“Love makes your soul crawl out from its hiding place.”
-Zora Neale Hurston
On 10 October 2020, Tiamo was delivered safely to my doorstep from Terlingua, Texas via Portland, Oregon by my daughter Juli and grand-doggie Magpie. One week later as we were saying tearful goodbyes, Juli’s parting words included a seasoned observation that rescue pups invariably need a minimum of three months to settle in. She knew this from personal experience, not to mention the wealth of experience she has as Director of One Tail At A Time Portland https://otatpdx.org. It had been three months before her Magpie’s personality began to shine. Three months before her soul began to emerge from its protective shell.
Magpie and Tiamo have similar backstories. Both had been sorely neglected. Both were forced to live outdoors, unsupervised, with a herd of other abused animals. Neither had been given a chance to realize even a tiny portion of their full potential.
When I think about how much would have been wasted if they had not been rescued, I cringe all the way from the inside-out. Both are mind-blowingly bright. And wonderful. And unique. This world needs their purity, their point of view, their spirit. It also needs their role-modeling, especially when it comes to resilience and forgiveness.
“Three months,” Juli repeated, and climbed into her car. I scooped Tiamo up in my arms and showed her how to wave her paw at the disappearing Subaru.
And so here we are, it’s 10 January 2021, and the significance of today’s date would have been lost on me but for Tiamo’s crush. He’s the guy whose lap is her favorite in all the world. The man whose arrival at our house instigates ecstatic two-legged dances, full-body wriggles of delight, and tail swishes the speed of hummingbird wings. His name is Ben Giamo and when he walks through the door, it’s GAME ON.
I mean, I have to admit that she has good taste and, well, after all he was the one who remembered her third month anniversary. And I’m pretty sure she knows that he helped name her.
Fine. I can accept my role as the one who made the introductions. Nevertheless, if Tiamo were a human, I’d have to keep her away from rock bands. She’s got all the makings of a groupie.
In truth, watching this little ragamuffin steal Ben’s heart has been one of the sweetest highlights of a very long year. The bonus is that I’m learning a thing or two from her.
For example, I’m impressed at her acute awareness of his whereabouts. The moment he dares take a seat, she becomes a flash of fur as she leaps into his lap. She totally eschews invitations—they’re so yesterday—perhaps because she’s never been rebuffed. Anyway, she sits on his lap all bright and perky, looking like a flying winged lady hood ornament of the type last seen on Cadillacs in the 1920s.
Then she places her forepaws upon his chest.
She arches her back until it forms a furry parenthesis, somehow bringing to mind Gabby Douglas nailing a 10.0 gymnastics routine.
She establishes eye contact.
Exactly at this point in the ritual, Ben tries to prepare for what he knows is coming: Tiamo’s kisses. Lots and lots and lots of kisses.
There is nowhere he can go and nothing he can do to escape that tongue, for her aim is true and she will not be denied. Slurp, slurp and his throat and neck are covered in kisses.
The girl’s got moves.
So, yeah, my job is to teach her things she needs to know but this is a two-way street. I’m learning from her.
Long story short, Juli’s advice was spot on. These past months have been a time of self-discovery for Tiamo. We know now how very much she loves to learn. How fervently she wishes someone would hire her in the position of store-greeter. How thrilling it is to have puzzles to solve.
She’s an accessory girl and she loves aaaall the blankies. She counts on them being spread over her special napping places, where she nestles in and feels safe.
In three short months she has overcome her shoplifting issues. She no longer steals and chews my Aveda paddle brushes, or wooden fireplace matchsticks, or bottles of shampoo and bubble bath, or leather boots from Sundance. Luckily, she now understands the concept of yours-and-mine: there’s my stuff and there’s your stuff. These days, she gathers elk antlers and Kong toys in a semi-circle around her and chews away happily while I do my thing.
We’ve made good progress with Tiamo’s separation anxiety. She used to tremble uncontrollably when face with a stressful situation. Outside on our walks when she noticed something unfamiliar, she froze in mid-stride and stayed in that position until she figured it all out. But now I think I’m the one who has the separation anxiety: she’s so much a part of me, it doesn’t feel right when we are apart.
She’s learning basic commands, including sit, leave it, find it, come, and (her least favorite) stay. She’s also learning Italian. I thought it was important that with a name like Tiamo that she have some understanding of the Italian language. But probably our most-frequently invoked command is off.
Except when Ben gives her the command, it’s “Off, honey.”
(Don’t mind me, you two—I’ll just be over here in the kitchen making dinner.)
But she is a delight. She has lots more to learn but what we know for sure is that the journey along the way will be fun and fulfilling.
Just last week I witnessed vivid confirmation of her progress. On this particular day we went on a trail hike with Ben (BEN-BEN-BEN slurp-slurp) and his dog, Icey. Afterward, Tiamo and I drove to the pet food store, where she sniffed rows and rows of shiny new things (Petco: the canine version of an Apple store). Two employees recognized her from earlier visits and stooped to say hello.
Three months ago she could hardly manage being inside the store at all (talk about power shopping; I got outta there so fast). Two months ago she died a little inside when these very nice young women tried to pet her. Last week, her self-esteem was so solid, she preened when they petted her, she showed off commands she has mastered, and she rewarded their attentions with a happy face and friendly wags.
We said goodbye and left the store.
I noticed that as we crossed the parking lot to my car, Tiamo was prancing like a pony. Her little legs were high-stepping and her long hair was flowing behind her. It was as if she were a priceless dressage champion who had just been awarded Best of Show.
I got lost in thoughts of how far she has come in so short a time. How her competence in maneuvering this weird urban environment I call home has gone from zero to wow. How she has found me trustworthy enough to allow her soul to crawl out from its hiding place. How she experienced her first crush, pursued him with all her heart, and landed him as her boyfriend.
My heart swelled with admiration.
Loud, far-away shouts cut through the fog of my daydream. I lifted my head and looked around until I spotted a woman who seemed to be the source of the noise. I could tell from the way she was hanging halfway outside her vehicle that she was about to get behind the steering wheel and drive away, except that she had paused to capture my attention.
She smiled, cupped her hands around her mouth, and yelled at the top of her voice, “YOUR DOG IS AMAZING!”
There it is: the power of love. It makes the amazing buried inside everyone visible from all the way across the parking lot.