I had a lot of plans with Éva.
When Allison decided to get a dachshund for her parents from the Atlanta Humane Society, I remember thinking what a good oppurtunity it was to have a ‘temporary dog’. Her and I could learn and decide if we could handle one fulltime by keeping “Dusk” (renamed Éva) for a month before handing her off to Allison’s parents.
After admitting to the Atlanta Humane Society that we planned to give the dog away, we were denied. In the parking lot as we were leaving, Allison came to tears, and we decided to lie; Let’s claim to keep the dog, but still give her away. I recall becoming stressed about the commitment.
In the next two weeks, I worked hard to train her to be as normal as possible, because I knew Allison’s parents may struggle with such a fearful, unsocialized, adult dog. I encouraged her with praise and offered treats, usually without success. Walking down a flight of stairs took 15 minutes. In a good session, we walked a half a block without her sitting, looking depressed, and refusing to move.
At our first hike in a park, she took 5 minutes to step off a bridge; the height (less than 6″) was too much for her. Not being used to a leash, I held it loosely with one finger and tried to encourage her to walk with me – she only walked if I wasn’t looking back at her. Suddenly, she took off back towards the car. I sprinted, dove and scraped my knees, but caught her leash just before she entered the road. She turned and barked; It was the first time I heard her fearful voice.
Not two weeks went by before Éva’s attachment to me, and my attachment to her, became strong enough to lose sleep about whether I could keep her or not. She began to let me pet her. She walked on a leash with me. She was learning to sit, heel, and jump on a couch when commanded, and she actually wagged her tail when asked if she wanted to go for a ride. I realized that giving her up to Allison’s parents was going to be hard.
We found another dachshund at the shelter, Scarf (Eva), but we worried about being denied again for several reasons. Why do you want a second dog, when just two weeks ago you weren’t sure about one? We have to introduce Éva to the new dog per the shelter’s policy and Éva had lunged at another dog in a park: what if she doesn’t get along with Scarf? I didn’t sleep. I worried. If denied, Éva would go to Allison’s parents.
The first time I saw Éva express excitement was when we met Scarf. We were going to get to keep her. Over the next months, I continued to train Éva hard and brought her everywhere I could. Daily, I took her to a nearby retention pond and read while she sniffed on her own. I trained her to run with me and she seemed to enjoy it. Allison and I began to dream up plans.
Can Éva be in our wedding? Do you know, if/when we have kids, Éva will be around? Do you think she’ll get jealous? It’s going to be fun when we have a yard and get out of this apartment; Éva can have her own territory and dig all she wants.
I couldn’t wait to take her camping, but even in Georgia, it was too cold. I went a week before the campsites officially opened; It was warm, and Allison was away. Just Éva and I, walking through the blossoming forests, preparing coffee with water from a mountain stream, and relaxing in a tent, listening to rushing water and forest birds.
We found that Éva liked sand. She began sprinting and acting as a happy dog when we encountered it along a stream. I couldn’t wait to take her to a beach.
I took her to local parks. John A. White, Cascade Springs, and Stillwater Creek State Parks. We frequented some nearby cemetaries; places where she could run, sniff, and explore, unleashed.
Atlanta grew on me as I explored it with Éva. We took her downtown to some parades, including the St. Patrick’s Day parade. After the parade, we walked to the Georgia Aquarium, drank a beer, and sat in the already-hot Atlantan sun. Éva dug a hole under a small bush, curled into it, and slept, waiting for Allison and I to finish and move on. We took her on the train, on a plane to visit family over Christmas, and everywhere within walking distance. We sat and read at Piedmont Park, and I used Éva as a pillow while she growled at passers-by.
I remember taking her to a restaurant and, after she jumped off a grated, metal chair, seeing her lay sadly under my feet with drops of blood around her hind legs. She had ripped a toenail out and sat, calmly begging for comfort.
Éva cheered for Allison and I in the CrossFit gym. I tied her up and she yelped, partly in fear that we were leaving her as we ran out the door for a 200-400 m run. We brought her to the Garage Games and she was hit by a stray dodgeball.
I grew accustomed to her idiosyncratic behaviors. Jumping in the bed the second the alarm goes off. Fearfully barking and pacing when the wind blew the apartment door open, then jumping into my lap at my desk. Constantly stretching in the down-ward dog position. Shying away when I attempted to pet her ears and coercing me to rub her belly and chest. Shaking in excitement and running in circles when I return home from the gym, school, or simply taking out the trash. Barking at anyone else who enters the apartment, including Allison. Avoiding stepping on a grate on the side walk at all costs. Bending in submission if I chase her around. Sprinting with me to reach the apartment building’s door after our morning walk. Pacing and whining outside of a bathroom, or inside of a hotel room, as soon as I left her sight. Pushing her back up against mine in a bed, eventually to leave me helplessly pinned between her and Allison. Begging to join me on the couch, then digging as fast and as hard as she can to unsuccessfully make a comfortable bed for herself on it.
I loved rubbing her belly and playing with her soft ears, especially her ‘retard’ ear; a deformity, either congenital or early-life injury, of her right pinna. I loved calling her out of bed in the morning to walk outside. I loved exploring forests with her – off leash and off trail.
I loved looking down from my desk to see her sleeping as I wrote and worked. I loved taking a brief break to pet her and relieve stress from a writing block. I remember taking her to the park, standing across a stream and waiting for her to get strong enough to cross on her own, then developing the will to walk through wetlands just to explore. I remember her support when Allison was away on a conference, and I remember the first night, sometime in January, I wasn’t with her since her adoption.
I began photographing again with Éva’s help. I hadn’t done much since leaving Ohio and ending my dissertation field work, but I found documenting her and my exploration of Atlanta/Georgia through photography enjoyable. Her growth from a fearful, shaking, and depressed rescue, to a dog willing to follow me anywhere was inspirational.
She gave me an excuse and motivation to go outdoors – every day. We walked slowly and I consciously attempted to become aware of our surroundings, whether it was to enjoy the diversity of trees in the South or to look for nearby dogs that would required me to divert Éva’s attention. We woke up early and surveyed the block, watching the Spring quickly fill the oaks with flowers then leaves, and carving a path up a nearby hill.
These are the things that will make me miss Éva. Her acceptance, trust, and loyalty for Allison and I are unforgettable. All of the places we went together will remind me of these things, and will remind me that, while all too brief, her last 6 months where opening and happy, especially considering her first two years. I appreciate the brief time Éva was with us, and I hope to be able to smile when I recall my memories of her and desires of spending further time with her.
3 thoughts on “To Éva”
I’m jealous and proud of you at the same time. I’m very jealous because you have so much compassion and patience for Eva, when I feel like I don’t for my own. I love her, but it makes me feel like I should emulate your adoration for your dog, to make me a better person. You will make a great dad when you decide to have children. Love you lots, Reen
I don’t think I had the patience when we first got her. I remember aggressively grabbing and yelling at her when she growled at Allison one night, and attempting to dissuade her from jumping on the couch by shaking a can of pennies; she was so frightened by the sound that she peed all over the couch and floor.
While I knew, as a biologist, that any ‘bad’ behavior was unintentional and based on confusion of my will, it took me seeing how fearful she was to really begin understanding it. I think that really help build my patience… I hope I can apply it to children as well…
Ah man, this is very touching, and very sad.