Here is a short extract from our new book – the heart-warming true story of how one-eyed Charlie went from traumatised feral dog to joyful family member.
My ears are ringing. Charlie, our one-eyed Romanian feral dog, has heard something in the distance – perhaps another dog barking, a car engine revving, or the red-tailed hawks calling as they fly high above us. He throws back his head to fully expose his throat, purses his lips into an ‘O’ shape and emits a lengthy, high decibel howl. Charlie is announcing to the world that he is here ... and that he wishes to have his presence acknowledged.
Charlie’s howls are, fortunately, a source of deep fascination for my friends in the small village where we live. However, they’re loud, and they carry across great distances. It’s hard to ignore them, and they can be a strain on the eardrums if they continue for long. So, in the interests of maintaining harmonious neighbourly relations, I call Charlie indoors and reward him with praise and a liver treat for coming to me. He sits and offers me a paw in a gesture of trust and friendship, and I take it in my hand and hold it gently as I thank him.
Less than eighteen months previously, this feisty strength of character would have been hard to imagine, yet it was the reason for Charlie’s survival in the wild during the first years of his life. When he first came to live with us he was in a state of paralysed shock and terror. He was totally unsocialized, and had never experienced a close relationship with a human, or been inside a home. In many ways, Charlie seemed more like a wolf than a dog, and he has travelled great distances through geographical location and newly-learned behavioural responses in the comparative blink of his single eye. I have learned a great deal from every dog I have lived and worked with – especially from Skye, my wise Deerhound/Greyhound/Saluki mix Lurcher, who has mentored all of my fostered and adopted dogs over the past seven years – but Charlie has been, without doubt, my greatest teacher.
The lessons that Charlie and I have absorbed from each other have relevance for each of us. We all experience the intense emotions that Charlie so eloquently expresses. We all have to find our way through the painful, thorny patches that occasionally block our way, and at times we all experience an urge to throw back our heads and sing out to make our presence known. This book tells the story of life with Charlie during his first eighteen months with us, but it is not the whole story because the events of his wild past can only be guessed at. Instead, what follows are chapters in the life of a dog whose world was turned upside down, and then gradually turned around again to find a different level.
The boys dance with glee when I lift their harnesses and leashes from the peg in the hall, and stand quietly while I slip them over their heads and buckle them. Once out, they walk side by side, stopping to sniff around when some scent catches their attention. Charlie deliberately slows his pace so that Skye can keep up with him comfortably, and I’m touched that he’s so considerate of his friend. We greet people as we pass them, and one of my neighbours, who Charlie has never met, stops for a chat. To our surprise and delight Charlie walks straight over to her, sits to offer both front paws, and invites her to stroke him.
I fell in love with Charlie the moment Gina carried him, trembling and paralysed with terror, into our home on that cold February evening in 2013. His fear and confusion brought out the protective instinct in me; the desire to help heal the psychological wounds, as has happened with all of the traumatised dogs I’ve worked with over the years. Love and nurturing, combined with helping Charlie to feel safe, allowed the first step to healing, and Charlie’s behaviour leaves me in no doubt that he loves me too.
Charlie – The dog who came in from the wild by Lisa Tenzin-Dolma, with a foreword by Marc Bekoff.
The true story of a bond that developed between author Lisa Tenzin-Dolma, and Charlie – a traumatised, one-eyed, Romanian dog who lived the first 18 months of his life in the wild, never socialising with humans.
Charting Charlie’s progress and setbacks, it explains how Lisa worked with Charlie to help him overcome his extreme fearfulness. Click here for more information about the book.