Charlie: The Dog Who Came in from the Wild, by Lisa Tenzin-Dolma, Hubble & Hattie, $16.99
What do you get when you pair a frenzied, one-eyed Romanian feral dog with a dynamic British author and rescue advocate?
Enough adventure and challenge for a lifetime—as you will discover in this evocative narrative that brims with tension one minute and passion the next.
Charlie is unlike any of Tenzin-Dolma’s previous rescues, due somewhat to a paucity of background she was provided as well as an incorrect age.
Charlie came to the author’s household in February 2013 in “a state of paralysed shock and terror. He was totally unsocialized, and had never experienced a close relationship with a human, or been inside a home.”
Assignment Charlie falls not only on the author but her other household rescue Skye, a stabilizing force, and Team Charlie, a network of friends and professionals always just a phone call away for assistance.
With Charlie, it isn’t always what you see is what you get. In fact, for a while Tenzin-Dolma is uncertain what breed this wild child is until a DNA is performed 18 months after his arrival. Swabs were sent to a UK laboratory and to the Veterinary Genetics Laboratory at the University of California, Davis, the latter prompted by his wolf-like behavior.
The UK results flag up a mix of Japanese Chin, standard poodle, pharaoh hound, Petit Basset Griffon Vendeen, basenji, smooth fox terrier and whippet. The California wolf-hybrid test indicates no wolf genes.
Socializing Charlie follows a pathway of baby steps, surprises and unpredictability at home and with neighbors, visitors and other dogs in the community. For instance, who would guess that the foreign sounds of a guitar and television would scare this feral creature that is basically being removed from a natural environment without boundaries into an alien one of imprisonment (if it can be defined thusly within a house and fenced yard).
Both owner and dog face a litany of challenges through the bonding process requiring trust, patience, resiliency and confidence. She writes, “Charlie has an instinctive ability to experience the full spectrum of life (its good and bad times) without the human trait of expectation. Through observing this in him, I have learned to step back a little, to wait, and to be more aware of the implications of my actions in this moment.”
After years of involvement in rescue work, Tenzin-Dolma had been confronted with a wide assortment of tests but none like the Jekyll and Hyde persona of Charlie. She says, “I learned that, in feral dogs, the wild nature will always be there, dormant below the surface, but re-emerging if a trigger occurs.”
“Charlie has taught me a great deal. He has reminded me that we are all capable of far more than we realise, and that any challenge, however difficult, it may seem can be overcome if we only lighten our steps and choreograph the way through.”
For her, watching a fearful dog gain confidence is an incredibly rewarding experience. But without a strong foundation built around kindness and trust, she notes, Charlie’s well-being would have suffered and his psychological turbulence would have been exacerbated.
“Being with Charlie—my feral boy, my wild soul—has shown me that we each retain the wild within us, and that nature is not always red in tooth and claw. . . . He has taught me to listen to the voice of the wild self that dwells deep within, to pay attention to that quiet whisper and rejoice in its presence.”
Within this engaging and ever-changing scenario, Tenzin-Dolma puts the big rescue picture in a rich cultural context packed around plenty of soul. But nothing quite prepared me for the shocking and sudden Postscript the resolute author serves up.