Bella and the Build-A-Bear

This is Tinka the bear. Tinka was created and named by Em when he was just three years old.

Before you say, “Awwwww!” He was never attached to Tinka. He has stuffies that he loves; Tinka was just an acquaintance. So this isn’t as bad as it looks. In fact, I find it quite funny. Somehow the dog figured out how to dig the little heart right out of Tinka’s back. You see, at Build-A-Bear, they have the kid add a heart into its stuffing before sewing it up. I don’t know. I guess it’s supposed to make it feel more alive. I found it a little strange. And as a child, I probably would have dug the heart out as well—just knowing it was in there! I’d have liberated that heart. Maybe.

Bella! Bella is a lot of work. I knew that she would be. She’s a sweet dog, but she’s terrified of so many strange things. Given she was abused and shot at as a puppy, I know we have to be patient with her. But she’s afraid of air vents, not all air vents, but certain sounds scare her into a shivering mess. And the softer the hum, the worse it is for her. She’s not afraid of the vacuum, or the hairdryer, but the soft hum of the heater in our apartment building hallways? Oh my goodness, the fear.

And she won’t stand on any grates or vents in the street. Her tennis ball rolled onto one the other day and you’d have thought it was hot lava. She was NOT going near it. Poor dog.

I often wish I could ask her what all she went through, that way I could help her better. But for now it’s a lot of guessing and then calming her down. She’s a sweet dog. And it bugs me knowing that she’d be SO MUCH HAPPIER had she not come from such an awful beginning.

But she’s changing, getting better every day. It just takes a little patience and understanding.


  1. She is SO cute. :)

    If you would be interested in any advice in raising an abused dog, I have a great person to talk to, if you don’t know of her already–Susan Sabo aka smalldogs. She’s a photographer and dog-lover and someone who has done volunteer support for shelters for 20 years or more, and has raised special doggies and seen them transformed through patience and love. If you’d like me to put you in touch through FB or email, let me know. x


    1. Absolutely! I’ll ask questions, see if I’m doing it ok.


  2. I don’t know if you ever read this site, but you might get a kick out of this post (and others) now that you are a dog-owner. I laughed til I peed (almost).


    1. I have not! Thank you, missy!


  3. I adopted a rescue dog several years ago, and it took a long time for him to really settle in. He used to be super freaked out by trash cans on the curb on trash night. Now he’s all “Imma smell me sommma that.”

    And he lost his sh!t when we got a grill. Now: grill as target for dog urine.

    He still flinches when you go in too fast w/the overhead pets. But that said, he’s soooo much more chill than he was. A year from now someone will see Bella and tell you how different she seems and you’ll realize how far she’s come. Sounds like she is making her way, and sounds like you are doing a great job as her mom.


  4. Oh! Right. You reminded me. She is also terrified of guys with facial hair (although, she’s learning to deal with that more) and guys wearing hats, cowboy hats (yes we see them in Williamsburg! Hipsters!) are the worst for her.

    Poor dog.


  5. I second Susan Sabo! :)

    My apologies if I’m over stepping here but unfortunately once my dogs get a taste of something, it usually does not stop there. I cannot count how many board books have been obliterated by them. You might want to keep an extra eye on the beloved stuffies. Dogs are seldom every choosey when it comes to destruction ;)


  6. Oh, no overstepping. And she has torn apart a great number of things, including my 17-year-old Birkenstocks. FOR SHAME!

    Can I ask a REALLY newbie question? How does one train a dog, she’s not a puppy anymore! to NOT chew? Basically, I need to teach an old, once wild dog new tricks. Sorta.

    We have the stuffies that matter on the top bunk or put away safely behind the humming heater. ha ha ha

    Poor crazy dog.


  7. Teaching a dog not to chew (puppy or no) is a matter of 1) giving them something they’re allowed to chew and then 2) not letting them chew anything else, ever.

    It sounds like I’m making it sound simpler than real life makes it. I will admit that I’ve never had a chewer though my adult rescue will occasionally put his mouth on stuff that’s not his to see what I’ll do. He never goes so far as to actually chew it, but he touches it. But I’ve had other issues that are resolved similarly. Make no mistake, she is perfectly capable of discerning ‘hers’ from ‘not hers’ and capable, with practice, of exerting self control to not use stuff that’s not hers.

    1. Put away stuff you can’t bear to lose.
    2. Spray everything else (that won’t be ruined) with something she can’t bear the taste of. Bitter apple or tobasco.
    3. Any time she considers putting her mouth on something that isn’t hers, ‘claim’ it – a la Dog Whisperer. (videos via YouTube – you won’t have to watch more than 3 episodes to see how he claims things/places/people).

    Try not to feel sorry for her because of her past. Pity/sympathy is not a healing thing. Dogs really do live in the now. Not that she doesn’t remember – but most of her reactions are knee-jerk reactions, things she’s conditioned herself to do. Even if she’d had a delightful puppyhood free of abuse and trauma and fear, she might turn out to have hang-ups. Lots of dogs do. The best way to help her through it is to stop her reaction and desensitize her through repeated successful exposure.


  8. @mihow & @missy

    omg that blog post you linked to… when i was packing my apartment, henry got so depressed and sad. i had to keep oscar around to keep him semi-active. he was so stressed and nervous and mopey. dogs totally hate moving.


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