The exciting moment came. I woke up one morning and had the exciting realization: Otis is a totally different dog now than he was when I took him back four months ago. This is always a victory for foster families, often one that sneaks up on you out of the blue just like it did to me. It happened with Baxter as well, and it was just as gratifying.
My home is the first one for Otis where he can be completely comfortable. In his entire 1.5+ years of existence, he had always been living with something to be scared or anxious about. Because he is now able to be himself and do things he wants to do without worrying, he is opening up enormous amounts with every day that goes on.
It’s the type of thing you don’t notice because it’s happening right before your eyes. The thought hit me last week when I brought Otis into a meeting with me at work (yes, I can bring my dog to work and into meetings with me – I’m lucky!) and he spent the first ten minutes happily greeting everyone by going around the circle delivering sniffs and tail wags. He wasn’t staying right by my side, he wasn’t drooling uncontrollably, and he wasn’t miserable being surrounded by people other than me. He was happy.
I noticed it again later that week when he was in my house and spending an alarmingly large amount of time, get this… out of my sight! Instead of needing the security of me, “his person,” to be comfortable, he was out wandering the house, hanging out with my brother or checking in with my mom and dad. He was embracing his free space and expanding his limits. He was happy.
I notice things every day now that show how much Otis has grown. He wags his tail more when we’re out in public, he is more open to greeting strangers, he doesn’t cower at the site or sound of new things, he enjoys being home without me, he is relaxed, he is partaking in normal dog things like using his nose, he is extremely food motivated, he investigates more on walks, he will try new things like running up the slide at a playground… the list goes on. Even two months into his stay with me, much of that list was nowhere near do-able for Otis.
These small victories mean so much more than just a testament to his progress. They mean Otis is truly ready for a forever family of his own. He has made it clear that he will not always be the shy, withdrawn dog that he once was when I met him. He still has a ways to go, I think living with a stable family for years to come will bring out the best, happiest side of this pooch. Hopefully this is the end to his worries. “God bless the broken road,” right?