Nia, a miniature long-haired dachshund with long, curly, auburn brown hair, is my gift from the universe. I am her human. My home is her forever home. As an abused and neglected rescue, she had more baggage than her little bed and blanket.
I had no idea what I was doing. Nia was the first living being who was completely dependent on me. She had food and digestion issues, extreme separation anxiety, bad teeth, and nightmares. She needed lots of love to heal and thrive.
Like any new parent, common sense won out over terror. I learned about food, grooming, veterinarians, and training. The most important task of all was bonding. We had to learn to communicate.
First, I focused on her understanding me. In training we learned about voice commands, hand gestures, and treats. Nia quickly learned how to get treats. When another dog wouldn’t sit on command, she walked over, sat in front of the dog’s human, and waited for her reward. She was offended when the human didn’t immediately give her a treat. There was something about her posture, a vibe she was throwing out, and the look in those big beautiful eyes.
She got the treat.
I realized that to bond with Nia, I had to learn HER language. Humans rely on stringing words together to communicate. This often ends in disaster. Nia uses all of her senses. Smell is big for her. She points her long nose to tell me what she wants, when she’s done, where she wants to go, and who is a good or bad person. She watches me and knows my habits better than I do. For example, I didn’t realize how many times I reach for a snack until she wanted one every time I did.
Tone of voice and body language are important too. Once, I was upset because I couldn’t find my keys. In the midst of my frenzied search I saw her, scared and shivering in a corner. That hurt. I dropped the anger, substituted love, and held her for a long time. Once we had both calmed down, the keys were easily found.
Things kicked up a notch when I realized Nia did not think in words, she thought in pictures. When she wants serious attention, she gets on top of me, looks directly into my eyes, and sends a picture. When I understand, she wags her tail to reward me.
Recently, I was in a hospital emergency waiting room with Nia and my neighbor’s dog. Iris, a Jack Russell mix, was shaking uncontrollably after seeing her mom taken away in an ambulance. “Nia, I need you to help Iris calm down,” I said, and pictured a calm Iris. Nia nodded, and began to nuzzle, lick, and kiss Iris’s face. Iris soon stopped shaking and curled up next to me for a nap. Iris’s mom healed and they were reunited.
Nia has healed too. We have transformed each other with love.
We wish they could live forever, but sadly that doesn’t happen. Please make sure to conclude this journey with the final part of my series entitled “Connecting Over the Rainbow Bridge.”