My beloved little Eleanor (aka “Sweet Girl”) passed away on Monday, May 16, 2016.

While holding Eleanor and waiting for the vet to come in for that final shot to put her to sleep, I was thinking about the first time I held her. When I met Eleanor, she broke my heart. For those who aren’t familiar with Eleanor’s story, she was a puppy mill breeding dog who was rescued from an Amish puppy mill in Lancaster County Pennsylvania that was shut down by the state. The experienced foster mom was having a hard time handling her because she was so terrified of everything and would go into a manic frenzy and madly run whenever a human being got near her.

I watched her frantically run and jumped and do all kinds of acrobatics to avoid the foster mom and her grown daughters when they tried to catch her to introduce her to me. With no luck getting her, we agreed to keep our distance and let her settle down.  After a little while, I quietly approached her. She was still frightened and cowering in a corner, but she reluctantly let me pick her up. I walked over to the nearest chair and sat with her in my lap, stroked her and gently talked to her. This little 20-lb. dog was shaking so badly that I felt the chair underneath me shake.

A couple of the members of the rescue group that saved her later told me that the children in the family entertained themselves by torturing the dogs. No wonder she was scared senseless. Apparently some members of the rescue thought it would be kindest to put her to sleep because she was much more fearful than normal that they felt she may be un-adoptable. Fortunately, they decided to give her a go at adoption anyhow. A few days after meeting Eleanor, the rescue called to say that they wanted me have Eleanor, because I was the only person she ever let hold her.

I literally spent years working with Eleanor, to help her heal and to become as normal a dog as she was capable of being. Though still timid, in her last few years she acted more and more like a normal dog. She even began to stand up, lean on my leg and then paw at me to give her food when I was eating. If that isn’t a normal dog behavior, what is!? Since she was such a damaged creature when I got her, I documented her progress with video and you can see them all at https://www.youtube.com/user/cgjefle/videos

Eleanor, though you barked only a few times over the 8 years you were with me, your bravery, trust and heart spoke volumes. Your physical absence is greatly felt, though I know you’re still around me. Your aches and pains are now gone, along with all that fear – now that you are back in Spirit, you’re free to be the dog you were always meant to be! I will love you always and look forward to massaging your back again, when I join you on the other side!