Mishka - From Lonely To Loved
What makes a woman with 3 big dogs decide that she needs another one? I have no idea, but when my husband and I began reading about borzoi we knew we needed to add one to our family of 2 greyhounds and a Great Pyrenees. We talked to breeders at dog shows and did a lot of research for a long time and (unbelievable to me now!) I was originally put off by something I read that said borzoi have a tendency to bite owners in the face. For years this had kept me from owning a breed to which I had always been attracted. I can't believe how stupid that sounds now after owning these beautiful, gentle dogs. When I mentioned this to dog show people they gave me the same look I am sure your face has reading this! From talking with these people we also decided we couldn't make arrangements for a puppy at this time and decided to look for a rescue dog. I was directed to Carol Bakers who started it all for me. On the NBRF website I was stunned by one of the Texas 22 who resembled my aged and beloved greyhound and who also looked so pitiful that I had to ask if he was available. It seems that he wasn't, but that changed because his first home didn't work out. I took a huge leap of faith and had him flown from Texas to Pennsylvania to my home. I never once worried that he wouldn't get along with my dogs or that we wouldn't like him. Billie Thibeaux, told me he was small, a little pixie dog I think she said, and I didn't care, I just wanted him. Although I do love big dogs and I feared he would be the size of a whippet.
My Mishka arrived and was a physical wreck- shaky and caked with feces and urine from a horrible day of flying and too long in a crate. He was so upset. I took him home and he hid in a corner. For several days he would sort of 'appear' at the water dish and fly into his corner again, terrified of everything. He didn't want to be near any of us- people or dogs. I tried to walk him and he went straight up in the air on the leash, crossed in front of me, made me fall on my face in the street more than once. It wasn't pretty. I sat next to him on his bed by the hour, reading or talking softly to him while looking the other way. In a couple of weeks he came around and one day he came to me while I was cooking. What a breakthrough! Our walks even started to improve. I never gave up. We took baby steps but we took those steps every day. I took him in the car and his nose ran like a faucet until the car seats and my back and head were soaked, but still I took him every day. My method was to ignore what I didn't like and pretend I didn't see it. I just acted like it wasn't happening and praised what I did like. We took family vacations in our motorhome and brought him along. We walked and met strangers and brought him out like it was the most natural thing in the world. He refused food if you looked at him or moved while he was eating so we ignored him. We never stopped 'pretending' like he was 'normal' and I never stopped expecting he would be. I couldn't train him with food because he wouldn’t take it, but I could train with praise, even though I wasn't sure he was enjoying it. One day as I was about to get up from his bed he used his long leg to pull me back. Another breakthough! Now I knew it would all be okay.
Today nothing about him resembles the dog that first arrived. He has gained weight; his coat has filled out. He is confident and happy and knows so many obedience commands as well as how to maneuver me to get what he wants. Mishka is also a Therapy Dog and a Hospice Volunteer. He is loved by everyone he visits and he makes the people he sees forget about their pain and concentrate on his soft brown eyes and the way he snuggles against them. He has a Canine Good Citizen Certificate also and when we walk he knows right turns from left turns and delights in being given the “take us home” command from anyplace on our walks and he always leads us home. He is smart and capable and has come so far it is amazing. When Mishka wants attention and I am on the laptop he will come over and flip the lid down so I have to pay attention to him. He enjoys children, car rides (no longer dripping), walks perfectly on a leash, and likes all other dogs. He is a perfect member of our household which has also added another borzoi.
Mishka isn’t the only one who has learned so much. I think there is a life lesson here. We can't ever think that who we were is who we will always be. We can't give up on anyone and love is a powerful force for change. No one is hopeless if we persevere and believe. You can do what you see in your heart, and that goes for me and for Mishka.