“Have a dog, do not want another dog!!!” was set in my mind and firmly set in my husband’s when I began volunteering at the Sanctuary late in 2011. I started at the bottom as a poop scooper but worked my way up to take our assigned therapy dog, Abel (a lab-chow mix) to a nursing home. Abel was 3 and had lived with a family until about a year and a half when his owner’s illness forced Abel and his brother Cain to become residents at the Sanctuary. They had been there for about a year and a half when I met them.

Because I volunteered on Wednesdays and Abel went to the nursing home early afternoon on that day, I was allowed to bring him home after my shift to clean him up. Abel was a good dog who knew some common commands, but he was very skittish and unsure of himself. Our other dog, Kai, an 80-pound lab, was 8 that winter of 2011. They were curious about each other but not too interested and showed no animosity. Abel just hung by me, or I should say “clung” to me. Being around my husband was a different story. Abel would totally avoid him and sometimes growl, but their paths did not cross much because my husband was usually gone on that day.

Each time I took Abel back to the Sanctuary, it became harder and harder to leave him there. When I would arrive after we had connected, he would whine and stare at me when I was within his sight. It became a suggestion to my husband that we keep Abel and the answer would remain no. Finally I just pleaded , and the poor guy broke down, so in mid-March Abel became part of the Wright family. We had 30 days to decide if this was to be a permanent arrangement.

The beginning was very rocky. Abel, I am sure, had been house trained at some point but was unsure of what inside was any longer. He lifted his leg on an inside column but only one time and then realized it was unacceptable. Now he was with us 24/7 so things heated up
between Abel and my husband. Abel growled at him A LOT. When I would leave, Abel would have anxiety attacks, wailing and crying the entire time I was gone. When we were both gone, he started chewing up his bed or Kai’s if it was more handy. This was more than love; it was infatuation and not acceptable. Our back fence is only 4 feet tall and Abel, although overweight, was still very agile and several times jumped up on the fence. But he would look back at us and decide perhaps he was ok and should stay put. So of his own will, he would jump back into the yard.

I walked him and Kai almost every day about 2 miles in the desert. The first couple of weeks, Abel was on leash while Kai ran free. I finally decided it was time for freedom of choice; I let him off leash during a walk. It was very interesting; he began to walk away from us but kept looking over his shoulder. I did not chase, just kept walking with Kai. Abel soon joined us, and that part of the deal was established but… Abel still had not accepted my husband, Jim.

It was day 27 when Jim and I decided Abel could not stay because he would not accept Jim in his life. That very day, Abel totally changed. He decided Jim was ok with him, and then the Wright family had a new member. Abel was still a little problematic – growling at male visitors, still chewing, very low self-esteem, remaining skittish and uncertain at times. But we decided to work through it because he was worth it.

Since Abel had lived a very chaotic life for three years, I decided when he was part of our family for three years that he would be pretty much what he was going to be. Now he has been with us for almost three years. Abel and I have hiked with a group that included over a dozen hikers and 6 other dogs all off leash. This was not our first hike with others and will not be our last. He is now my designated hiking buddy. He and Kai are BBF. Jim has cheese and crackers for lunch most days, and he hates to eat alone. His four-legged friends know the drill; Jim shares. Abel understands most commands and some things that I wonder how he knows. He is one of my very best friends, and we are in love. He is officially a Wright.