Saturday, January 8, 2011

Ella: December 2010

For the month of December, you may have noticed that I did not write as many blog posts. This is partially because December was one of the busier months at the Casa and I didn’t have as much free time to sit and write. This is also partially due to the fact that we foster parented a dog for the last month and I didn’t have as much mental space to collect my thoughts and write. We served as a casa puente (literally: bridge house) for Elektra (the name she came with)/Ella (the name we called her). Ella was a medium-size, cinnamon-colored dog, who could be very tranquil and affectionate when she was with people, especially Pete and me, as well as very anxious and loud when she was left alone or got startled. 
Ella came to us through an organization called Pro Derechos Animales, a local animal rights organization that promotes adoption and sterilization, both fairly uncommon phenomena when it comes to animals around here. I am finding myself to be more and more of an animal lover as I get older, and was happy to see that such an organization existed in town. One Sunday, Pete and I went to one of the organization’s adoption fairs, held at a nearby park. We took one of the girls from the Casa, a ten year old who loves animals and wants to work as a veterinarian when she grows up. We really like this girl (in fact, she is the one for whom I was the tooth fairy/ratoncito) and she is at the Casa every Sunday, so it was a special outing to go to this adoption fair with her. At the fair, I spoke with one of the volunteers about serving as a casa puente. Such homes are necessary because this organization has no facility to house the animals between the time they are found or rescued and the time they are adopted. The volunteer told me that they were certainly in need of casas puentes and took my contact info. 
Pete and I thought foster parenting dogs while in Colima would be an interesting and desirable thing to do for a few reasons. First of all, we want to have our own dog at some point, but this doesn’t seem to be the ideal time to permanently take on a dog, given our transient lifestyle right now. Secondly, we would not be leaving the dog alone for long periods of time. This year, we are around the house, or back and forth between “work” and “home” more than we typically are in the US. Thirdly, our house here has a nice back patio area for a dog to roam and play in and even has a built-in caged in area. Finally, connecting with this organization was another way to serve in Colima and get to know the community better. When running the idea of having an animal past the Director of the Casa, we learned that her compassion to care for God’s creatures extends beyond the human species. She is very supportive of caring for all aspects of nature, including animals, and has four dogs and several birds in her own home.  
The day after the adoption fair, a member of Pro Derechos Animales e-mailed me about Elektra--a dog who was not adopted at the fair and had to be taken to the pound (apparently not such a great place for a dog here.) Pete and I decided to give it a go and on Thursday of that week, Elektra arrived at our house. She was immediately warm and affectionate to us, as well as curious about her new surroundings.
The next few days with Ella were delightful. She loved to be with us. She loved to go on walks. She was gentle with the kids at the Casa. We didn’t even hear her bark for the first two or three days. She did cry/whimper, however. When Pete and I left her in the back patio, she would cry, and when we arrived home again, she would jump and run around in elation. We attributed her extreme reaction when we left her to her fearing that we were going to abandon her. When we returned, she was overjoyed by the fact that we had not done so. 

Just as we were feeling like Ella was a ‘perfect fit’ of a dog for us, she did something that shifted our perception of her significantly. One morning, we left her in the back patio to teach our morning English classes. When I returned to the house, I was shocked to find her inside, peeking through the front window! How did she get inside?! I surveyed the house and found the curtain on the front door was ripped and half of it was on the floor. The curtain in my bedroom was knocked down. Some of my jewelry that was on my dresser was on the floor. To top it all off, two pieces of glass from one of the back windows were on the ground, broken. Thankfully she wasn’t hurt and the window wasn’t permanently damaged. That is how she had gotten in! Ella was so anxious that she broke into the house to try to find us and she was smart enough to figure out how to do it. That’s what we thought was going through her head, at least. 
This raised a huge red flag for us about the severity of her moods. I contacted the organization that brought her to report about what had happened. We also had the maintenance person at the Casa come and fix the door of the cage built into the back patio (as well as the broken window.) We had no choice, we’d have to lock her in when we left her. Oftentimes, we would bring her to the Casa with us, but always on a leash because we did not know if she would run away; also, she was not yet spayed and a male dog lived at the Casa. 
Over the course of the few weeks that she was with us, her moods did not improve significantly. We brought her to the Casa with us often. She was generally still good with kids and they liked her. If they saw us without Ella they would say “¿y Ella?” asking where she was, just as they do when they see one of us without the other (¿y Pete? ¿y Meli?) Ella was a part of our Pete & Melissa unit. 

However, her inappropriate behaviors continued. There were a few occasions when Ella barked at kids and adults. One time, I attached her to her leash when she was with us in the library. A few seconds later, I heard a grinding sound. What could that be? I looked down and saw Ella gnawing on her leash. It was now held together only by a thread and it later broke when we took her on a walk and she suddenly bolted after two dogs who were walking with their owner across the street. 
Shortly after that occasion, we set a date for Ella to go. Pro Derechos Animales planned to take her to an adoption fair, where we hoped she would get adopted. She needed to find a permanent home with folks who could dedicate lots of time and energy to her--training her and building her confidence so that her erratic, anxious behavior would hopefully diminish. 
Despite some of the craziness we experienced with Ella, we enjoyed many good moments with her and learned a lot about what it takes to care for a dog. The kids shared some fun-loving times with her as well. We also learned that having a dog is a commitment we look forward to taking on, but a little farther down the road... 

Enjoy some of the pics of our good times with Ella.

1 comment:

  1. Ella sounds a lot like our Penny. She is still having a really hard time adjusting to San Diego, our new apartment, and the fact that we're still looking for work. She's used to having us around all the time, so when we leave her now she howls miserably and the neighbors hate it. We've tried everything! She isn't destructive, thank goodness, and we absolutely love her. She's been a part of our family since 2 months after our marriage. But man, it is really hard work taking care of a previously abandoned dog with separation anxiety. It rips my heart in two every time I leave her alone and as I close the door I see that little burst of panic in her eyes as she realizes that I'm going away and might never return.