INTRODUCING SHEBA

Sheba is our fourth rescue dog in thirty years. When we lost Misty in the Fall of 2019, my husband and I had an unspoken agreement, or assumption, that we would be adopting another rescue dog. There were certainly some concerns, we are not young (sigh!), we are retired, well, partially retired in my case, and I was pretty sure that a puppy was out of the question. We agreed that we were going to look for a senior dog.

We also were going to wait until the first of the year, because we already had planned to go away for a week after Christmas and did not want to bring a new dog into the house, only to have to kennel it before it had been here long enough to get adjusted. And, although many people consider “Christmas” a pastor’s busy time of year, it is actually the entire four week season of Advent and leading up to Christmas Eve that constitutes that “Busy time of year.” I knew that I was going to need to focus.

In the interim, we looked online, especially to check the dogs listed at our local animal rescue center, looking at older dogs. Finally, one January day, we showed up in person, looked through the book of the dogs they had in residence and asked to see Sheba.

Picture of a tall, lean, black and tan dog.
Sheba, checking out the driveway.

If you have been following my blog, your first thought might be, “That is not a beagle!” True. Sheba is a long, lean, black and tan dog of mixed parentage. She weights about 45 pounds, and when she thunders down the stairs in the morning, you would swear it was a horse! Why, when I love beagles so much, did I not get a beagle? My answer, might only make sense to animal lovers. I know that in theory, animals do not have personalities. Wait! If you are an animal lover of any kind you are amazed at the ability of your pet to express any range of emotions: joy, happiness, anger, fear, annoyance, betrayal, stubbornness, to name only a few traits. Scientists, psychologists and any number of specialists can have, well, scientific explanations. Here is mine. I did not want to adopt a dog who might look like Misty, or Sammy, as much as I love beagles and it seemed like the best way to allow our newest family member to assert it’s own “personality” and not be mistaken for Misty or treated like a “Misty II” was to adopt a dog that was totally different, not only in temperament, but also in looks.

There is no mistaking Sheba for Misty. Sheba is younger than we were thinking. Not a puppy, but not a senior either. She was four-and-a-half when we adopted her, she will be six in June. Her story, is not one I have ever put in print, although we have shared it with people verbally. Sheba was one of sixteen dogs surrendered/rescued from an animal hoarding situation. It may have started out well meaning, but all sixteen dogs were kept in crates, stacked up on each other, maybe 2 or 3 crates high and I suspect she was surrounded. Sheba, as big as she is was, was probably in a crate that was on the bottom. It may or may not have been a “puppy mill” but she had recently had puppies within a month of her surrender, but there were no puppies when the dogs were handed over. That is really all that we know about her background.

She had been at the shelter for about 2 weeks, when we arrived to visit. When they brought her into the office to meet us, it was clear that she had made friends with some of the female workers, but Sheba did something I have never seen a dog do. As she came into the office, and saw that there were strangers there (us), she lifted up each paw and held it in the air before putting it down and lifting up the next one, and she shook. Well, she wasn’t a senior dog, but she was definitely a dog that needed us. I could have held out for another dog, but I couldn’t. She was so timid and scared. When we brought her home the next day, my husband wisely suggested that one of us sit in the back seat with her and the other one drive, instead of leaving her back there on her own, cowering, As it turned out, perhaps I should have been the driver. But I was the “back seat with the dog person.” I petted her and talked to her all the way home.

That was fourteen months ago. She has truly come a long way in fourteen months, but we often wonder if she has come as far as she is going to come. Here is a rare picture of Sheba:

picture of a black and an dog getting a bath at a groomer's
Sheba at the dog groomers

What makes this picture of Sheba so rare? It is the only time she let the groomer pick her up and put her in the sink! The next time we went, she took 5 treats out of his hand, but then hid under my chair when he tried to pick her up. Sheba is afraid of ________, fill in the blanks. She is afraid of men, small dogs, children, strangers, men, sudden noises, men, the football players from the nearby school who walk by on the way to the football field. She is afraid of everyone but me. There is a meme/prayer on Facebook that says, “Lord, help me to be the person my dog thinks I am.” My husband says, that would be impossible, because Sheba seems to think I am perfect. Fortunately, we both know I am not. He is as good to her as can be, and she will take treats from him, allow him to pet her (sometimes), beg him to pet her when I am not giving her enough attention, or if I am not here, or if I have stopped petting her in order to try to accomplish something. But sad to say, when he walks in the room, she runs in the opposite direction. I am far from an expert, yet everything about her affect and behavior seems to shout trauma.

It would not be accurate to say that she is an affectionate dog, but more accurate to say that she soaks up affection, loves to be petted and fussed over. She is funny, needy, stubborn, challenging on many levels, and I cannot imagine life without her. One other thing for now, that you might notice in the top picture. She is a black and tan dog, living in a brown, tan and gold world. Every room in our house is paneled and every room has different paneling: all shades of brown. The carpeting in the living room and in the bedrooms is brown and dark gold. We foolishly (I) picked out a dog bed that is dark brown. It can be difficult to tell her apart from the dog bed, the floors and her indoor surroundings. She blends in.

Picture of a black and tan dog partially hiding under a desk
Sheba half under my desk.

I wish that we knew more about her life, some days I wish any pet could talk and then there are days I am glad she can’t. We just keep offering her love and care and a good home and do our best to be up to the challenges. There is so much more to tell, but that is it for an introduction.

Not holding back the tide.

Michele

Published by msomerville2014

About: Michele Somerville is a wife, mother, stepmother, grandmother, sister, aunt, cousin and friend. She lives with her husband and their dog Sheba. Sheba is their fourth rescue dog in 30 years. She is a retired ordained United Methodist Elder and serves two churches part-time in North Central Pennsylvania. She obtained her Bachelors’ Degree in 1999 from Mansfield University and her Master of Divinity in 2004 and Doctor of Ministry in 2016, both from Colgate Rochester Crozer Divinity School in Rochester, New York. My Doctor of Ministry Thesis was:” Prophetic Words of Grace: Biblical Storytelling in the Local Church.” Michele began writing and performing character monologues for worship in 2008. She began by asking the question about nameless characters in the Bible, “What would they say if they could speak for themselves?” and then using her theological education and experience of the human condition to attempt an answer that is both academic and creative. Much of what you will read here are memories from growing up in a tourist town, in a bar, in the 1960’s, shaggy dog stories about our rescue dogs, life in a small town, and stories of faith and hope. Throughout her life she has lived in many states, including small towns, large towns and cities. She lived in Rota, Spain, for nine challenging months. Despite all the places she have lived since moving away from home in 1970,Michele is at the heart of all things Jack and Maggie’s daughter, and a beach girl from Onset, Massachusetts.

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