When Frieda came into my life, she had to live in a barn across the street from the Bedlam Farm farmhouse. She went after all of the animals on the farm, and the sight of the dogs – especially Rose – sent her into a frenzy. It was tough on Maria to have to keep Frieda in a barn – we had a wood stove in there and fed it through the wintry nights. I wanted to bring Frieda into the house, but neither Maria nor I believed it would happen. All year I worked on training her, giving her beef jerky, sitting with her, getting her to walk with me, trying calming training.
After six months, she allowed me to touch her and put a leash on her, but she would still lose control, go crazy around the dogs, snarling, lunging, barking. I was stumped, discouraged at the prospect of getting her into the house by Christmas. It was to be my Christmas gift to Maria.
And then I had a dream. In the dream, I was walking in the Adirondack wilderness where Frieda had been abandoned and lived for several years. I had taken her there as part of my research into her life for the book on her I have just finished writing and in the dream, we returned there.
In the dream, I was walking in the woods, Frieda running through the forest alongside of me. I eventually came to a clearing, and I was startled to find Frieda waiting for me.”Frieda,” I said, “I don’t know what else to do, to try. I am stumped. What can I do to get through to you, to calm you down? I hoped you could be in the house with Maria by Christmas. But now, I don’t know…”
Frieda did not speak in the dream, but I heard a voice, clear and deep and distinct. It said, simply: “Trust me.”
And I woke up from the dream, trembling and shaken and I realized that this was the one thing I had not done. I had trained Frieda but I had not trusted her, had not given her the chance to succeed.
A few days later, on Christmas eve, Maria was at work at the home for the emotionally disturbed where she worked and I walked over to the barn and opened the door for Frieda. I put a leash on her – she grabbed my arm but did not tear it off – and I walked her across the street through the snow to the farmhouse. I opened the door and Rose, Izzy and Lenore were all standing stiffly on the other side of the door and I told them all to get back, which they did, and Frieda, the hair on her mane up, growling softly, walked into the room by a snarling Rose, a dog who never backed down – I held my breath and unleashed her – and she walked right past the other dogs and up to the wood stove, which was warm, and she lay down next to it and went to sleep. She had come home, I could see it and feel it. It was over. It would be all right.
The other dogs went to their usual places and lay down.
A few hours later, I heard the back door open and Maria came into the house and I heard the sweetest words: “Frieda, you’re in the house!” And I saw Frieda roll into Maria’s arms and the two of them just held close to one another for the longest time. It was the best Christmas gift I had ever given.