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!)