The Taming of the Roo
But if you tame me, then we shall need each other. To me, you will be unique in all the world. To you, I shall be unique in all the world…” Antoine de Saint-Exupéry
Roo showed up at our doorstep like most of the strays in our neighborhood; starving as evident in her emaciated frame, flee-infested, skittish, and just doing enough to get by day-by-day. There was something different about her, but I failed to notice it from my first encounters... We already had a former-street dog named Isla (who was rescued as a puppy from an abandoned lot) and other neighborhood dogs would show up at the house enticed by the smell of her dog food. We were protective and worried about Isla being attacked by other dogs because of their territorial nature. I would shoo Roo and other dogs away from our house with a broom, but never touching a hair on their body. Roo would move a bit when I came close with the broom, but as soon as I walked back to the house she would be waiting by the gate and I eventually gave up trying to shoo her away. You can’t shoo a Roo- at least I couldn’t anymore.
Roo became a fixture on our lawn and we would refer to her as “Girl” because we didn’t have a name for her yet, but somehow we knew she had a name, if not only the one we would give to her. Roo waited patiently and consistently on our steps; her stubby legs going from side to side and her little nub of a tail wagging upon our return, arms full of groceries - more than we probably needed. She would jump up and down once she reached us begging to be petted and loved. We would give her a little pet, as you could see the fleas crawling all over her patched, lackluster fur coat. We felt sorry for her, but what could we do? We talked about giving her a name and Kiersten wanted me to come up with it, as she knew there was a special bond between us. I thought the dog looked a lot like a Kangaroo and she was always jumping up, so I went with Kangaroo. We mainly call her Roo or Rhubarb, but she has a litany of names depending on the day. We began to feed her rice (a staple for dogs in St. Vincent) and would let her play with Isla in the yard.
Roo’s biological clock rang and she was soon in heat. The local male dogs, or bulls, in the neighborhood were pursuing her night and day it seemed, and after not being able to take the whining and cries of help any longer from the constant attacks, Kiersten and I let her rest overnight and recover during the day, hoping she felt more comfortable. Tired and bleeding, Roo became a fixture on our porch, and now I was shooing the male dogs away with the same broom that used to meet her. She acted in many ways like she was once cared for, that she once had a family, but most likely abused and later dumped, as so many dogs are. They grow out of cute “puppy-ness”, or become sick or unattractive and are unfortunately easily disposable by those who lack empathy, compassion, and kindness. She was jumpy and shy, and traces of this troubled past follow her today. You could sense she was always on egg shells waiting to be hurt or chased away.
Roo started to wander in the house and try sit on the floor. We were worried about her being in the house with her flea infestation, so we soon embarked on trying to wash and de-flea her in the back wash basin/sink area. Roo did not like water at all, so I used a flea comb with anti-flea bath soap. I tried a few times to comb her, but she would not have it! She’d run away and only return when it was time to eat. I finally put her on the gated porch and began to comb her. We did this process multiple times filling up water bottles with floating dead fleas. As I was combing Roo, I thought to myself that this must be an act of true love. If somebody truly and unconditionally loved me, they would spend hours picking fleas off my body (I would never really have this problem, but it is a good metaphor). During this time, our bond deepened and she was no longer a random stray mutt, but a fellow being that needed love and care. What if we began to see all in this light? I soon took on the job of domesticating Roo by giving her baths, taking her for walks and trying to teach her how to play catch (she is still working on giving up the ball).
Roo spends her days now in the house chewing on bones, playing with Isla and Wolf, and dreaming of butterflies. She has moved up from plain rice to three meals a day with chow, boiled chicken, boiled eggs, rice and LOADS of yummy treats from America and home-made by Kiersten. She received her first present after her spay surgery; a jersey I purchased in Kenya, which she sleeps on every night. Gone are the days of beatings, shooings, rancid garbage digging, canine gang rapes, and sleeping with one eye open. She is home. She is Roo.
By Nick VSPCA Social Media Strategist & Kiersten VSPCA President