Wednesday, September 05, 2012


Within hours of hanging up the phone with Anna, I began to see unbelievable changes in Miss MerryBelle. Her spirit lifted, and I saw hints of a classic corgi smile on her face.  Rather than slink around from room to room, her gait shifted to sort of a prissy prancing, and she began to jump into the chair with me, something which she had seemed to want to do but had never tried. 

The day following our conversation with Anna, MerryBelle allowed me to put her leash on without snarling or biting at me, and we were able to take a long walk to the back of our woods.  Two days later, I took her out without the leash, and she was more obedient than I would ever have believed could happen.  Within a week, I was confident enough in her to let her out on her own when I got home in the afternoon.  She did, indeed, meander a bit, but she returned home within 10 minutes, something which she has continued to do faithfully to this day. At present, I allow her to come and go as she pleases when I'm at home - 99% of the time I find her on the back deck, playing with the cats.  (Truthfully,she doesn't wander at all these days unless it's to check out the fresh cow poop in the upper field just across the driveway!)

Mac and MerryBelle are at the same time quite independent and interconnected. They play hearty tug-o'-war with their rope or old socks, run circles around the couch in their nightly game of chase, taunt the cats (never to harm them), and fetch their favorite squeaky toys, Bubba and Bessy. MerryBelle likes alone time and is totally OK for Mac and me to go play stick while she hangs with the cats.  When it comes her time to play with me, she loves to rub her face in mine and leave her scent on my hair.(Just the scent I want after she's been on a rolling spree, that's for sure!) Her bark is quite a sopranic call, and I've noticed when Mac sounds an alarm, MerryBelle comes running to chime in although quite frequently she has no idea what she's barking at. She's hilarious!

There are several other things that have happened with MerryBelle that have made me realize what an enlightened being she is:

1.  After MerryBelle let me know that she liked being "girly," she insisted on playing with an old pair of pantyhose rather than old socks when we played on the floor. In fact, a couple of nights after our session with Anna, she, Mac and I started to play "sock," and she left the room to go pull one of my slips and a pair of pantyhose out of the dirty clothes. She proudly brought them into the living room, declining to pay attention to the socks and opting to play only with her newfound "girl toys."

2.  One afternoon late last winter, MerryBelle took the lead in our afternoon walk. Instead of heading into the back field to go to the woods, she led Mac and me down into the field in front of the barn, through a thicket and back up toward the house on a small path that comes out along our driveway.  I hadn't walked that way in a LONG time.  Just before we started up the hill to the driveway, I saw MerryBelle stretch out on the ground by an object that looked like a ball from the distance. As I approached, she began playing with this round object, and upon closer examination, I saw that she had an old doll's head in her mouth. It was as if a little girl had found a beloved, forgotten toy from her past. I knew we had never had the doll from which the head came as one of the kid's toys; it was obviously much older than any doll my children ever had.  As we continued,MerryBelle carefully and gently carried her doll home, playing with it all that afternoon.  Since that day, I leave her special toy outside, and every day she checks in with it and plays a bit.

3.  There are times when MerryBelle looks at me and I hear a word in my head.  I know this sounds a bit kooky to some, but I do believe Anna's advice for me to pay close attention to what MerryBelle "tells" me falls into this sort of connection.

Recently, a friend of mine lost her dog of 14 years. MerryBelle (who had never met sweet Ruby) kept sending me the word "Ruby" to my mind. I was able to spend time with Ruby during the days prior to her passage, and each time I returned home, MerryBelle curled up in my lap to share the love Ruby and I had exchanged. Not long ago, Merry Belle and I visited Ruby's house.  As I watched her explore around, sniffing and investigating all of Ruby's favorite places there, I know MerryBelle sensed Ruby's presence.  MerryBelle was a sweet and respectful guest in Ruby's house, for sure.

4. And just a few weeks ago while we were on our walk, MerryBelle started nipping at me and Mac as we walked into the back woods. Her aggression perplexed me, for she seemed to be herding Mac and me out of the woods. She wouldn't let either of us cross a couple of tree trunks to go further back into the woods, and she became rather frenzied when she saw us try to proceed. About that time, I heard a sharp squeal.  MerryBelle started nipping at my heels and ran out of the woods.  She turned to come back after Mac and me and pranced nervously behind us until we were out of the woods. As MerryBelle emerged out of the woods, I turned around, only to see a coyote with a rabbit in its mouth sneaking toward the creek just beyond where we had started to walk.  I am convinced she knew the coyote was in wait for us to leave, and she was bent on getting Mac and me out of harm's way. On the trek home, she brought up the rear and wouldn't go in the house until Mac and I went in before her. Undoubtedly, she was making sure her pack was safe.

Ultimately, MerryBelle has also said goodbye to her nasty attacks on Mac over food.  An occasional backslide reminds me of the depth of her engrained behavior patterns with hunger issues, and we continually work on making food and feeding time a pretty mundane affair. We don't have a feeding ritual; I just make sure there is always food in her and Mac's bowl.

And most importantly, MerryBelle's showing signs of forgetting her fear of people as they approach her.  She doesn't close her eyes and cower so much now as people bend over to love her, and she seeks affection from all who come to visit us.  I just can't imagine how or why anyone would harm an animal (or child), but MerryBelle has provided sad and stark evidence of the damage a not nice human can inflict upon an innocent being.

MerryBelle's transformation from a cowering, snarly, moody dog to a worry-free, spacy and sweet farm dog has been one which I wasn't sure I would ever witness.  Mac and I delight when we watch her toss a ball in the air and pounce on it, when she runs at horse-racing speed around the yard with a huge smile on her face, and when she pesters the cats to play with her.  Her magic and grace, her humor and sensitivity, and her loyalty and love embrace us every moment of every day.  And, oh how grateful we are to Anna Twinney, to all our friends who have felt her energy and worked with her, and to the woman from Tri-State Corgi Rescuefor NOT answering the email in which I asked to return her.

MerryBelle is truly a special being - one from which I've learned a lot about life, love, and the unbreakable bond of our pack. The love of our pack sustains me and makes me whole.

(There's a chipmunk in there somewhere!)

Wednesday, August 29, 2012



I just read the post I wrote a little over 9 months ago, a piece written in a moment of intense exasperation and feelings of not knowing what to do with this abused and frightened corgi I  rescued and brought to live with me and Mac. At that point, I was 98% convinced that MerryBelle was NOT a fit for our pack at The Farm. My frustration had reached the point of returning her to Tri- State Corgi Rescue; I even wrote the woman I got her from to alert her to that fact.

But this morning as she slept at my feet, came to me her special loving, and ran circle after circle around the couch with Mac, her best friend, the MerryBelle of September, 2012, didn't seem at all like the dog I came close to surrendering back to her previous caretaker. Oh, it's been a journey, that's for sure, but I can say with confidence that this once severely abused creature is well on the road understanding love and trust - two things I was not sure I would ever be able to help her process and believe in.

After MerryBelle ran away on the absolute worst weekend of winter and had bitten me twice hard enough to draw blood , I found myself ready to "toss in the towel" with her. However, late in January, 2012, I cashed in on a Christmas gift from our beloved LoriBeth - a session with Anna Twinney, reiki master and animal intuitive. Lori and her friends have used Anna on several occasions to work through challenges with their animals, so I had total confidence in what a session with Anna would reveal. As a reiki practioner myself, I felt a resonance with Anna even before we spoke on the telephone. 

So, here's the "long story short" of what  has transpired since January 31, 2012, the day MerryBelle (via Anna) gave us some insight and understanding about how she perceived life, what she needed from us, and came to understand what Mac and I needed from her. I won't go into the minutiae of the conversation, but suffice to say, the 90 minutes MerryBelle (via Anna) shared with us began the amazing and magical turning point for the life we share today. 

My only contact with Anna, our intuitive, prior to our session was via email correspondence.  We scheduled our session, I answered some very general questions for her, and I sent her a photo of MerryBelle.

The afternoon of the call was one that I had waited for eagerly. Once we got through the initial greetings and basic information from Anna as to how the session would be structured, MerryBelle readily let Anna know that she (MerryBelle) accepted Anna's  invitation to "talk" with her. As I understand the process, dogs don't think in "words" but rather in images. Throughout the conversation, while I waited in silence on my end of the phone, Anna and MerryBelle connected via the images MerryBelle shared with Anna. The first information MerryBelle shared was that she was happy to be at the farm. She told Anna she trusted me, and she trusted Mac, her her true north she needed to guide her as she learned about life in a loving family setting. Not really inclined to fill us in on her past, MB shared the message with Anna that she wanted to talk about now, about her life at the farm. She shared that she liked her doggie beds and pillows here; she like the spaciousness of the farm, especially after spending the first 2 years of her life in cages. She was also willing to respond to my thoughts and questions, all of which were based upon her very difficult and peculiar behaviors: Could she let go of her nasty food aggression toward  Mac over food and toys? Was she willing to "trust" that she didn't need to worry about being beaten anymore? Could she believe me when I needed her to listen and obey? Why did she bite me? And, I passed her the message that Mac and I really wanted her to stay with us; however, if her behaviors didn't change, I was not going to be possible to keep her.

MerryBelle's responses via Anna: The food aggression was driven by instinct. Wherever she had lived before coming to us, she had to FIGHT for her food, and showing aggression over food was essential in the process of getting to eat. She had been taken from her mom before she was weaned and placed in a kennel with many other dogs, so if she didn't fight for her food, she didn't get to eat. Ultimately, when assured she'd always have food, MB was OK with backing off on the food, as well as toy agression. 

As for "guidelines" (her term), MerryBelle expressed she had not idea what they were and why they were important to her. She didn't understand why she had to wait while I "changed feet" (put on / changed my shoes) before we went out.She didn't catch on to the importance of walking on a leash (which she perceived as restraint / control on the human's part). No one had ever required her to live with restrictions on any behavior. Finally she asked me to remember she was a little girl and enjoyed girly things, like playing tug-of-war with clean ropes and socks rather than old, smelly, dirty ones. 

When it was our turn to "talk," Mac and I responded that we WANTED her to live with us, but also, we wanted life at The Farm to be fun, free of ugly and nasty attacks and disobedience issues . Her immediate response to those suggestions was an immediate and quite simple, "OK." To conclude, I asked MerryBelle what she wanted me to know and understand about her. She asked that I trust her. Yes, she liked to "meander" at bit in the cow field once I got home from work but she WOULD return. She did not want to be thrust into a new situation without some sort of preparation, etc.

At the next pause when Anna and I got to talk, Anna added that she sensed the "trust" issue was very important to MerryBelle, and she advised that when I got a "message" from MerryBelle, I should pay attention --close attention! Anna had come to understand that this little girl was an incredibly sensitive and intelligent, an intuitive being committed to her pack - MerryBelle was extremely loyal and would place her pack before herself when push came to shove. I asked Anna to let MerryBelle know that Mac and I were ready to go, ready to shift what we needed to shift and move on as our pack at The Farm - best friends, family, ones who loved and looked after each other unconditionally. I asked MerryBelle to understand that any decision I made would always be in our pack's best interest. Mac and I wanted her to be our friend, not our adversary, and I requested that she have trust in me as the leader of the pack. Tanya is alpha, in other words.  

Before our conversation with Anna ended, MerryBelle took her on a tour of the house and farm, showing Anna her favorite places and things. With accuracy and detail that blew me away, MerryBelle described Mac, me, her favorite doggie beds, the fireplace and our kitchen. Finally, she described two of our cats that she trusted and loved. (My insert here: Throughout our session, MerryBelle lay on her bed in front of the fireplace. When MerryBelle and Anna were "talking," MerryBelle looked to me as if she were dreaming - jerking her feet a bit, making whimperinig noises and twisting from time to time on the bed. When Anna was conveying to me what MerryBelle was "saying," MerryBelle drifted off in a deep sleep, snoring contentedly.)  
After a good hour and a half, Anna and I ended our session, but not before Anna reminded me again that it was important to listen to the messages MerryBelle sent me - whenever or wherever. I knew that piece was very essential for me to heed.    

Sunday, January 22, 2012


I currently live with one of the most complicated beings to ever cross my path - MerryBelle Wilder, the corgi I rescued back in early August (2011).  Although she is supposedly a full-bred corgi (from a puppy mill that was closed down for poor breeding practices), I would swear she's got some beagle in her. In fact, I found a photo of a corgi/beagle mix on the internet that looks just like her. (Her bloodline is of no importance to me whatsoever; I'd love her if she were a  Heinz-57.)  

What is most evident is that MerryBelle has a "wild streak in her," as my dad would say.  She's the most instinct-driven dog I've ever known, and she has little or no trust in humans when push comes to shove. As much as I love her, MB sets the boundaries that dictate how close I can get to her.  I so wish I could figure her!  She's complex and very, very strong-willed.

MerryBelle has well-established herself as alpha over Mac and me. She has a level of food aggression that makes Mac run for cover when I put food or water in their dishes. She's bitten me twice, both times as a result of my having to intervene for Mac's safety after she's "jumped" him over food through no fault of his own, and she's now refusing to let me hook her to a leash.  As many folks on Facebook know, she slipped away from me this weekend and was gone overnight during a nasty winter ice storm. (Thanks to a neighbor who saw my phone number on her chip tag whenMerryBelle sought refuge at the neighbor's house, I was able to "rescue" her once again. And despite her fatigue, a cut to her leg and hunger, MerryBelle turned stubborn about letting us put her leash on.)

Taken from her mother at only 5 weeks old, MB must have the idea of having to "fight" for her life deeply encoded within. I also know she comes with a lot of baggage regarding abuse, as well. She was beaten pretty severely by the dad of a family who adopted her and allowed his son to approach MB's food.  When MB got aggressive over her bowl and nipped at the child, the dad apparently removed her from the house to a chain outside and kicked her regularly.  One of her defense mechanisms is to scream when one touches her shoulder - the area where she got kicked, I'm sure. She also cowers and runs away when one extends a hand to pet her from above.  Surely she associates that with being struck, as well. She also does NOT like for one to look in her eyes. If I look at directly at her, regardless of the tenderness with which I approach her, she diverts her gaze and moves away, giving me the "I don't trust ANYONE look.  Back off!".

In the time she's been here, poor Mac's taken many an assault from his "sister." When we play, MB's like the child in the neighborhood who really, really wants to join in the game, gets really excited about the prospect, barges in and ruins the moment for everyone,  over and over again. Just recently, I've been able to get her to play tug-o-war with an old sock with Mac, but fetching seems not to interest her in the least. When she and Mac run and play, she doesn't seem to get that her play becomes too aggressive to tolerate, both for humans and Mac, and after a while, I have to bring it to a halt because she's just not nice.

On the other hand, I think she really wants to be a loving part of our pack. She welcomes visitors to the house energetically; she loves for me to get down on the floor and be a dog with her.  It's then when I can rub her and love her and get her to respond to healthy play- always on her terms, but respond, nonetheless.  I suppose we've come a ways since she got here, but the setbacks outweigh our progress at any given moment. She follows me everywhere, yet she won't let me near her to love her.  As I write this, she's come upstairs to be with me and sleep at my feet, but she won't allow me to bend over and rub her at all.

Bottom line--she's a piece of work who's as unpredictable as a rebellious teenager,  as untrusting as an abuse victim,  and as headstrong as the most feisty adolescent! She's definitely a test of patience, a constant reminder for me to look at myself in every moment of our interaction, and a lesson in consistency of training and reward. She contradicts almost everything I've ever learned from living with critters! She's like having a child....there's no time off with MB !!

I will confess that I've entertained the thought of returning her to the corgi rescue family; however, I know when push came to shove, I wouldn't be able to surrender her back. So, I'll continue my "process of elimination" techniques in terms of what works with her, get her in obedience training, and work as consistently with her as I can. I not giving up....yet.

LoriBeth gifted us with a session with an animal intuitive for Christmas.  On some levels, I think MB's picked on that, so it will be most interesting to see what guidance I get, what messages MB sends and receives, and  importantly, if we can turn some things around.  Keep your fingers crossed!

For now, it's back to reading Mother Knows Best, remembering to click and treat, and play "dog" as much as possible.  Stay tuned!