Sometimes you have to train the dog about what it is like to be one
“I’ve never seen an overweight abused dog.” I pointed at the golden-brown pit-bull mix. Tina pointed at the bruises on her back, “We get many well-fed but perennially shackled dogs.” She dashed under my bed. In the middle of the night I heard her crawl out to her feeding bowl. Poor girl couldn’t take the hunger anymore. She finished eating and scurried back under my bed.
Tina called me next morning. “Do you think she’ll get adopted?” I knelt by my bed. The dog’s empty, scared eyes darted away. “She’s scared of everything, cowers and doesn’t respond to anything.”
“Maybe I should take her.” Tina started. “What should we name her on her adoption papers?” Tina was in her adoption and fostering supervisor mode. “I have the perfect name for her. A bunch of stunt movies made in India in the 1950s had a female lead by the name of Fearless Nadia.”
Tina guffawed. “Nadia then?” “No. Fearless Nadia.” Tina sniggered. “You’re very optimistic. According to you, why is Fearless Nadia so fearful? She’s forgotten what it feels like to be a dog, but we’ll remind her.”
Thus began the tale of Fearless Nadia. The endless hours Tina spent showering affection on her; the back breaking sit-ins under Tina’s bed to help her come out from under there. Several times during the process I lost faith, but Tina’s dogged determination made her go on and on. Then one day Fearless Nadia greeted me in all her glory; a wild wagging tail, an eager-to- kiss-tongue. In five months we’d just evened the playing field between her and the other rescue dogs and it still seemed like a long way away from finding a home.
“Somebody’s interested in adopting Nadia,” said Tina. “Only problem is they’re in Utah.” My heart nearly leaped out of my chest. “We’ll drive her there. We can’t let a few hundred miles snatch the only chance she might ever get at having a family.”
The landscape changed a few times from Phoenix to Salt Lake City. Nadia lounged on the back seat; waiting, anticipating, hoping – enacting all the rituals of expectation that a migrant like me felt when I had moved to the US.
Her new family included a little boy to play with, an adolescent girl that would care for her and a mother waiting to dole out unconditional love. Nadia couldn’t have asked for more. Life doesn’t always wrap up happily-ever-after, like a movie, and we volunteers can’t make a difference to all the dogs in the world, but for our Fearless Nadia we made a world of difference.