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Review for All Border Collie Rescue, The Woodlands, TX, USA

Rating: 5 stars  

After losing our 10 year old BC mix to cancer a month before, my husband and I, adopted Alex from ABCR on August 11, 2011 after being in a great foster home with the rescue 6 months. What happened to Alex during the first 3 years of his life, before he was found as a stray by animal control and then rescued by ABCR, is unknown. It has been thought by many people, including dog trainers and animal behaviorists that, due to his extreme fear of people, overall anxiety, lack of socialization, and just how completely shut down he was, that Alex had been the victim of some horrible neglect-type situation, possibly a puppy-mill. His original biography on the ABCR website pulled at our hearts. Here are few excerpts:

“Meet Alex – he’s ‘one in a million.’ Because of that, he’s looking for that ‘one in a million’ forever home! … He must have been terribly mistreated by his former owner because he was afraid to even look a human being in the eye when he first came to foster care … He is extremely obedient and never gives any problem to people, dogs, or cats. But his self-image was shattered somewhere along the way in his 3 years of life … This precious boy needs a home where he will get a lot of patient, caring attention. More than any other we've seen, Alex deserves to know that unkind and cruel people are a part of his distant past. That ‘one in a million’ – you know who you are – won’t you adopt him and give him the forever love that he deserves?!”

We had to meet Alex. We wanted to adopt him. And we hoped that we could help him. After we had made our decision, we had wait about to two weeks to meet him! Alex’s foster mom was getting married that next week and then going on her honeymoon the following week. So we had time to think and rethink about it. And the more we thought about it, the more we wanted him. In the back of my head somewhere I know I was thinking that I could be that “one in a million” and Alex would magically just love me immediately and open up to me and everything would be fine. Intellectually, I knew that an overnight turn-around wasn't reality, but part of me, my heart, still hoped. In reality, I knew that it was possible Alex would always be “broken” and that I had to be OK with that. Emotionally, I just wanted him to love me because I was going to try so hard to help and love him.

When we went to meet Alex at his foster home, we saw exactly what had been described in his bio, and exactly what they had told us on the phone: he was so loved, but also still so scared, broken, and fearful of people and life in general. Before we left, and snapped a few sad pictures of him, his foster mom told me to take the weekend to think it over, and if we still wanted Alex, they would bring him to us the following week. Without hesitation, albeit with a lump in my throat and a slight stutter in my voice, I said I didn't need the weekend to think about it, I knew I wanted Alex right then. And then I casually smiled at my husband for approval.

Thankfully, he agreed and we drove home to prepare for our new life with our new dog. A dog who would not want to look at us, would not want to cuddle with us, would not want us to pet him, and would not even think of eating his meals or treats if we were in eyesight. What were we getting ourselves into? Who wanted a dog you couldn't even pet? We did, apparently.

It was so hard at first. Alex was so scared I just wanted to put my arms around him, hug him tight, and tell him it would be OK. That everything would be OK if he just trusted us. Of course doing anything like that went directly against all the advice we had received about giving him his space to avoid severe anxiety/panic attacks which he was on medication for. I think I made it about 3 days before I couldn't stand it anymore and sat down next to his bed, petted him, hugged him, and did, indeed, tell him that I loved him and that I hoped someday he would learn to trust me and maybe even love me too. I cried. He started his anxious panting and shaking and I backed off and didn't try that again for awhile.

I had fleeting second thoughts the first couple weeks. Thankfully they were just that, and the thoughts were never entertained for more than a few minutes, and never taken seriously. But they were there: Maybe we’d made a mistake. Maybe I couldn't help him. Maybe no one could help him. Maybe he was just too broken and the progress he’d made in foster care was as good as his life would get, and I’d have to be OK with a dog who (dramatic pause), hated me. OK, I knew he probably didn't hate me. But he was terrified of me, of both of us. And that was a very troubling thought. I couldn't reason with Alex and make him understand that we only wanted to help him.

That was three and a half years ago. That Alex doesn't live with us anymore. The Alex we share our home with today has minor anxiety issues and he's off his medication for it because, thankfully, he doesn't need it. :) The Alex we live with today lives to go to the dog park every day and fetch tennis balls till he can’t run anymore, now dropping them at our feet, instead of 20 yards away. He walks up to random people at the park and lets them pet him. He loves to hike 3-5 miles on weekend days, off leash, at our local nature preserve and herd us down the path. The Alex who was once terrified of humans can now spend several hours in a small backyard crammed with 20 people and 3 other dogs and have fun running around and playing during a potluck BBQ. Alex is now the center of our family. He loves to go places in the car. He eats his meals a couple yards away from me while I’m banging around in the kitchen making dinner with the TV blaring. The Alex I know follows our kitten around the house and wags his tail at her when she shows him attention. The Alex I know actually wags his tail at ME when he sees me or when I use the happy voice instead of hiding his face in terror. The Alex I know looks me in the eye by choice instead of hiding his entire head in a corner. The Alex I know today actively seeks me out, and would rather be laying next to me in my human bed or snuggled up against me on the sofa, than alone in his dog bed on the other side of the house (which was his self-appointed safe-space for months – he wouldn't leave it on his own, ever). He eats treats out of my hand and out of the hands of people he doesn't know very well. The old Alex is gone. The Alex I know today likes it when I pet him, doesn't mind when I hug him and shows me every day that he loves me too. He gives me kisses, paws at me for attention, and is even learning how to play with other dogs. Alex is my miracle. He has come a long way and still makes progress and surprises us with new things he is learning and doing on a weekly basis. Alex has taught me so many things, not the least of which is patience. I love him and wouldn't trade him for the world. Thanks, ABCR for our “one in a million” Border Collie.

If I had to make changes to this organization, I would...

Recruit more volunteers so that they could help even more dogs and serve more areas of Texas and other states.

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