Like with any friendship, we have to earn the trust of the animals that we care for. Annie paced the floor in our house during her first night with us. She even tried to tear through the screen of our window with her claws. She did NOT trust us to look out for her best interests, and wanted to get out and away.
Here is a picture of her taken last week.
She's been with us for four years now, and has relaxed enough that I can take pictures of her without even waking her. (Maybe I shouldn't ruin the innocence of this picture by bringing this up, but she did spend the entire morning marching around like a tiny dictator, screeching at the dogs every time they did something that displeased her. Like, looking at her. Or flicking an ear. Or heaven forbid, getting up and moving somewhere. She's exhausted from all of the canine management here.)
I think that dogs, or at least dogs that were not abused, tend to trust a little easier. But it still takes time with them, while they discover who you are, what your boundaries are, and whether you're going to be nice to them. Maera let us know after she'd been with us a couple of months that she was relaxing, when she started "cock-roaching." Not every dog does this, and that doesn't mean that they're not relaxed.... but with Maera, it's a good indication. She roaches whenever she can now.
All of our animals show us that they trust us in different ways. Charlotte likes to be near us, and will talk to us. Bit likes to leap up and sleep on top of me at night. Tom likes to jump up and down on my chest and use me as a trampoline. (I'm just kidding about that last. Well, mostly. He does like to jump on me, but he also purrs, and head butts me, and even licks my cheeks.)
I have posted something similar to this before.
But the element that I left out before is that it so often turns into mutual trust. I trust our animals. This does not mean that I think that they're flawless, and doesn't mean that I will suddenly stop keeping Maera out of the kitchen, or walking the dogs without leashes. But within certain parameters, I trust them. I know that they're not going to bite or scratch the guests. I know that they're not going to bite or scratch ME. I know that they all love me, in their own ways, and show me their affection in the their own ways.
I trust them enough that I sleep beside them, put my hands in their mouths (when I'm brushing teeth, etc. I trust them enough to relax around them and not be hyper-vigilant all of the time. They are my family members. Family members that occasionally do things that aggravate me, sure. Annie eats my ferns. Maera will eat anything that isn't hidden away from her, including cat poop. Argos becomes clingy and desperate for an entire day after we get a thunderstorm, and I am stuck with a greyhound in my back pocket until he decides to settle down again. But I trust them all. They have my back. And they are the caretakers of my heart.
It doesn't start out that way... like any relationship, each animal has to grow into a being that I trust. (And I have to do the same with them.) But over time, the relationships sweeten, and I was just sitting on the couch with both dogs and two of the cats this weekend, thinking how much I have grown to trust these guys, and how completely safe and loved I feel when I am surrounded by these, my friends.
And I don't know what I would do without them in my life.