Weekly Photo Challenge: Depth and Compassion

Compassion, in which all ethics must take root, can only attain its full breadth and depth if it embraces all living creatures and does not limit itself to mankind.
Albert Schweitzer

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As John, Ryan and I work through the challenges and rewards of living with our newest family member Finn, compassion is always on our minds.  Bringing a rescue dog into the family has been an eye-opening experience but we are fully committed to providing him with the best home and second chance at life he could imagine and in return the loyal, loving dog he was meant to be is slowly starting to emerge.

We don’t have any information about Finn’s early years but we do know he was abandoned in California and rescued from doggie death row by a group dedicated to transporting dogs to no-kill shelters around the Pacific Northwest.  When we found him at his second shelter he was under weight, anxious and full of fear, lashing out at any new person or animal that approached him.  Something clicked though when we came to visit and he surprised his foster mom by cautiously approaching us, then sat quietly on the grass waiting for a carefully placed treat.  When he happily followed Ryan for a short walk around the yard we knew he was the dog for us but daily life is much different from an hour in a sunny yard and these first three months together have been anything but quiet or easy.  They’ve been full of learning and compassion but very little quiet.

Finn reacts to most people, animals and noises with an overwhelming urge to keep everything away.  His bark, teeth and claws are on full display and it’s all he can do to keep breathing while he fights to stay safe.  We’ve enlisted the help of a wonderful dog trainer with a background in rescue animals to help us find our path through this fear and we’re slowly building some shared trust while comforting Finn with the knowledge that he doesn’t have to fight everything.  We will take care of the big scarey stuff.  With a steady diet of good food, lots of sleep, regular exercise, consistent care and engaging activities his health is improving, anxiety levels are dropping and he’s up to a normal weight so I can see that our positive reinforcement approach is starting to show real results.

When we first talked about adopting a pet we knew we wanted a dog that would be big enough to join us for hikes through the forest and fun afternoons at the beach while still being small enough to fit comfortably in our home.  While Finn meets both of these conditions he still isn’t ready to safely spend the day hiking.  As a compromise I’m working my way through the overgrown side of our backyard, carving out trails where he can hunt, dig and explore to his heart’s content.  Our yard isn’t fully fenced so we are careful to provide appropriate supervision but he’s already spent hours next to me on a long lead supervising the work then jumping and diving through ferns looking for squirrels.  These two photos are from last weekend’s work session and if I have time before the Superbowl starts today we’ll keep digging into the brush to extend his range a little farther into the yard.  We know there are months of work and conditioning ahead before we can attempt an all day outing but my goal is for a beautiful summer hike with a happy dog by our side.  I’ll keep you posted!

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62 thoughts on “Weekly Photo Challenge: Depth and Compassion

  1. How wonderful of you to adopt a dog with such challenging issues. It’s heart-warming to see how he’s coming around, and even though you have a ways to go, looking back on what you’ve accomplished should fill you with pride and joy. Here’s hoping day long hikes with him are not far off in your future. 🙂

    1. Thanks for your encouraging words, Carrie. 🙂 We had a nice walk together this morning with minimal fearful outbursts so I’ll count it as a win and another step towards our goal. 🙂

    1. Thank you, Andra. We’ve learned so much from this experience and watching Finn relax into a big belly rub after an afternoon in the yard is all the reward we need to get us through the more challenging moments.

    1. You’re right, Andy. Watching him experience things like wet grass and rain have been entertaining for both of us. There are so many elements he’s never experienced in his short life including how to relax like a “normal” dog so every little thing that shows us he’s letting down his guard is big. 🙂

  2. As you’re well aware, dogs are not little people in fur coats. They are wonderful companions. I’m confident that Finn will find his way and begin to trust aspects of life beyond his immediate family. Good luck and good times.

    1. Thanks for the good wishes, Jim. Finn is very reserved with his trust but we’ve been able to successfully introduce him to some family members and over time he’s come to accept them as extended pack so I think we are on the right track. I’m smiling at your comment “dogs are not little people in fur coats.” So true. 🙂

  3. Finn is so lucky to have a patient and loving family likes yours! Our Duke is also a rescue who has fear aggression problems with other dogs when he is leashed. It really hasn’t improved much in 5 years, but otherwise he’s so sweet and loving! Sounds like you have a good trainer … I tried one who told us Duke would eat babies and we should send him back!!! Of course, we knew better!

    1. I can’t believe your trainer said that!!! It’s so great to hear from other rescue families and Duke sounds like a wonderful dog. 🙂 We’ll start working with Finn and other dogs off leash in careful situations soon. Wish us luck!

    1. You’re right, Sue this is really a challenge but one that comes with lots of love in return. We’ve met a few Finns and so far they all have spunky, feisty personalities. It sounds like your friends Finn fits right in. 🙂

  4. I can relate to this. I recently wrote a post about my dog Asher for the weekly photo challenge – new. In the beginning, I had the some of the same issues as you, but 5 years later he’s calmed down a lot. I always say that if Ash were human-he’d be a criminal. I’m a mother. I love my baby boy-bad behavior and all! I commend you for taking him in and making him part of your family. Good on you!!

    1. Thanks so much for your encouragement and I’m thrilled to hear from other rescue families. 🙂 I understand the love, bad boy behavior and all and it’s nice to hear they settle in eventually. 🙂 I’ll click over to take a look at your post now.

  5. You have saved a life and given Finn a second chance in life. You are patient and loving and that is exactly what he needs. He is a very handsome boy and I know he will be a loyal and loving member of your family, What a great story, welcome to Finn.

    1. Thanks, Nancy! It isn’t easy, especially when people stop to stare at the loud dog or worse, run away in fear when we’re walking and he starts to bark but we’ll get there. I just want him to be able to enjoy normal dog friendly activities and love his life. 🙂

    1. Thanks for your kind wishes, we’ll take all the good will we can get as we keep working through our list of behaviors to redirect and calm. I’ll be sure to share periodic update posts so everyone can watch his growth. 🙂

      1. I am sure there will be testing of patience, but there will growth and blessing to. A blogger/friend from Canada just lost a cat to cancer. She has been caring for stray and abandoned cats for years.. If you look up Arlene Martin at As a Crow Flies your heart will be moved by her dedication..

  6. Finn is a beauty and blessings to you all for adopting this fella, and in the long run he will be the best.

  7. That is so nice of you to adopt a dog. I hope all goes well. I’m sure it will and Finn will feel settled in no time since it sounds like you’re taking good care of him. Lovely photos, and that looks like a lovely trail for a walk 🙂

  8. Having had two rescue dogs, with time and lots of love, Finn will become very loyal to you family, Lisa. My first rescue dog, Shelly, had been abused and was almost not put up for adoption due to her past. After about a year she was a completely different dog. Shelly is gone and now I have Maggie. Unfortunately Maggie has been attacked several times by larger dogs and has developed a fear which comes out as aggression/protective response very much like Finn. I’m hoping with time Maggie will feel comfortable around other dogs again. Patrick

    1. Patrick, I’m so sorry to hear Maggie has been attacked by larger dogs. It’s comforting to know Shelly had such a great turn around after 1 year and we hope Finn experiences the same positive change. My fingers are crossed for Maggie, we now know how hard it is to work through their fearful aggression/protection response. But it can be done.

  9. Am sure he’ll turn around soon enough that you will enjoy Spring and Summers with Finn. What a beautiful dog and truly it takes compassion to adopt a pet with issues as there are certainly a lot of pets that needs a home.

    1. Thank you, Angeline. 🙂 He has been a handful but when he comes out of his shell to play ball and hop around like a puppy we can’t help but laugh and appreciate his strong will to survive and still have fun. 🙂

  10. How lucky for all that Finn is in your care —- our black lab mix Jake was from the shelter and turned out to be the most loyal companion for our family.

    Agree with comments here, he is beautiful. I’m following your blog to keep up with your new adventures with him (and of course, to see your beautiful photography 🙂 too!)

    1. Welcome, Lola Jane! One of the best things about this post has been the chance to hear other rescue stories and I’m so happy to hear your Jake is such a wonderful companion. 🙂 Look for Finn to make another appearance here on Sunday…

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