Our new dog Leia was given her name in honor of the famous Star Wars character, Princess Leia, because, like her namesake, she was separated from her brother and later reunited. Henry and Leia, both sibling hounds, were separated from each other when first taken into shelter life from their abusive home four months ago. We adopted Henry after one month, not knowing he had a sister. Upon learning of her, we followed her story, and in December, we adopted her.
Leia came to us with another big four-letter word attached to her identity: Fear. Leia did not adapt well to shelter life, and the more time she spent there without her brother, the more withdrawn and afraid she became. When we first brought her home, she would shake, hide and cower at the sound of a cat sneezing or the wind blowing too strongly against the windows. In fact, on her first day with us, after only three hours, her brand new leash broke and she ran far away into the woods and up a mountain at the end of our road. I pursued her for twenty-nine hours before she finally stepped foot inside our home again.
When Leia first took her fear-flight up the mountain, I felt hopeless. What could I do to convince a dog to come to a home she didn’t even know? Would I ever find her? Would she ever trust me enough? Her brother Henry, a true hero with great patience, grazed in the general area where we tracked Leia. She finally came to him, but she would not approach him if I was near. After sitting on the mountain in the cold for eight hours, Henry and I both gave up for the evening and went to our home, defeated. I left my coat and a bowl of food for Leia on the mountain, hoping she would not run too far from it.
The next morning I drove to the mountain where I had last seen Leia. She was sitting by the food bowl on my coat. I tried to get her to come to me for more food but she kept a cool distance. Frustrated, but calm, I said, “Leia, this isn’t working. We don’t live on this mountain. I have to take your bowl and bring it to our home. I hope you will reconsider joining us there.” As I drove away, Leia started to follow my car. She followed me all the way into my driveway.
That day, in the yard, Leia played with her brother Henry, who enticed her to stay near our home, and although she remained suspicious of me, she slowly allowed me to approach her and give her cold cuts. After several more hours, I convinced her to come into the kitchen for more tasty treats where he brother awaited, softly whining and pleading for her to take the big step inside.
Leia overrode her fear response. Henry remained a hero. My hopelessness became hope and I was overcome with love. Fear could not win that day. Leia realized her own Jedi potential and trusted love to lead her through the doorway. No bully or abusive past could win the argument that Leia should stay in captive fear. Big steps by a little pup made me realize I had a tail to wag, too, and I could move forward with my own plans without being stifled by broken leashes or dreams.