Way back in October, after months of discussion, my beau and I finally decided the time was right to add another pup to our pack-- a friend for our dog Sam Fisher. So, one chilly Sunday morning, we stopped in at our local Petco and visited a number of dogs in need of a home. Metal crates lined the sidewalk, their occupants eagerly wagging their tails or barking, trying to gain our attention and affection, all except one little blonde dog, Kirby.

I had read about Kirby online, she and her mother and brother were saved in the 11th hour from a kill shelter and brought into foster care with this rescue. The shyest in her family, and seemingly a challenge for potential adopters, Kirby had been passed over for months as her mother and brother and other more sociable dogs were adopted around her. 

For a shy, scared dog, the hustle and bustle of an adoption fair, especially one held in front of a busy store, is torture. Huddled in the back of her crate, quivering with fear, Kirby stole my heart. 

The thought of leaving her there, to return weekend after weekend for more torture, was more than I could bear. But, there was a lot to consider: were we capable of taking on a dog this shy? Could we give her what she needs to become a confident dog? Would she fit into our family?
We left the adoption fair with a lot to think and talk about.

The next weekend, thanks to the wonderful people at the rescue, Adopt-An-Angel, and Kirby's fantastic foster mom, we brought Sam Fisher to meet Kirby in her own yard. Kirby hid while Sam explored the new space; the joyous play, the interaction we hoped for, didn't happen but neither did the growling and snapping that we feared. 
After a bit, we loaded Kirby and Sam into our car and drove home. 

We didn't have a trial run with Sam, we agreed to adopt him before meeting him and brought him home with the idea that, regardless of the challenge, we were going to make it work, and it has worked-- Sam has grown into a sweet, affectionate, albeit stubborn, dog.

With Kirby we were granted a trial run, and the option to think-- "this is too hard, we can't do this."

By the end of the first weekend, Kirby had spent hours hiding behind the couch, cowering from my beau, and joyously playing in the yard with Sam. For every positive, like the fact that Sam liked her, there was a bundle of negatives. 

Walking her was a challenge (and still is) and by the first Monday morning, she had already spent time lost in a swamp thanks to my poor decision making and inability to control her on a leash. 
That Sunday evening, as we called and called for her, I had decided, through tears, that this was not the dog for us, she was just too much to handle.

Thanks to neighbors that heard some crashing in the woods, we found her, up to her neck in brackish muck, stopped only because she couldn't run any farther. Climbing through the thick brush of the coastal swamp, my beau waded into the waist deep mud and scooped her up, emerging with a cold, scared, now black dog in his arms, and carried her home.

 In the next hour or so that it took to bathe her, something changed. She was quiet and scared but calm, letting us clean the mud from her body and gently wipe the muck from her ears. Covered in towels on the bathroom floor, she looked up at me and I imagined that there was a glimmer of thanks among the fear, and in that moment, 
I decided "this is hard but we can do this."  

First trip to the beach!

From then on, we've tried our best to help her conquer her fears. Progress is slow, but each little bit of confidence she gains is something to be celebrated. 

Catching snowflakes

While there's still plenty of progress to be made, after four months, she no longer cowers from my beau, nor hides behind the couch, and while she still loves to play with Sam, she is now venturing into the yard on her own to chase squirrels, dig holes and catch the occasional snowflake.

She's a happy dog.

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