Darn that Dream

If you read my earlier post about how #adoptdontshop was ruining my life, then you’ll know I was searching for a dog.

On a Saturday morning I got in the car, entered an address into my GPS, and nervously drove out to meet 10-month old “Perth”. A mutt with a strong case of “Cur”.

Just a few days prior, I got a call from a woman with a southern accent to tell me about Perth.  He was currently down in Georgia with her, ready to be transported to the Pacific Northwest to get adopted. Him and his siblings were unsocialized and underweight, dropped off at a kill shelter before they were saved by her. She wanted me to know every detail she could tell me about him before I met him, good and bad. He was nervous at first, but warmed up quickly. He did not like crates, and shouldn’t be crated if I could help it. He was affectionate once he got to know you, and his leash skills needed work, but were improving.

When I arrived to the home of the rescue volunteer, there were a few other dogs there that had been transported up with him. I knelt down and Perth immediately came up to me, and while it was short, let me pet him. By the time I had taken him out by myself, he was letting me give him more and more attention. He seemed to be a chill dog, which I could appreciate, and I decided to take him home for a “trial-to-adopt” period.

He did not want to go in the car. He didn’t even want to be near the car. He slammed his crooked-tailed behind into the ground with stubborness and strength and refused. The rescue volunteer had to eventually pick up his solid, strong, thrashing body and quickly get him in while I waited in the driver’s seat, slamming the door behind him. This was my first worry. I like exploring with my dogs, I like taking them places and socializing them. How was that going to be if he hated the car?

Then we got home, and he again did not want to come in the front door. He eventually followed me in but was definitely not coming near my boyfriend. He would cower and scurry away anytime Erich put his hand out. This was my second worry. How am I going to have a dog that can’t be social, when one of my favorite things of dog ownership is being social with other dog owners? Or just simply being social myself and having visitors?

I decided after he had been there for a few hours to take him for a walk. I wanted to get a sense of his leash manners, which the rescue in Georgia said he needed work on. He was a little wild on the leash, but I did not imagine the biggest challenge with walking him: he was terrified of cars. As we walked along, he would bolt away from the street as a car passed and try to pull himself out of his collar. If he didn’t do that, he’d stop in his tracks and cower. This was my third worry. How am I going to walk him in my somewhat busy neighborhood if he’s afraid of the cars?!

But he did take to me. He spent most of the weekend cuddling with me on the couch. When I left for work in the morning, my boyfriend texted me to tell me that the dog was howling, crying, yelping, and barking for an hour. My last and biggest worry: he has separation anxiety. When I was in the house, he would follow me to each room. Waking up out of dead sleep just to follow me into the kitchen for a few seconds.

If I had been a first-time dog owner, this would have really overwhelmed me. Knowing what I know, I set out to try to control, improve, or stop the behaviors that worried me.

I immediately took him on a walk the next day. When he saw a car I would make sure he was paying attention to me, and give him a treat. I eventually started throwing them on the sidewalk so that he would continue walking as cars passed by. It took a total of one day for him to get over his fear of cars.

As often as I could, I would pick him up, no matter how much he resisted, and get him the car. I’d go to fun places like drive-through coffee stands, where I know he’d get a treat. We drove to my parents so that he could meet their dog and them. We drove to the dog park. I wanted to show him that being in the car didn’t always have to be traumatic, and in fact, he usually would lead to something fun. By the fifth day, he was willingly jumping into the car by himself.

Seeing his quick progress led me to believe he could be a confident and obedient dog with just a little bit of patience. When our two week trial period was up, we decided to adopt him. His name now, is Dexter (you may or may not get the title reference from his name).

Dexter still has a little anxiety when I leave, but knowing that I consistently come back for him has shown him it’s not that scary, and he has brought down the crying to some whimpering for a few minutes after I leave.

He also still has a hard time trusting people. I regularly take him to public places so that he can see a variety of people and learn that they aren’t all scary. He gets showered with treats, so that he knows being around people is fun, because he gets treats! For those willing to practice patience with him (usually other dog people), he learns that other people will also give him treats if he will trust them — temporarily at least.  It takes him less and less time to warm up to a new person, so I am hoping with continued work on this, it will be like he never was terrified of people.

Dexter, my little Georgia peach, has made a lot of good strides since finding a home with us. As it turns out though, him being “chill” is a defense mechanism. As soon as he got comfortable with us, he’s been absolutely crazy. My boyfriend really appreciates that (not really). Oops!

He’s crazy, silly, a little clumsy, but a rockstar in his training classes – and he’s all ours!

Dexter and his favorite toy, the pheasant. His "grandpa" is proud.
Dexter and his favorite toy, the pheasant. His “grandpa” is proud.

The Guilt of the (Dog) Adoption Process

source: darwindogs.org

Earlier last week, as you may have gathered from my previous post, I was having a tough go of things in the dog-search. Though I’ve spent most days searching petfinder.com and perusing through city and county animal shelters online, I had decided to slow down to keep from overwhelming myself.

Then on Tuesday afternoon, out of morbid curiosity, I decided to check out the website of the shelter near my home. That’s when I saw Mercedes for the first time. The info sheet described her as a hound mix but she had the features of a taller and larger terrier. Red fawn and white coloring, a nervous look on her face, but adorable. I decided after work I’d go visit her.

On Tuesday I stopped by and found her kennel. She wasn’t timid to approach the kennel door, her tail wagged, but there was a faint whine in her exhales. I looked at her age and at 7 years old, realized she was a bit older than I had expected and wanted.  Based on her age and her reaction to being in there, it seemed like she hadn’t been in this spot before.

I went back out to the front desk and asked if I could meet her. The girl at the desk told me they were closing shortly, and closed on Wednesday, so I’d have to return on Thursday to meet her. I did find out while chatting with the desk person that her owners were homeless, and had to surrender her.

She was a little older than what I was looking for, but I thought it wouldn’t do any harm to visit her and see if we “clicked”. I decided to come back Thursday.

I rushed down on Thursday afternoon to meet her, and was promptly told she was just spayed and was recovering, so I’d have to wait to see her tomorrow.

On the third night, I came back to see her once again. My mom, who also lives close and shares my affinity for dogs, met me there. That was when we found out that she was actually about 9 years old, and was already showing some foggy vision according to her vet check sheet. 7 years old was already a stretch, but 9? That made it tough. The employee mentioned that she was more on the aloof side and a “hang out” dog. I was fine with that, but then said she because of her age, she was a little more selective with other dogs. She claimed that Mercedes was probably not a “dog park” dog. Okay, a little older, and not a dog to take to dog parks. A social dog is important to me, so this was another hit. Still, I felt compelled to meet her.

The shelter adviser took her out of her kennel and left her alone with my mom and I in a secured area. Sure enough, she was aloof. She cared more about sniffing around the secured area than she did with us, or toys. But once in a while, I could get her to come to me. She’d mosey over slowly, tail wagging, and greet me. And in the same amount of time she’d move on to smell something else. As time went on, she’d come to me more often and spend a little more time with me. She started to hook me.

When the adviser came back in and asked me what I thought, I was speechless. I told her that I didn’t know, and I actually didn’t know. Mercedes tugged on my heart strings in a weird way.  Maybe it was the fact that any interest in people that she did show, it was in me. Or the fact that I knew she would be a really “chill” dog — a perfect introduction dog to my boyfriend who had never owned (and never cared to own) a dog. But I knew there were a couple things against her.  I put her on hold so that I could think about her, and talk to my boyfriend about her.

Once I left the shelter I felt the most torn I have in a while. When I got home and my boyfriend asked about her, I explained the internal debate going on in my head. He immediately vetoed her based on age, and I burst into tears.

I can’t tell if it was because he told me no, and I had gotten attached to her in our short visit or that I knew she wasn’t the right dog for us but again, I had found myself attached.  By the end of the night, I realized it wasn’t a right fit and I was going to have to release the hold on her, but it wasn’t without sadness. I shed tears both that night and the next morning. Even last night when I thought I had it under control, I was overcome with emotion again.

Now I’ve committed myself to waiting a month or two to try to find another dog again. The emotional rollercoaster I went through just for this one dog will kill me if I have to do it again, or too soon. I also don’t think I can go to that shelter or visit their website while she is still there. It will break my heart too much.

Because of her age, I know that it will be more difficult for her to find a home than it is the other dogs that are nowhere near as easygoing as she was. And I hate that I am one of those people passing her up based on her age. The guilt is immeasurable.

Have you ever been attached to a dog and logic (or partners) overruled it? How did you handle it? Do you think it happened for a reason?

Let me know.