out of her sight.She has become the worst snuggle bunny you’ve ever seen.,more so now that winter weather is here.I have plush throws around the house for the girls to get under when they feel cold.I am a diabetic amputee and am housebound for long periods .The girls are a lot of company since I get very few visitors.

    • Mel
      January 17, 2013 at 6:45 AM

      I love that you built such a trusting relationship with both of your shy and fearful dogs. There is a lot to be said for trust and kindness. The fact that Sally barely lets you out of her sight says so much about her trust in you. Kudos to you for creating a trusting environment for all your dogs. They are very lucky to have you.

  6. January 17, 2013 at 7:12 AM

    Wonderful post! It’s true, a dog’s ability to love and trust once formed, seems like one of the most beautiful things in life.

    I love Tom Ryan’s words. Simply beautiful

    • Mel
      January 17, 2013 at 9:14 PM

      Thank you Alisha. I love Tom’s words as well. He often writes things that resonate with me. I’m glad you enjoyed them as much as I did.

  7. January 17, 2013 at 6:40 PM

    This is so beautiful and so true…for humans as well as dogs…I have tears in my eyes right now

    • Mel
      January 17, 2013 at 9:13 PM

      Great point Gizmo. Yes. It is true for both humans and dogs. We all need trust in order to let love in, don’t we?

  8. January 17, 2013 at 10:06 PM

    I so agree! Our second Greyhound was, ahem, high strung. He just lived in fear that the sky was falling and of things that were smaller than he was. It was almost a year after we adopted him when one night, he came over beside me on the floor where I was watching TV, laid down beside me and put his head on my leg. I was stunned and I still remember that moment years later.

    • Mel
      January 17, 2013 at 10:22 PM

      I bet you will never forget it either Carrie. I had a similar moment with Daisy and it touched me as much as your boy touched you. Trust is something we should never take for granted. It is a precious thing. Thank you for sharing your own story.

  9. January 21, 2013 at 8:37 AM

    Beautifully stated Mel. Dogs are amazing beings, despite the hardships they might have endured they are normally far more wiling to trust and let love win once again then we are. But if we are patient, love will always win.

    • Mel
      January 21, 2013 at 9:43 AM

      Beautifully stated Jodi.

  10. January 21, 2013 at 4:31 PM

    What a great post-thanks for sharing it. Hard not to be moved…

    • Mel
      January 21, 2013 at 5:19 PM

      Thanks Adrian. I am a firm believer that when you work hard to build trust with a dog it should be treasured and protected.

  1. January 19, 2013 at 7:59 PM

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