Oni came into my life in May 2005. She had been born into a situation where she wasn’t given a lot of early attention which is crucial to puppy development. As a result she grew into a fearful almost two-year-old and was actually scheduled to be euthanized and that’s when we met.
Her name comes from Japanese culture and the oni were trolls with unnatural features. They were said to cause disasters and diseases. The oni were also invincible and that is the one true character of this dog.
She is not a good looking dog and has terrible confirmation – the result of poor breeding. She is a whopping 30 lbs, has tall pointy ears, small head, sausage shaped body, malformed back legs which bend oddly at the knees and extra long toes. That’s the outward stuff. Inward she has the heart of a lion and is a maniac in harness and pound for pound she easily out pulls our biggest, strongest dogs.
Oni has always mistrusted people but I had hoped that after time she would at least learn to be ok with me and then with Darrel. Over the years I have worked with many neglected and fearful dogs and have always been able to establish some sort of relationship with them from tolerance to outright “oh-my-gawd-I-love-you!” Not Oni.
I deployed everything in my repertoire. Sitting on her dog house with my back to her. Reading out loud while sitting on said house. Gently reeling her in and petting her. Hours and hours and hours. She even came to live in the house for a while during one particularly cold winter but even that didn’t help to allay her fears. On her chain she’d run to the end and eye me and growl. In the house she’d jump up in fright whenever one of us moved. I resigned myself to her always being that way. I figured her happiness was in running and so I took her out often, even training with the competitive team.
This winter she began to look unwell. it wasn’t anything I could define – just a gut instinct so in the house she came. She is almost 10 now and I figured that maybe age was catching up to her. At first nothing changed. She was skittish and eyed us warily. But then something changed. At first it was with Colonel, our old, cantankerous retired leader. For some reason Oni fell in love and I think Colonel did too because he didn’t try to chew her head off when she snuggled up to him.
And then one evening she sidled up to where I was sitting on the couch and accepted some petting. Just on the head and under the chin mind you. Slowly though I began to be able to rub her shoulders and then down her back. And then, after 10 years, Oni discovered how good it felt to have her butt and hips massaged. It was amazing to feel her ropey muscles unwind and relax.
One day when I came home she ran around in happy circles and galloped up and down the hall. I just stood there with my mouth open. A few days later she darted out the door when I was letting another dog out and I was dismayed. Oni had been loose twice before and it was hellish trying to catch her. One incident took three days and some drugs – for both of us! So I went outside with every expectation of the same scenario and she ran right up to me and then into the house when I called her.
A few days later we took her and a few other dogs for a walk. I would never have imagined a fun off-leash time with Oni! It was pure joy on both our parts.
She has progressed from there to sleeping on the floor on my side of the bed and waking with a “woo woo” when my alarm goes off. She loves some petting time in the morning and is learning how to play with the other dogs. It is amazing to me that she has to learn to play.
One of her latest tricks is to grab my covers and pull them off me if I don’t get up in what she deems an appropriate amount of time after the alarm goes off. Most people would consider this a bad habit. I consider it development.
While I have always respected Oni, I have grown to love this little dog and look forward to being a part of every joyful thing she discovers.