I sat at my computer and searched the Denver Dumb Friend's League website. It took me to the Denver Municipal Animal Shelter site -- and there she was. Her name was one I never figured out: "Pita Cruz." What on earth did that mean? That would have to change! She was 10 months old. What a precious face!
When Tom and I first met her, she acted as though she'd been waiting for us all along. She leaped for joy in her kennel, licked us through the gate, and her tail went nonstop. When we walked her past the other kennels to go to the meet room, dogs growled and snarled at her as she walked by, and charged her through their gates. Our new girl to be sniffed under their gates and wagged, not phased in the least. When I called her "Maddie," she looked into my face, responding immediately. Her new name fit -- she responded to it like that's who she was all along.
We began training right away. Maddie's intelligence was clear. But our first months together proved quite challenging. Coming to us when we had a treat or a ball was one thing, but seeing a deer and chasing it was much more fun and rewarding in her eyes. Maddie was a runner, very independent, and not yet bonded to us. She'd been out on the streets of Denver -- she new the ropes of getting around. If something drew her fancy, that's the direction she went. She always found her way back home, but I was getting close to the end of my rope. Still heavily dealing with the grief of my mom's death, I thought we'd made a mistake adopting Maddie when we did -- that I didn't have the resources to work with such a high energy, headstrong dog.
But that day came when she had the temptation to run, or to respond to our "come." I could see her mental struggle -- looking in the direction she wanted to run and explore, then looking back at us. And she turned and ran towards us! We were ecstatic and lavished endless praise and pets upon Maddie.
At age two I took Maddie to take the Canine Good Citizen's Test, thinking she might become a therapy dog. When we walked in a few moments late and she strutted into the room in her Maddie manner, it brought some of the other dogs up from their "downs." The instructor's dog began barking at her. I think we were doomed from that moment on.
For the last exercise the 2 instructors dressed in very strange clothing and big hats. One walked in a very strange manner using a walker, the other walked in an odd gait and then sat in a wheelchair.
"Oh, this will not fly," I thought to myself. My Maddie had some weird fears and if someone or something looks strange or out of place to her, her fear bark is a given. It took about 10 seconds for Maddie to erupt ... The other dogs followed suite.
"OK, we're cooked," I told myself. Then the trainers began calling us in one at a time. I was last since I came in last. I began smiling to myself. "I get it. She's not a therapy dog! That's just not who she is!" Not officially, anyway. But like Maggie did, she makes people smile every day, just by who she is. Maddie literally dances with joy through life. When someone sees her simply jump out of the car, they grin ear to ear.
"She's so happy!" they say.
Ah, that she is! When we were in South Texas and Maddie pulled a piece of grass out by the roots and tossed it to me to play with since I didn't have a ball or stick for her to retrieve, I knew she was creative and very adaptable. When we sit at the same Brewing Market where Maggie and I used to sit at, with her leash attached to my chair leg, Maddie doesn't let that restriction stop her from play. I see her scouring the cement with her eyes.
Out on the trail, she greets everyone she meets by dropping a stick or pine cone at their feet, and staring at it like a zealot.
"You want to play, I know you do!" she is saying. And of course, they usually do.
Well, guess what? At age 4 Maddie became a therapy dog, and she DID pass the Canine Good Citizen's test.She visits the kids at the Boulder Juvenile Center weekly where we share various humane education topics. And I've heard a rumor that Maddie's reach in humane education is about to extend further. But more on that later as it unfolds -- it is still in the planning stage. Needless to say, this girl who was picked up by animal control on the streets of Denver, wild in her own way, malnourished and infested with worms, has come a long, long way!
Author of MAGGIE the dog who changed my life A Story of Love
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