What comes to mind when you hear the name Annie Oakley? For me, it’s the legendary female sharpshooter who starred in Buffalo Bill’s wild west show. It sure isn’t a scared black-and-white lab mix found feral in New Mexico. But maybe that was the point.
It wasn’t so very long ago that Annie couldn’t even look at a human without suspicion in her eyes. She didn’t understand people and was very reluctant to even try. But that was all right. Now that she was safe at the Sanctuary, she had two gifts that she may never have had before — time and compassion.
This spring I was reunited with Annie. She is a prime example of resiliency. Given the time she needed to begin to trust, Annie Oakley has gone one step further and is learning to love. It’s a beautiful thing to see her tail wag and her gaze rest softly on a familiar caregiver. She’s not stealing glances and then planning ways to escape. She’s watching and hoping that people are coming over to say hello and give her a cookie or two.
It’s not hard to remember when caregivers had to carry Annie in a crate from one place to another because she was too frightened to move. Today, though, Annie and her canine best friend Elwood walk with volunteers around the trails at the Sanctuary. While it doesn’t happen every time, a treasured memory that some lucky volunteers get to carry home is a surprise quick kiss from a confident and happy Annie.
So why name a scared dog after a wild west icon? Because sometimes people need to be reminded of what can be. Annie Oakley responded to time, love and consistency. Working with shy dogs is fulfilling, but progress is made at the dogs' pace, and sometimes it is slow going. When Annie would get frightened and revert to her old ways of dealing with fear, simply saying her name reminded everyone what the future could hold for dearest Annie Oakley.
Today, our Annie Oakley demonstrates her courage in countless small ways every day. She’s every bit as legendary as her namesake, and we are grateful to be a part of her journey.