For those of us who work or volunteer in the animal welfare world, especially dealing with abused or severely neglected animals, it is just understood that the animals can be very shy and act differently than other animals that have no real trauma in their background.
And many of these animals show their fear, nervousness, anxiety, etc. by similar actions which we become accustomed to and understand the signs. As I have always rescued from the streets, or ended up with animals with this kind of sad background, I have always had to explain to people why my dog (or cat) was not “friendly.” But, it has only been lately that I have heard myself say “It’s not personal, I swear!” quite a lot.
This is thanks to Evie who, even though she has come so far in the seven years I have had her, is still fearful of strangers. Throw in new surroundings, lots of noises and any other factor and she is right under me or a desk, etc…. whatever she can hide under or by.
I find myself telling the new people in my life and the people on the street who are dying to pet her and try each and every day only to find her running from them, that this is normal behavior. I try to tell them that it takes time and suggest to them what to do to…leave her alone and don’t approach her and talk to her because that makes her nervous. She still runs from me occasionally if she thinks I am up to something, ha! Eventually, if you spend enough time with her and ignore her she will come up I tell them, although it may take a little while.
I tell them that if they do insist on petting her to come up and do so….don’t sit feet away and talk to her as that makes her very nervous, and yes, that is not what is normally taught, but it is what works for her. Just do it…come up and pet her and she is okay. I tell them to take her on a leash and for a quick walk if I know them well, or to sit on the floor and give her a treat…all things that work..even if slowly…
But, every day someone wants to pet her and love her and I have to tell them that is is not personal as they walk away distraught and muttering “She doesn’t like me I am so upset.”
Turns out that people want to be loved by an animal because it makes them feel good…and special. At least that is how it makes me feel when one allows me to love it…if only for a moment. Perhaps I can convince Evie that the love she gives is the love she will get…someday:)