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So you all on this forum have been with me and there for me throughout these 5 months since I adopted Willow, my 3-year-old GSD. Me, a single lady who had never owned a dog as an adult before, and Willow, who had lived in at least two different homes before coming home with me.

I don't know how best to say this, but I feel like it needs to be said....I have struggled with Willow these 5 months, as many of you well know. She seemed fear aggressive, stranger-averse, nervy, kind of annoying--basically a suck on my energy and mental space. When I first got her, I cried almost every night with regret over what I had done. Why had I adopted her? Why did I think this was a good idea?

I worried that I was not bonding with her. At first it seemed neither of us liked the other very much, that we were tiptoeing around each other, feeling each other out, not sure about anything, worried that this new situation kinda sucked for both of us. Later on, I felt like Willow was maybe bonding with me, but more often than not, I still considered her presence an annoyance, a hit on my social life, a mistake. She had perhaps bonded to me, but the feeling wasn't mutual. But I persisted, I did the best I could with training and with general care and with making sure she got enough exercise, even though two walks a day felt like a lot to try to fit into my schedule. I micromanaged, I worried about everything--for this dog that I didn't even feel a strong connection to!

And then.....I realized.....

I love her.

I've only realized this over, say, the last couple of weeks. But I enjoy her so much, I love her little antics, I love her exuberance, I love the way she looks when she sleeps or when she jumps like a kangaroo or when she stands there twitching her tail in this shy and adorable way. I don't worry about her as much, I give her more credit, I don't hold her mistakes against her or feel like every mistake is a huge step back. And it almost seems like she is more patient with me, more forgiving when I make mistakes, calmer, less anxious. I remember asking on this forum, within the first few weeks that I had her, how long it took for that bond to form...and me being the logical, reasonable, quantitative person that I am, hoped for a solid number I could count on, some goal to shoot for. Of course, it differs for everybody--for every human and for every dog. But it struck me the other day that I think, to the best of my knowledge and judgment, that it has happened. It took 4+ months but it happened.

It's been a long and hard 4 months full of lots of misgivings and tears and frustration but dangit I love this dog and I just wanted you all to know. And maybe this will help someone like me who maybe just got her first dog and feels like things just aren't right and longs for that moment of bonding to finally come.

It came. It kinda snuck up on me but it came and it's wonderful.

And ugh, I'm 3 days away from boarding her for 5 days. I remember not worrying so much about her feeling like I abandoned her when I thought about this 5-day boarding trip months ago, I was more worried about the burden she would be on my trainer (who's boarding her), whether she'd settle down eventually and pee and poop and eat. But now my worrying she'll think I abandoned her is all I can think about. We finally got this connection and now I'm going to leave her for 5 days! I hope she can forgive me.

Dog ownership, man. Such highs, such lows. That's all I gotta say for now....
 

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Aw, this is great.
Love the photos, especially the one with her face squished into the corner. :)
Thanks for the update.

I remember Rumo's first months...he was edgier, reactive on walks, would growl and bark a lot more...I think that's when I first started browsing this forum (he growled at my daughter's friend who petted him while he was laying down, and I was shocked). But somehow I came to understand all his moods and expressions and likes / dislikes, and I guess he came to understand mine. We "communicate" now... I'm not talking about commands and training, but like I understand a glance that means, "Isn't this great!" or "That dog is a jerk." or "Are you going to eat ALL of that cheese?" The human/dog bond is such a mystery, they fit us so well and adapt themselves to us, it's amazing.
 

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When we rescue dogs, we sometimes get sent the dog our higher self knows that we need, not the dog our ego-self thinks that we think we want. Giving into the wisdom of that is a powerful journey -- and it's one of the great open secrets of animal rescue.

Some dogs come to us with a purpose, on a mission to teach us something really important. They make us better people, when we open up to receive the lesson -- but we have a choice as to whether to accept that lesson, as it's usually something very humbling and hard. You've just had the shift where you opened up to what she came to help you learn. Willow will be a once-in-a-lifetime dog who changes you -- and it's only just beginning. Decades in the future, you'll look back on a younger-you before Willow, and the wiser-more-compassionate-you after Willow, and your heart will overflow with gratitude for the gift she brought. Cheers!
 

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But now my worrying she'll think I abandoned her is all I can think about
Dogs don't have higher order thoughts such as this. She will perhaps experience some confusion wither new surroundings, or maybe she won't. She will be pleased that you reappeared when you return. Don't overthink this.

My advice upon return, is to stay calm and reserved. Try not to go nuts upon greeting her.
 
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