I first met Bruce Wayne only a few days after he arrived at the shelter. Initially attracted to him because of his name, I was excited to see the newest shelter addition. As I approached the stall, I didn't meet the spirited and anxious to get the heck outside dog I was expecting. Huddled in a corner, terrified and shivering, Bruce Wayne was curled as tight as possible in his blanket, head hung low. Tears immediately sprung to my eyes-- I could feel the unimaginable pain he had endured before I even knew his story. Bending down, I cautiously and slowly extended my hand to him. He shrank into himself at my slightest movement. As I carefully got closer to him, we made eye contact and I was struck by the most gentle and direct stare I've ever received from a dog. I softly touched the side of his face and started to stroke him under his chin (I was told this builds confidence in abused dogs). I looked into his eyes once more and saw a dog utterly broken, yet so very tender. With no reason whatsoever to be affectionate to any human, his eyes were kind and trusting, hopeful even. As I continued to pet him and tell him how good and beautiful he was, he gingerly leaned into my hand. I continued talking to him and gradually, after several minutes of soft tones and just sitting with him in the stall, he allowed me to put a collar around his neck and start the equally long process of getting him outside to take a walk.
On the way out I was informed by another volunteer that Bruce Wayne had been a bait dog for his entire life. Specifically selected for his docile and gentle nature, for five years he was thrown into a ring between two other vicious dogs and used, quite literally, as fight bait. His tenderness was exploited and from puppyhood; his mouth taped shut and he utilized as "training" to make other dogs more brutal. It's a miracle Bruce Wayne made it to his fifth birthday since the life expectancy of most bait dogs rarely exceeds two years. I don't know all the details of Bruce's incredible story of survival, but I can easily assume it wasn't much different than most bait dogs, like Noah: http://luckydogrescueblog.blogspot.com/2011/04/noah-bait-dog.html?m=1
Once we made it outside, he was confused, anxious and stayed very low to the ground for our entire walk; scared and afraid of any and everything. The long walk became a little too much for him to handle so we stopped at a bench and I sat in the grass beside him, determined to spend as much time loving on him as I could. While petting him I felt the scars across his back and face, felt the scabs that covered his entire body and saw the tears in his ears-- his huge, hilariously out of place ears that rendered him his name-- ears that were undoubtedly an unlucky large target for attacks all of his life. As the petting continued, he started to inch just a little closer to me, relaxing into my hands and arms. I told Kiarash as we left that day, "Oh, this is really bad. This is why I was afraid to volunteer in the first place. I think I fell in love today. We have to do something for Bruce." I continued to talk about Bruce Wayne incessantly all weekend and look at his picture on my iPhone with what could be dubbed compulsion.
Several weeks later, I saw Bruce again and the difference was incredible. He met me at the gate with his tongue out, ears perked up and with eyes still timid, yet bright. It still takes a lot of patience to get him out of the stall, as he will probably always cower at the sight of metal (on the collar and leash tip), but this time our walk was full of wagging tails and happy sprints. He no longer walks close to the ground, but upright and tall. His burgeoning confidence left me happily surprised to find him a much bigger dog than I had initially thought! About half way through our time together, he stopped mid-walk and looked back at me, his eyes direct as always, and I swear he kinda smiled. As I came closer to bend down and give him the biggest hug I could without scaring him, my eyes once again filled with tears. I was so proud of his progress and amazed by his resilience.
(He loved it. I think.)
Bruce Wayne still has a very long way to go, but if he can make this dramatic of change in only a month, I have exceedingly high hopes for his progress.
We decided to foster him a few days ago. As soon as finals are over and we have the proper time to devote to him, I'm bringing this handsome boy home in hopes to render him more adoptable and acclimate him to domestic living, a luxury he has never experienced.
Bruce Wayne may never fully recover. He may never have the "normal" life a dog. He may never learn how to play and he may always be skittish and timid-- but I'll be damned if I don't at least try to show him how to wrestle with a toy, run around a yard and enjoy days of pampered stability. For all his pain, he will at least have me-- for as long as I can, until some lucky person decides to adopt him-- to kiss his face, pet his ridged back, tell him how awesome he is, and smooth down his torn ears.
Brucey, baby, I've already got a collar picked out for you, and it's Tiffany blue.
Several months later....
Bruce Wayne, a dog that for years was thrown daily over a six foot fence and into a pack of violent dogs as aggression bait, is currently sitting on two different blankets, surrounded by about eight pillows and is far more of a prince than pauper.
If Bruce Rosa Wayne (The middle name affectionately dubbed by my godson, Shai, who told me, "Brucey needs a middle name. I think it should be Rosa. That sounds beautiful." Obviously, I agreed.)
can go from this:
in only four months, hopes for his progress are limitless. Never doubt the incredible resilience of abused animals and their capacity for healing and rehabilitation.
Since joining our family, Bruce Wayne has developed a passion for chewing sticks, yawning, making friends with each and every dog he encounters, eating loudly, hogging the bed, being hand fed hotdogs, staring at you until you submit to the power of his almighty, melting gaze and snuggling-- oh god, snuggling-- he lives for it.
Being privileged enough to be a part of a soul's life that has known nothing of human kindness, only pain and fear, nothing of love, only abuse and torture-- and to have that soul want your affection, to trust you enough to feel safe. I can't even describe how grateful that feeling is.
Until I met Bruce Wayne I'd never experienced love at first sight-- and let me tell you, it's all it's cracked up to be.
“The power of a glance has been so much abused in love stories, that it has come to be disbelieved in. Few people dare now to say that two beings have fallen in love because they have looked at each other. Yet it is in this way that love begins, and in this way only.” -Victor Hugo
His death was honestly one of the worst feelings I've ever experienced, short of a family member passing. I love you forever, Bruce.