Madeline hasn’t been with us for two weeks now. It’s starting to feel normal. I’m no longer surprised when she doesn’t greet me at the door, I’m just sad. I miss that dog incredibly.
Maddie wasn’t great at making friends. She took a long time to warm up to people, and if you weren’t willing (or able) to put in the time, she wasn’t interested. It took her a while to warm up to me, even after we adopted her. Evenings in Indiana we’d often sit on the love seat and watch TV. We had two dogs and two cats, and three of the four would either be on our laps or under our feet. My memory is that for most of the first year Madeline was across the room, lying on the rug, just watching us.
This reticence was unfortunately paired with a tendency to snap at people when they got too close, too soon. My friend Leah was nipped at a dinner party when Maddie sat down next to her and Leah took that as a signal to pet her. Richard was bitten more than once when we first started dating and he was “courting” Madeline. Being friends with Madeline wasn’t always easy.
Over the years I tried to let people know how Madeline wanted to be engaged with: “She’ll sniff you and investigate a little, but she doesn’t like to be petted by strangers.” I always felt like I was addressing a child: “Yes, she has sharp teeth, but she’s more afraid of you than you are of her.”
There were exceptions, though, that still baffle me. When I started taking Madeline to see Tomo for grooming, I warned her that she could be particular and might need to be muzzled. (I didn’t want that to happen, but I thought I should let her caregivers know that I’d understand if it was necessary.)
Grooming with Tomo was an all day affair, and the dogs that were there got to hang out together between trimming, bathing, and drying. We’d drop her off in the morning, Tomo would pick her up and cuddle her while I internally panicked, thinking Maddie was about to lose it. But she never did. And when we’d pick up Maddie at the end of the day, she’d rarely be sitting in the window with the other dogs. Instead we’d walk in and greet Tomo; as soon as Maddie heard our voice, she’d appear from her hiding place under Tomo’s telephone stand, trimmed and clean. “Did you have to muzzle her? Any problems?” we’d ask. “No, she did great!”To this day we have no idea why Madeline was fine with Tomo, but not other “strangers”.
There were a lot of times I wished our dog was “normal”, that I didn’t have to tell my friends that she didn’t want to be petted. There were times I felt envious of how playful other people’s dog were. But Madeline wasn’t interested in other people, she was interested in me and Richard. And the loyalty and companionship we got from that far outweighs any negatives.