Story submitted by NE Ohio Greyhound Rescue/Sanctuary
Ranger came to our Sanctuary right before Thanksgiving of 2020. Our vet diagnosed him with high ringbone and started him on pain medications. His neck and shoulders were very sensitive to touch, and he was reluctant to let us anywhere near his head. The human in us wanted to hug him and stroke his big, beautiful face, but we knew that wouldn’t be well received. So, we held back and tried to avoid his sensitive spots. Once, after many weeks, we thought that we could try to gently touch him, but we startled him and he bit one of his human caretakers, hard. He was only reacting out of fear, and we knew that we pushed him too fast.
Thankfully, Ranger loves to eat and so we started to approach him with a bouquet of hay in our hands. He’d accept our peace offering and let us gently lead him around grabbing a mouthful of hay as he walked. He still didn’t like us anywhere near his front end, but he allowed us to touch his backside. When he was confident enough, we could cross tie him with a basket of hay accessible. He’d eat and we would just sit back and watch.
One day, as he was munching cross-tied, we asked him if we could brush him. We started with just a few strokes and then stopped and thanked him. Any time we needed him to do something, we asked for his permission and thanked him when we finished. He was coming around and his eyes were softening. We were learning to control our human impulses, too.
One day, we received a donated package of Nickerdoodles and put his medication inside a small piece. Approaching him with the treat in an outstretched hand, Ranger gently took the treat. He loved it! His eyes became very soft, and we let him continue to lick the crumbs from the outstretched hand. His warm tongue felt wonderful and it was a magical moment.
Things are progressing well. We still ask his permission for new things and always thank him. He now asks for his treats and his hot lunch. We’re learning to trust each other. And, we humans are learning to see the world as a special needs horse does.