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“Carole,” Keith called from the outside deck, “bring a bag. Freya caught another squirrel, fresh kill, and it’s a big one.” Ugh, I thought, Yuck! I said, to which Keith replied, “It’s her nature.”

In the past 4 months, Freya, a shepherd mix and hunter by nature, has brought home two squirrels, a turkey chick and an adult deer’s partial vertebra with rib bones. Apparently, Freya also scavenges, perhaps a throw back to the 6 months she wandered, abandoned as a puppy, before spending almost 2 years in the shelter. Is scavenging her nature or due to lack of nurture? Perhaps time will tell.

Except for Heathcliff, Freya seems to ignore other dogs and is by nature a one-person-dog, Keith’s dog for he was Freya’s savior. Keith adopted her while Heathcliff and I were away tending my mother’s house for a few weeks last fall. Freya obeys me, too, especially when I’m feeding her or cleaning her up from her outside adventures, and noses up to me for loving. But otherwise, Freya dogs Keith’s steps and wags her tail whenever she hears or sees him. Despite her loyalty and huntress nature, she came to us with many fears – bathrooms, open spaces, hand signals (had she been beaten?) – most of which she has overcome, but not the wind, not yet. We keep a dog bed tucked in the corner of our bedroom for those nights.

Heathcliff, also a rescue dog, is a black lab mix, a working dog. He takes care of the sticks. By nature, he’s very sociable around other dogs and whines with excitement whenever he sees them. He doesn’t understand why dogs would be afraid of a big, 100-pound dog racing at them or why anyone would not want to play with him. It’s hilarious to see Heathcliff, butt in the air, nose ‘way down, visiting with a Chihuahua. Oh, how gentle he is with little dogs.

He’s also very needy for human attention, perhaps a throw back to his first 8 months when he was shuttled around from house to house, ending up at the shelter where he did not do well. It took several carpet cleanings before his stressed GI system settled down. Now nearly 5, Heathcliff is our “therapy dog” for he seems to pick up on people’s distress and is drawn to comfort them. Heathcliff worries when Freya brings home a kill or doesn’t understand the rules. He thinks she’s in trouble, and Heathcliff so wants to please. But he also loves to tease and play tug, a game that Freya doesn’t understand at all. She would rather nip and tussle, and Heathcliff loves that game, too.

Freya_Heathcliff_012113Both of our dogs curl up in their nest beds by the hearth, day and night. They protect us and are protected by us. That is their nature and ours.

We don’t expect Freya’s hunting nature to change or her attachment to Keith. We don’t expect Heathcliff’s sociability and affinity for sticks to change either. And we cannot change what happened to Freya or Heathcliff or any of us in the past. But by nurturing goodness, can we change the parts of our natures that could use some improving?

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