Love Your Pet Month: Milli’s transformation

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This is a Love Your Pet Month blog written by 22News Digital Reporter Monica Ricci about her experience adopting a rescue dog, Milli, who had never had a home or human interaction before being rescued.

(WWLP) – Rescue organizations give abandoned, abused, and homeless animals a second chance at life. Some rescue animals like Milli, however, need a lot more than just a second chance.

I began searching for a new dog to help keep my other dog company in fall of 2016. After searching various rescue websites I stumbled upon a sweet girl named Kinky. Her brindle coat matched the coat of our current dog Finn, so it felt like a perfect match.

When we inquired about Kinky, we were told she was shy and needed another dog in the home to feel comfortable. We now know ‘shy’ meant ‘terrified.’ Once everything was set in stone, Milli (as we now call her) was on her way to Connecticut from Houston, Texas. For a scared dog like Milli, that four-day trip in a tractor trailer with dozens of other dogs was rough. Halfway through the trip we received an update from the transport group indicating that she was marked as ‘a nervous passenger.’

On a Saturday morning in November 2016, we joined dozens of other people in an empty parking lot in Connecticut awaiting the tractor trailer and our new family members. We all made signs (airport style) welcoming our dogs home. Once our names were called, we walked up to the truck to meet Milli for the first time. The man whispered to us, “You’re going to want to walk away immediately because she is not going to like this at at all.”

It turns out he was right. After spending four days in the back of a tractor trailer with dozens of other dogs, Milli was overwhelmed at the crowd of people. We were told she runs away when scared so we made sure to hold on to her tight. After a minor biting and bathroom incident, she was in the car for the trip home and somehow made it under the driver’s seat.

We learned that Milli had never been inside a home and that she had little to no human interaction in the first few years of her life. It was very obvious. She was scared and wildly confused as to why these people (us) wanted to be around her. The next few months were horrible. We couldn’t touch her or do anything to comfort her. There were so many times I wanted to give up.

Milli didn’t know how to live without being in fear. She didn’t know how to walk on a leash, and she was terrified of the wind, shadows, and any noise at all. She also didn’t know how to walk on wood floors without slipping, and she definitely didn’t know how to use the stairs. For the first week home, Milli chose a corner of the house by the door to stay. I catered to her there to help her feel as comfortable as possible.

Milli’s tail remained tucked for the first 6-8 months after rescue. Slowly but surely Milli would reach little milestones. For months, she wouldn’t let anyone get close enough to pet her. If you were lucky you could pet her as she paced by you. Even making eye contact with her was threatening and disliked.

We had to have a fence put in for her in our backyard because she hated the leash and walks. Plus, it was wintertime so conditions weren’t ideal for teaching her how to walk. A lot of the things she did learn were from her dog brother Finn. The first one was learning how to bark. Her bark was so raspy and awkward at first. She was probably too shy to ever raise her voice before that. For the first year, Finn tried so hard to get her to play with him. She didn’t know how! I would catch their weird interactions on video all the time. It took a whole year for her to actually start playing with Finn.

Now almost three years later, Milli has gained so much confidence in herself. She remains distant, but barks, plays, runs, wags her tail, and smiles more often than not. She also learned how to be mischievous! Her favorite thing to do is steal items (sheets, pants) and take them outside into the yard. She also enjoys opening the bin of birdseed on the deck and munching on some corn. Milli might also be the best guard dog around. There is not a squirrel, human, or car that goes by the house without her noticing and making sure they know they’ve been spotted.

I have accepted that Milli will never be a ‘normal dog.’ She still has her bad days when she wants to hide under the bed, but she knows she is safe and loved. If you’re considering rescuing an animal, be ready for anything and be ready to make the commitment. Milli has come a long, long way with a lot of love and patience.

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