The Resilience of Dog: One puppy’s journey from Burns Flat, Oklahoma To Santa Fe, NM

Resilience is defined as “the process of adapting well in the face of adversity or trauma, the ability to bounce back after difficulty.”

This is the story of a special dog named Baron. Baron is a one 1/2-year-old American Pitbull Terrier. He is currently being fostered for Bridging the Worlds by Linda Pedelty and Joey Wilson (yes, he’s my brother).

The story begins in Burns Flat, Oklahoma. (The name, for the curious, is based on an old post office named Burns and how flat that part of Oklahoma is). Burns Flat is 440 miles from Santa Fe via Amarillo, Texas.

This is the town where Baron’s journey to Santa Fe began. As with many rescues like Baron, exact details of his various rescue stops aren’t fully known. However, we know he started in a shelter in Oklahoma. He was adopted once but was left behind when that person moved and landed with another rescue organization. He almost had a home at that point, but that adoption fell through when it was discovered he had heartworm, and his outlook was grim. He was scheduled for euthanasia.

But there are angels in the world.

Beverly Antaeus, of Bridging the Worlds Animal Sanctuary, heard through her network that this sweet boy was in danger of being euthanized and agreed to take him. His third chance.

The next angel, Linda Marple, a dog rescuer, got in her truck and drove to Amarillo to rendezvous and pick up Baron.

Baron came to Bridging the Worlds, and everyone expected that he’d be treated for heartworm and put up for adoption. But it was not to be. Despite love and care there, he had difficulty integrating with the other rescues. It was clear that after being treated for heartworm by the amazing vets at Espanola Animal Shelter, he would have to find a calmer place to recuperate. A quiet foster home was needed.

Let’s stop here and think about this puppy’s life so far. Never had a permanent home, shuttled from shelter to shelter. No attachment to any human or place lasting longer than a few months at a time. All this during the most formative time in a dog’s life. It would be natural to assume that all this could lead to a bad outcome in terms of socialization with humans or other dogs.

Enter the foster “parents.” A foster’s job is to care for a dog until he or she can find a permanent home, usually a few weeks. In Baron’s case, because he was being treated for heartworm, it was also vital to keep him calm and his heart rate down.

The question for Linda and Joey was could Baron overcome his past? Could he “bounce back” from the chaos of his first few months?

Experienced dog guardians, they prepared for a difficult dog, not fully knowing what to expect.

Baron came into their house: he was cautious. And the word that Linda and Joey both used was he was earnest — as if he was sincerely trying to understand what was expected of him now.

After a few days, his sweet and affectionate nature came out. He was crawling onto laps, couches, beds and getting under covers. When Joey and Linda had company, he’d sit in the middle and pay attention to whoever was talking.

Weeks later, he’s turned into a bright and goofy Pitbull.

He’s not out of the woods. He still is hyper-vigilant when someone is at the front door. He is terrified of trucks and loud noises. But he has come so far for a puppy that has been through so much.

Now, almost three months into fostering, Linda, Joey, and Baron, have relaxed joyfully into their roles and relationship. Baron is another dog saved by this incredible, informal network of dog rescuers and fosters.

There are a few take-aways. First, dogs are resilient. Most can bounce back from difficult and traumatic circumstances given enough love, patience, and routine. (Note: people and dogs recovering from trauma do not need chaos in their new lives).

Finally, Linda and Joey lost their two elderly dogs during the pandemic. As most dog guardians know, it is a hole in your heart. The only way to help heal that hole is usually with another dog. But that can be hard. There is guilt and sadness. But then, a Baron appears at your doorstep. He jumps up on your lap. Maybe he licks your face. And the hole begins to heal.

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