Teaching a Chomper About Love

This is a pic from Saturday morning cuddle time.  Ophelia is as skeptical about
this activity as she looks in this picture, but she keeps jumping up on the bed
almost every day, so I believe in my heart that she will eventually get the hang of it. 🙂

This is Ophelia, my sweet Formosan Mountain Dog.  I call her The Chomper because, when she gets excited, she does this mouth-snapping thing that I can really only describe as, well, chomping. Anyone who knows the least about me is probably well aware that I am a dog lover.  I adore dogs.  I think they are awesome and I just can’t imagine life without them.

My best friend has said that when he dies, he would like to be reincarnated as a Federer dog.  To be sure, if you get adopted by a Federer, I think it’s fair to say you’ve won the dog lottery.  We know how to treat dogs right.  So when the time was right for me to get a dog, I wanted one that would appreciate the awesomeness of being a Federer dog.  I have extended family members (non-Federers, for the record) who have spent thousands of dollars on purebred dogs.  I guess if that’s your thing, go for it, but for me, I can’t imagine paying that kind of money on a dog when there are many, many dogs that have had a rough time and need some love.  Ophelia is definitely in that category.

My sweet girl is a refugee from Taiwan. She has a plate in her hip because her former owner abused her and broke her femur.  She also has a huge scar under her chin from god knows what abuse, and there is reason to believe she either had puppies or wasn’t spayed within an appropriate time frame.  This girl has been through some terrible things.  I hope I never hear all the details of what she went through, because it just breaks my heart to think of this beautiful, smart, sweet girl being subjected to abuse.

Not surprisingly, after this kind of treatment, my little girl is scarred, both physically and emotionally.  It’s been a tougher road than I expected.  She’s reserved, shy, and not the affectionate creature I’d become used to in a family with mostly Labrador Retrievers (aka the outgoing cheerleaders of the dog world).  There are some nights when she hides under my desk and doesn’t want to come out for anything.

But then there are other times when I can see that she is learning what it means to be loved, which is a feeling that I don’t think she’s probably had much of in her three years.  Although she had an awesome foster mom, she wasn’t the only dog in that house, and I think being with me is the first time Ophelia has ever had the undivided, loving attention of a human.  At first, I don’t think she knew quite what to do with that attention.  Now, I think she’s slowly learning what love is.

Starting recently, every night, I give Ophelia a long massage.  I don’t think she’s had much experience with loving touch.  At first, she seemed bewildered, but each night, I see her get more comfortable with this.  And in some strange way, I get more comfortable with it, too.  I’m not typically an emotional person, but having this girl around here has really changed me.  I feel kind of like a mom now, in a strange way.  🙂  I feel so happy when I come home and my little chomper is wagging her tail and making funny little noises to let me know how pleased she is.  To know that I can bring such joy to a beautiful, smart dog who had previously known nothing but violence and fear – well, I can’t think of anything better than that!  If any dog in LA was going to win the Federer dog lottery, I can’t think of one more deserving than my sweet Ophelia.