He entered the world, and they took his tail. He then spent his life protecting the wound.
He was tense, wound tight like a spring, worried, anxious. He shouted loud at anyone who came too close, not quite so loud if he loved them, but still.
The physical wound healed for him, but not the mental one.
The mental damage stayed.
Early trauma is still trauma, and it doesn’t get any less when the traumatised one can’t fight or defend themselves. He had landed in the world an innocent, a precious whole, a life as vulnerable as life could be, and they cut off his tail.
Nobody has been able to ask a dog what it feels like to have their tail cut off. We couldn’t ask him in words how it felt, and he couldn’t tell us. And like all crimes against the voiceless, humans made an ‘educated’ guess and did it anyway.
When we met, he was still such a baby. A curved spine tucked in the hind and a swollen face. He was coughing, spluttering, barking, infectious and messy. His legs were thick, and his paws huge.
His face back then was chocolatey brown.
In his younger years, he would race when his lead came off. His little body would shoot like it had been released from a cannon. Straight ahead, then about turn and straight back. The first time he was let off the lead, we thought he was never coming back, stopping or slowing down.
He threatened to break the sound barrier that day as he shot along at the speed of light. Then we got used to it. He always came back.
Over the years, he created memories for everyone around him.
That time, he chased sheep on a snowy hillside. That time, he bit the postman’s shorts. The time he escaped and threatened the policeman’s wife. The day a visitor returned with a companion and pointed to him, saying, ‘That one bites’.
Then, there was the day we found him sitting on the little boy’s lap. The child who was scared of dogs and the dog who was scared of kids. Together, seemingly random, an intuitive connection. A hearty sight.
He likes to be around a group of dogs but is awkward. He’s sometimes growling, sometimes humping. But still, he gravitates towards a group of dogs as often as he can. He loves groups of people too, but only when they're his group.
He’s had years, beaches, holidays, runs and games. He’s always been ready to race, to jump into the sea, to swim in the lakes and threaten passing strangers, just in case.
He’s barked a million times this week. He barks at the wind; even if the wind simply threatens to blow, he barks just in case. His bark is big, huge, and it’s everywhere. Yet while he’s been scared of sounds for most of his life, he couldn’t hear himself, even before he went deaf. Everyone else can hear him though, long after he stops.
The years have gone by, and he’s an old man now. The chocolate face has gone, and he is covered in white. He’s deaf, and he’s stiff. He snores like he never has before. His spine is taut, and his body is tense. He sleeps most of the day away, and sometimes, I see him standing staring at the wall or the floor.
He’s needed anxiety help all his life, but that’s OK.
They did, after all, take his tail.
Thanks for reading my blog, if you're a dog professional. You can get one of my books for free over at The National Institute for Canine Ethics.
If you're a dog guardian you can get one of my free courses over at Canine Principles.
Or feel free to grab all of them from both spaces (that's what I would do - no messing) See you next time xx