Nothing like the end of a year and the beginning of a new one to cause us to do some accounting–of things accomplished, and things desired for the future. This morning I was doing a different kind of accounting, looking at book sales as much out of curiosity as anything else, and discovered that the best selling book from my website for the last four years is Love Has No Age Limit. It’s sold over 48,000 copies in just the last four years. (The Puppy Primer is close behind, at over 44,000.)
I gotta say, that made me really, really happy. Dr. Karen London (see her columns in Bark Magazine) and I co-wrote the book as a labor of love for all the wonderful people who adopt adult or adolescent dogs. It seemed to us that there were lots of books on what to do when bringing home a puppy, but not about older dogs who have had other homes, and possibly other loves, in their past.
Both of us have brought adult dogs into our own homes, and, in spite of all of our training and experience, felt moments of primal panic. Who among us has not adopted a dog, and asked ourselves at one point in the process, usually around 3 AM, “What the hell have I done?” So we wrote a book about how best to help a dog transition from one home into your own, and kept the price of the book as low as possible in order for shelters and rescues to give it away for free if they could.
It starts out with two short stories from our own lives:
Bugsy was in trouble when Karen first met him. Half Black Lab and half handsome stranger, he was a 60-pound, two-and-half year old who sometimes sat on cue but had no other training. More problematically, he barked at visitors, lunged at other dogs when on leash, chased cars, and would sometimes take off if he got loose outside. After Karen adopted him, patience and consistent training allowed him to progress so much that he became her demo dog in training classes, assisted her in treating dogs who were reactive to other dogs and took long, off-leash walks in the country.
Bo Peep was going to be put down. A young Great Pyrenees, she was born with structural problems and couldn’t stand up on her hind legs. She dragged herself forward by her forelegs, pushing the straw on the barn floor behind her like a seal through water. That’s when Patricia took her in, wondering what in the world she was thinking. One year and three surgeries later, Bo Peep was a healthy and happy sweetheart of a dog who was loved by people, other dogs and the sheep she gently guarded for the next nine years.
The book goes on to describe how to prepare for the new dog, what to do (and not to do) the day of “homecoming,” how to handle the first few days, establishing routines in the weeks to follow, getting to know each other, and behavior problem solving 101. We are both gratified at how well it’s done, it feels great.
Here’s what I’d love to hear from you: What is YOUR story of your adopted dog’s homecoming? What did you find helpful? What did you wish you’d known? I’m pretty sure that a lot of readers are going to love hearing the stories of people who write in. Can’t wait.
MEANWHILE, back on the farm: It was Maggie’s seventh birthday January 3rd. Holy moly, hard to believe. She got her absolute favorite food–vanilla ice cream. Although I’ve never tested it beside chicken or steak, so who knows really. Here’s a terrible photo of her eating her ice cream, which took about .000001 of a second and made taking a good photograph impossible without 3 hands.
Here she is just a month after we got her, at about 15 months of age. How time flies! It is with complete and utter objectivity that I claim she is the most gorgeous dog in the world. (Do not tell Tootsie I said that.)
Maggie didn’t get to come, but Jim and I had a wonderful New Year’s Eve afternoon at Olbrich Botantical Gardens which has a large indoor conservatory filled with tropical plants. Orchid season is just beginning, and it was a such a treat to see color again:
This carnivorous pitcher plant caught my eye, such amazing, innovative creations!
May the new year be full of amazing things for you too!
We’ve been involved with Airedale rescue for a number of years. We were offered the opportunity to foster a 2-year-old girl who had been in miserable circumstances. We picked her up at the home of someone who transported her. She was skittish, hesitant, fearful. I wondered what I’d gotten myself into (since I was the primary caregiver to the dogs in our home). She was not housebroken and we quickly learned that she was afraid of everything — paper, the computer mouse, doors, noises, the TV, just about everything. I thought the most important thing to do was to help her know she was safe and that the world wasn’t out to get her. I showed her around the rooms and invited her to sit with me on the floor. Then out to pee, showering her with praise when she did. Then back inside to play with toys, sit and get petted. I spent the night on the floor with her so she wouldn’t feel so alone.
You might discount this as not an adoptive home but we failed at fostering and adopted her. She was with us for the next 11 1/2 years.
The things I think it’s helpful to know when adopting a rescue are background of the dog (coming from a home, a kennel, a puppy mill, abuse, etc.); comfort level with men/women, children, other dogs, cats, other small animals; whether the dog will jump a fence to get away/is a runner; whether the dog knows any commands; and whatever else the previous owner/rescue group can tell me.
Thank you for your great blog and your books. I learn so much from them. We lost our girl last June but perhaps in the future we’ll adopt another rescue ‘dale.
In 2014, we adopted a three-year-old German Shepherd Dog from a local rescue group. Despite all of our experience with dogs, and my experience with GSDs, we realized quickly we were in over our heads. We were in a behavioral consultation within the first 2 weeks, as he turned into Cujo whenever he saw another dog, even if 1000 yards away. What we found out later was that he had first been owned by a young couple who babied him, then the wife died, and the husband went to live with his mother in a trailer. She didn’t want the dog inside, so he was kept outside on a 5-foot chain. He was eventually surrendered to rescue. I wish I could tie up the story in a neat bow like your stories above, but unfortunately, I can’t. It’s been a constant struggle since Day 1 to manage his anxiety, fear and PTSD. We’ve done everything there is to do, done every behavior modification, worked with every trainer and are on every medication, but the demons will never leave him. I still love him and give him all of the energy and attention he deserves. He didn’t deserve what happened to him and deserves love, which we give him. What was helpful when we first got him was the support of the rescue. What I wish I had known was that there may be lingering effects from his prior life that were unsolvable.
I love this book (even though Grace didn’t make the cover 🙂 Such wisdom and clarity. Wish we had it when we welcomed Olive home.
Many here know Olive’s story: She came from a hoarding situation disguising itself as a rescue (unbeknownst to us), which was shut down and the dogs seized not long after we got her. Her background was fabricated from whole cloth, as was her age and really anything else that might have come with her at. Suffice it to say she had never lived in a house, never saw a collar or leash, and never knew the kindness of strangers.
The image I will never forget is Olive flying through the living room and using the couch to bank her flight and then lifting off and resuming her speed. Never knew a creature other than a bird that could do that. She was crazy with fear and none of us knew what to do with each other. Our other two dogs just looked at us with a what the $#@!! expression. It took at least two weeks to get the stench of the transport out of her coat, which didn’t endear her to the resident dogs. She ate the aforementioned couch, peed on our bed, took over a year to be marginally reliable about peeing or pooping outside, and eventually had a village of behaviorists, integrated vets, physical therapists, and specialists.
Anyway, a decade later, she’s the best Olive she can be given the people she lives with and given her body and mind didn’t have the head start we all hope for.
And, I wouldn’t have traded it for anything (well, except the peeing on the bed part).
Here is a link to photos of the night we brought her home and one many years later.
I prefer to start with dogs that are about a year old. With a puppy you have no idea what you are getting, but with an adolescent dog you have a pretty good idea what you are taking on. There are lots of pain-in-the-butt adolescents that will soon turn into lovely adults (true for dogs and humans, lol).
When I first met Red Dog she was with multiple dogs at the foster’s house. When I sat down on their couch she immediately flung herself on her back and started gnawing on my hand. “OK, I can work with that.”
My first dog was a 1-year old Beagle-Retriever mix, adopted from the local Humane Society. She was a complete sweetheart but way too smart for her own good. Consequently I had to learn how to train dogs, with no cutting corners. For that I am eternally grateful.
Second dog was a 35-pound Shepherd-Collie (maybe) mix. We met him as a 3-year old stray, he made friends with my dog, and happily jumped in the car with us. When his owners (who had also found him as a stray) didn’t want him, he became my dog. Still the easiest dog I have ever owned – sweet, simple, loyal, and obedient. Once he was de-wormed.
When our boys were young we adopted a 5-year old Lab and a 9-year old Schipperke from an acquaintance. They did fine as “family dogs” when our main focus was our (human) children. The Schipperke, remarkably, lived to 19 years old.
Our other two current dogs are a hand-me-down Pug (adopted at 1-year old, now 12) and my mother’s Samoyed mix (adopted at 7, now also 12).
Dogs are remarkably adaptable, in my experience. But I do try to choose a dog that will get along with people and other dogs. The other stuff can be worked on.
Mary Felt says
In my adult life, I have rescued 7 adult dogs. 5 of them were amazing companions despite harsh neglect and abuse. One Doberman mix even had a bullet lodged in her neck. These 5 dogs trained quickly and responded to calm positive reinforcement. Our newest rescued German Shepherd Ollie learned in one day not to pull on the leash. But 2 of our adult rescues took so much more work. Wishbone, a Jack Russell Terrier, was a killing machine with severe separation anxiety, not housebroken and the most energy I have yet to see in any dog. Our neighbors accused us of having a trampoline built into our patio. I lost 30 lbs exercising her. A 5-mile run was nothing for her. Her longest distance was 18 miles. Her separation anxiety improved with drugs and never leaving her alone for longer than 2 hours. And she finally became housebroken after 2 years! Despite the work and energy she required, when we lost her to cancer at age 12, I was devastated. She was my constant companion. She was the smartest dog and listened to every word. She was always anticipating my next move. I felt like a lost an appendage when she died.
Pixel, our rescued Yorkie, has also been a challenge. He was in 5 homes before 10 months of age. He has displaced aggression and unfortunately, someone treated him harshly trying to control this behavior. He continues to improve with calm positive reinforcement but he requires many rules to avoid his aggression. He is super adorable and it is hard for people to resist him and follow his rules. If Pixel and I could live alone on an island, life would be perfect. Even with his rules, I’m thrilled he is apart of our lives.
Charlotte Kasner says
I lost the dog of my life after only 5 years together as he was 11 (and very traumatised) when he came to me. I decided that I really needed a challenge with my next dog and took on a 3.5 yr old Siberian Husky who had spent his life on a chain in a yard and was a heady mix of half-starved and crazy with a hip that had fractured and self-healed after he had been kicked with great force. He didn’t even know how to eat out of a bowl.
The first month was grim but he passed his KC Good Citizens bronze two weeks later, a fizzing mad thing amongst cockerpoo puppies. The examiner’s eyes were on stalks when she heard about his background.
He had been handed over to me as “untrainable” and I was told that he could never go off lead outdoors. 7.5 years later, with better recall than most of the other dogs in the park, he had been a Pets As Therapy visitor and won a major award from the Pet Blood Bank where he snoozed through his donations, much to the amusement of the phlebotomists. He showed on the companion circuit and scooped up many RBIS and BIS awards and, best of all, a 4th in competitive obedience! I also enjoyed entering him in gun dog scurries, much to the amazement of the Labrador and spaniel owners.
He died 14 months ago of liver cancer but, without him, I would never have re-trained as a behaviourist. Sadly he didn’t live long enough to be my dog for the Karen Pryor Professional Dog Trainer course but he was, nevertheless, with me in so many ways. I ended up there because every other trainer we worked with had one mantra: “You can’t do [enter as applicable] with a husky”.
Yes you can.
I finally parted company with my main trainer when her only answer to any question was “Well you chose that dog”. We never got through our KC Gold, but, thanks to Karen Pryor Academy, I now know how I should have trained for it. I also know that I never want any of my clients to leave class in tears, ignorant or frustrated or discouraged from learning more by the trainer as I was.
Without such a challenging dog, I never would have made this transition into non-aversive, scientific training.
Most of all, he was my best friend.
I am still waiting for my puppy as this time, I want to work my own dog from scratch but the two older dogs that I have owned have taught me so much and, although I wish I could have spared them what they suffered at the hands of previous owners, I know that, whatever my errors, they had a better life until the end.
So many people take on rescue dogs armed with nothing more than sentiment. I knew that I needed knowledge as much as kindness and I aim to pass that on to as many clients as I can for the sake of there dogs.
My current dog is the first one that moved in as a puppy. All the dogs before him were not actually rescued but given away by people who didn’t want them anymore or couldn’t keep him or her any longer:
a 1-year old female German Shepherd from a breeder who wasn’t satiesfied with the bitch he had bought for breeding, a beautiful male GSD who lost his home at the age of 8 due to the death of his owner and a 2.5-year old female GSD whose owners were divorced and neither could take care of her.
They were all wonderful dogs but none of them came with a full description of their issues. I learned a lot through them and I surely had to. Reactivity to other dogs, damaged joints, intestinal problems and awful nightmares came with the first one. Epilepsy with the second. And the third had obviously had some unfinished training in protection work which was forced upon her to no avail but damage to her health and soul.
The issues were minor or manageable or lived with (including appropriate training and medication) and I still believe I was just really lucky: they all were lovely dogs. Whatever was done to them before we met never tainted our relationship.
Despite those wonderful GSDs I decided that I would just for once like to get a puppy from a responsible breeder. I wanted to experience an “undamaged” dog growing up and become a healthy, happy canine. Alas, that wasn’t meant to be (genetics can be a bitch…) but I love him to bits.
There is an intimacy between us since day one that took for the other dogs months and years of living with each other to show. He just endowed me with that trust from the beginning whereas with the other dogs trust had to be gained and nursed to grow.
With all four dogs there were those moments of “what the hell have I done?!” but I would always do it again. I love(d) all of them in their own way and as the individual they were (and are). Maybe this -and certainly a pot full of sheer luck- is the reason we get/got along so well.
Lesley Osborn says
I have been opening up my heart and home to senior and special needs Greyhounds which included other breeds as well who fell into this category for 40 years.
This is the 1st comment I have left. It seems appropriate as I’m looking at an abandoned 13 year old Greyhound who was abandoned along with her 13 year old lifetime companion-a 13 year old Whippet.
They were offered temporary shelter in a horse stall; I received a call asking if I could get them ASAP; I did. Their conditions were horrific.
This Greyhound was emaciated; ataxic with a huge malignant mammary tumor (now removed) and teeth which caused fistula’s infiltrating her nasal cavity.
Her companion was in slightly better shape.
They have remained with me as permanent fosters.
This morning my Greyhound will be euthanized as she regained her weight but over the last 3 days she has declined rapidly and her quality of life is what is most important to me.
Her “sister” is far stronger, very bonded to me and my 2 other canine family member: an 8 year old Galgo Espanol (rescued fresh Spain) & an 8 year old Greyhound/Galgo Espagnol (also rescued from Spain.)
Thank you for a wonderful blog Patricia. I am a creative storyteller, as well!
Minnesota Mary says
I just took in a senior foster husky who has inoperable terminal cancer. He is such a joy! He loves walks, food and is a sponge for pets and belly rubs. I have lost my heart to this 12 year old boy and will never regret fostering him, hopefully for the remainder of his life.
My partner and I adopted our 10 month old (best guess) Maple from the local shelter in Michigan almost two years ago. She was found as a stray in Nashville, TN, and brought up north shortly after. Having both grown up with dogs, we both thought we knew what we were doing with our first animal outside of our parents’ home – boy were we wrong! Maple wasn’t potty trained, was hyper anxious about anything/everything, and would go bananas when she would see any dog at any distance. We had never even heard about positive-reinforcement training, and spent the first few misguided months taking her to a choke-chain trainer who not only exacerbated her dog-reactivity, but gave her a lasting mistrust of strangers (particularly women).
Since then we have done the research, found an excellent trainer who we’ve dubbed, “The Cookie Lady,” and taken Maple to a veterinary behaviorist who has worked with us to help manage Maple’s anxiety. She is still reactive to dogs and takes a LONG time to warm up to new people (working on it), but otherwise she is a totally different dog!
We will definitely be reading this book before adopting our next dog 🙂
When I brought Buzz home from the humane society, they gave me a gallon ziplock bag of dog food to get us started. I put that on top of the refrigerator, “out of reach.” I came home to find the top of the fridge cleared completely, a dog with a VERY full belly, and poop galore. He’d jumped up onto the counter and from there onto the fridge. (He’s a smallish pit mix, only about 39 lbs at the time, and the top of the fridge “should have been safe” – famous last words.)
Fortunately there wasn’t anything that could really harm him on top of the fridge, so he had epic poops for the next couple of days and everything was okay.
I did learn to block off counters and secure EVERYTHING edible pretty quickly.
He’s still a nutcase five years later, but we do rally, nosework, and agility classes together and he’s a great dog who has taught me to be careful what (food especially) I leave in dog reach.
STACEY A GEHRMAN says
Fancy was brought to us by a friend who had found his 2 dogs attacking her in his farmyard one night. He had saved her, no marks thankfully, and found in the morning that she had recently been nursing pups. Although he searched the desert, with her on lead, they were never found. He fed her for a couple weeks and advertised for her owners. Checked with vets no luck. When he brought her to us she was better but still very thin. She walked perfectly at heel on leash, sat immediately, and even knew “down “. But she quivered a little. Although we don’t use chain collars in training, I had one. I put it on to see what she would do. She sank to the ground and shook. I promised she would never wear one again. Rather than rehome her through the rescue I worked with, we kept her. I tried clicker training thinking a trick or two to get treats might give her confidence. Nope. Everytime she feels that there’s any pressure she quits responding. So we just love her. She comes when called, is excellent with other dogs, good with people. We’ve had her 7 years now. I wish I could show you her picture. She’s part cattle dog and part pointer I think. Loves to chase rabbits.
Thank goodness I fostered about a dozen dogs before Austin (border collie) appeared. He was returned to the rescue I foster for after his elderly owners developed health problems. Austin had become so possessive of the wife, he wouldn’t allow her husband to help her anymore. I was also told he had some problems with the cleaning lady. Major understatement. I couldn’t touch him for the first couple of weeks. He was terrified of paper towels and cleaning supplies. Any noise startled him. When he got super-stressed, he bit me. He hated the chaos of obedience classes although he got along well with the other dogs. The rescue group finally decided he was too danger to adopt out again so I agreed to keep him. I learned that he needed a very regular schedule, that his constant and intense growling was fear-based rather than aggression, and that he needed more exercise than any other dog I’ve had. Today, he runs up to every human who comes near and literally stands in their way so they will pet him. We have a specific routine when I need to use a paper towel — he’s the supervisor and makes sure it ends up in the garbage. He can tolerate a whole training class but the stress of doing agility is too much for him. He still freaks out when I leave the house without him but we’re working on that. Mostly he’s just a sweetie who needs to be understood and loved for who he is.
Amanda Thorstad says
I adopted Leo almost a year ago – when he was 2.5 years. He is a border/aussie/heeler mix – very friendly and generally calm, but leans towards separation anxiety, and of course is always ready for action. I’ve worked with dogs in various settings and my family had dogs when I was a kid, but Leo is the first dog I’ve adopted as a “grown up.” I bought all the supplies and read tons of blogs in advance, but when he walked in the door I just felt like I didn’t know what to do with him! I ended up taking him on lots of long walks around town the first few days and spending tons of time cuddled up on the couch with him (he’s a very cuddly dog and seemed to want the physical touch). I introduced clicker training for some simple tricks and had him “scavenge” his food – wanting to focus his mind & build relationship, but keeping things simple. He slept a lot. He was crate trained in his previous life so we did some crate exercises, although we’re still touch and go with the crate. I did have a hard time finding resources for adopting adult dogs – even the shelter didn’t seem to know what to advise, other than supplies to purchase – and wish I would have known about this book! At the same time, I learned a lot from helping Leo integrate into my home and feel more confident about how I’d spend the first few days if (when?!) I adopt another adult dog.
Linda Gallacher says
What always surprises me, is the length of time before a rescue dog decides he/she is finally in a permanent home. Over the years, we have done a number of rescue adoptions of older dogs. Our Collie had been through 4 homes before we adopted him. He had continually been returned to the Shelter because no one seemed to be able to keep him from running away. Our relationship was like living with a houseguest. He seemed happy but was always somewhat reserved. One day, after he had lived with us for 3 YEARS he totally changed. Overnight he became truly OUR dog! His whole demeanor changed and he became totally bonded to us. Never give up!
Kelly Moran says
I adopted an almost 6 year old pit mix two years ago. Because he came from the shelter environment, the first few weeks were spent allowing him to decompress and slowly build comfort with us, the cats and the house. I will say a big bonus to an older dog, was that he came with a lot of basic commands down and perfect potty training. I have found the building of our relationship being very different from what I had with my dog that I raised from a pup. We have come a long way as far as the increased trust and affection on both sides. I have seen him work very hard to follow the rules of his new home. This has been primarily focused on living peacefully with the felines. We took it slow and he is doing so well! I volunteer at a shelter, and desperately hope that more people will give these mature pups a chance.
Deborah Mason says
Our second dog, Max, was a Golden Retriever/Samoyed mix, 2 years old. We know we were at least his 3rd family. He’s been surrendered because he jumped high fence(s) to chase horses. It wasn’t the horses; he needed to run, they fled, he chased. The rescue picks us for him because we could not have functional fences where we lived (so he’d never just be put out in a yard), we take our dogs with us wherever we can. We did have to learn not to leave car windows open without some way of securing our escape artist. Any chance he got, he went for a good run, but he always came back. Problem was, our neighbor & employer was a national park, where loose dogs are prohibited. He loved when I’d take him to the road around the little neighborhood lake & run him on leash (me driving the car). 1.1 miles of our running Joy. It did take him 2 years to relax & realize he really had a family & a home. We had to teach him about treats, toys,etc. He was loved by our Co workers. He came to work with me, leashed to the car & the seasonal workers could stop & love on him on the way to & from work.
Margo Harris says
Like Linda, I saw the sudden change in my old dog Echo, in her case after one year… like the stress-light went out and the happy-light came on in her eyes! Her son Sam (a puppy when they both turned up at my place) never really totally adapted, but eventually became acceptably content I think, and even happy sometimes, which was always so wonderful to see. I think it’s so true that although many dogs can do very well, after time, there are always some who you just have to coast with, do your best, guard them well and accept them and love them for who they are. Echo and I together were Sammy’s guardians!
Back when I adopted Charlie (a german shepherd mix) from a shelter, I didn’t have the benefit of your books, Patricia. I did buy a book called “Second Hand Dog”, which helped me with Charlie’s fears. The important factors to help him to calm down, were lots of exercise (I got VERY fit!!), lots of sleep, and a routine he could count on.
I sure had that “what the Hell have I done??” feeling with Pippi, my little hound, also from a shelter. Whew!! Thank heavens I found your book “How to Be Leader of the Pack and Have Your Dog Love You For It”, Patricia!! I read it and told my husband, “Huh, so I’ve been doing everything wrong with Pippi!” Which was great, because then there was lots of room for improvement, and things did get much better over time. Pippi was also one who you needed to accept and love for who she was, because although she did adapt to life with us and the other dogs, she was always a very intense dog. I guess I could say that she and Sam needed quite a bit of management, while Echo and Charlie (after he got over his fears) were simply partners with me.
Such an interesting subject!
Leslie Wigley says
Imagine living in an over grown junkyard of a backyard, food dumped on the ground, green water to drink, penned up, no one loves you no one cares. Your care giver, cares more about her drugs than you, cares so much that she puts you on Craig’s List 100.00 stud fee or buy you, she let you go for 50.00. You have not known love, trust, warmth, nothing. This was his life, we will never know what all he went through, but we know for sure what caused the round scares, one on the top of his head one on each ear Burns.
As a rescue and my foster I knew he would not be adoptable right away, getting bit everyday for a week kind of lets you know that. Thing about being a foster is you have to make that call, the one where you say unadoptable and state the reason. We all know what that call would lead to. I am one of those that is used to getting bit, but this boy was snapping at us about everything and anything. But there was something about him and I was determined. I asked advice from our Rescue Director, Emily Williams in what I hoped was a way that she would not catch on that we were getting attacked by him all the dang time. When I say attacked I mean it. We have ran to rooms and slammed doors and jumped in the back of the truck. He was not aggressive with the other dogs, it was us. I read this and that on aggressive dogs, really didn’t understand most of it and decided the best way to get to him was love. Just love and more love, bite me I am going to let you calm down kiss you, hug you, rub your belly. I was going to confuses the hell out of this dog , and turn his world upside down. It worked he started to understand, that we were not going to beat him, hit him, kick him, we were going to love him. But feeding him was still bad, bad putting him in the bathroom, you had to be fast at putting the bowl in, and on your game letting him out. That’s really the only time he would go after another dog, besides us.
When Beth Mares came to our house for what I call a hound dog party aka tailing event she fell in love with Roscoe. That lead to more advice from one that knew a hound like Roscoe, had trained one, work with one, made a champion out of one, I was on cloud nine. Although still keeping a lot to myself about what was going on or had go on. Her help was just what we needed to really start turning the corner. Roscoe so wanted to change, he wanted to be a good boy, he wanted love and trust, and he worked hard. One of us would get bit by him and he knew it was wrong, we could see it, head down look up at you with the most sorry full eyes. He knew, we got there we really got there, he knew he did wrong and was sorry. We worked harder, loved more, pouring it on, every night a love fest. Every day a new way to let him out after feeding, a different way in to feed. Treats became our best friend next to bandages for our fingers. By this time he had not nailed us in a while, not because he didn’t try sometimes, we just got faster and smarter.
By Labor Day Weekend 2016 we knew we were going to have to adopt Roscoe, I had brought it up before to Emily, but we already had what most would say was enough. So with the help of Beth, at the Labor Day Event we got Emily to ok the adoption. Then I told her he could never be totally trusted, that he had bit us more times than we could count. But Roscoe was worth every drop of blood, every stich. I am not one to keep things from Emily about how bad or good a hound is but there was just something about him.
A dog that never knew nothing but neglect and abuse, no self-confidence, no self control, scared, scrappy dog is the pack leader. That is a big responsibility for any dog, pack leader of 19 that’s a whole other level of responsibility. When we decided to move I wanted a house with a large garage to setup crates to feed and one better suited for the hounds. They have a larger yard and a big front porch and enough room in the house for all the dog beds. Roscoe eats in his crate and comes out with no problem at all. He has learned self control and we no longer see the battle he was having controlling these intense emotions. He knows I am depending on him to help keep this pack together. But he knows above all he is loved and know matter what he always will be. He has worked so hard, learned so much, and I can say we trust each other now. He comes in the kitchen every morning for love and donuts. We can eat around him and he doesn’t care. He can be in there when I am cooking and doesn’t do anything. He has changed so much, just one big love muffin now, haven’t been bitten in years. If anyone meets him now they would never believe his story. He has taught us so much. I have always heard as we all have that Love Can Change The World, it change Roscoe’s world, and ours too. Thank you Roscoe for teaching us so much and giving us a chance.
In 2015, we adopted a 10 year old Springer Spaniel, Ryder. We knew going into it that he was deaf as a post and had Megaesophagus, but we were determined to help him. He had been in a very sad situation, as his owner was dying and couldn’t care for him. He weighed 33 pounds when we got him – and he became my “project.” I experimented with foods and consistencies before landing on what we felt was the ticket…I.D. canned dogfood + ground up kibble + water, blended in his very own Magic Bullet! He absolutely blossomed! He and our female Cavalier King Charles really bonded, and that is saying something! She had always been the Queen Bee, but she loved Ryder! After a year and a half, he weighed 49 pounds, close to his ideal weight. But he became ill while we were away on vacation, and our daughter had him seen at our vet. The bloodwork showed that he had leukemia, and she had them put him down, with our blessing. In spite of all that we went through with Ryder, we would do it again in a heartbeat! He was a sweet, gentle soul – and we hope we gave him the BEST year and a half of his life!
My Silky Terrier, Jazzy, was overlooked repeatedly at the local shelter because she was ten years old. A fussy, blustering little business, she immediately asserted herself over my two Airedales while I was fostering her. The last straw came when someone told the shelter, on hearing her age, “I don’t want that dog- it’s half dead!” I paid her adoption fee that day. Two years later, she is still in charge of my Airedales, my dad’s Airedale, my sister’s Golden Retriever, and my father’s every waking moment. She buzzes when she’s happy, and she mutters under her breath when she’s annoyed. I have been with Airedale rescue for over a decade and honestly, I never thought that I would have a truly small terrier…but terrier she is indeed!
I was thinking about this the other day. D’Artagnan had an incredibly smooth transition to our home. I think it was due in part to the amount of time I spent considering everything I’ve learned about dogs transitioning to a new home and how to make it as easy for him as possible. He had a loving family but life circumstances had changed and his quality of life had declined as a result. A two parent family with one parent who only works part time is a lot different than a single parent family with the parent working full time and going to school. He’d ended up spending too much time in the kennel in the garage because he couldn’t be trusted alone in the yard. His family realized his quality of life was suffering and made the selfless decision to find him a better home.
It was an interesting confluence of events in how I came to know about him. I like to believe Ranger and Finna had a hand in it. I’m the Chapter Director for our local Therapy Dogs International group. A couple of my teams are at a local elementary school as Tail Waggin’ Tutors helping kids with their reading. As one of the teams, the Borzoi, was leaving one day the dog hauled the handler over to meet the guy standing there. As he’s petting the Borzoi he remarks that he thinks she’s beautiful but actually likes the looks of the dog in the other team, an English Cream Golden Retriever, and how that dog looks more like his neighbor’s Great Pyrenees. The ‘Zoi’s handler responds that the Chapter Director loves Pyrs and he tells her this Pyr is looking for a new home. She collects his contact info to relay to me and I contact him to ask about the dog. It’s really not a convenient time for us to be adding a dog to the family, in fact my mental timeline had us starting to look in a couple of months but almost on a whim I followed up and arranged to meet the dog. We met him at a nearby nature Preserve and took him for a walk. We liked what we saw enough to arrange to bring him to our house to meet our cats. Since he’d never lived with cats before this was a serious concern. Him on leash, cat in a hard sided carrier in the yard we made the first introduction. He couldn’t have cared less about the cat. Walk him up to the carrier, cursory sniff, and he walks away asking to explore other parts of the yard. Repeat a dozen or so times. Never any reaction beyond the cursory sniff. Took them in the house. He’s still indifferent to the cat in the carrier. Released the cat, the cat vanished up the stairs and he looks calmly after it. No sign that cats will be a problem.
Looking at the fact that I’m not going to be home much for the rest of the month and wanting to make sure he felt like this was really his other home before moving him in permanently we arranged to pick him up in the evenings when his family got home and to take him back a bit before their bedtime. We’d bring him back here, take a long walk through the neighborhood and come in the house where he’d get a chew and we’d pet and brush him. About the third time we had him over he’s standing there chewing on his chew and The Great Catsby casually strolls under his neck in front of his legs to get to the other side of the room. Clearly the cat has no concerns about his safety.
We kept this routine up for several weeks until finally I was done with all my obligations for the month, we picked him up and brought him home. He checked in with me about the time I’d normally be taking him back and I told him he lived here now. He flopped down for a nap and has since then acted as if he’s always lived here. I honestly expected some signs of distress and a few rough nights but he’s moved in as if he always lived here. It’s really hard to remember that it hasn’t even been two months yet.
The regular visits for about three weeks was ideal in a number of ways. It gave him time to get used to us and us time to get to know him better. It allowed his previous family to get to know us, to see how I handled him, and to see how much he anticipated us coming to collect him for his evening time with us. It also allowed them to watch how more and more he’d check in with me while we’d stand chatting after I brought him back. Even though there were some tears the last time I picked him up they were also confident they’d found him the best home. And we’ve kept in touch some with me texting the occasional video of him enjoying his new life.
I seem to have written a blog post of my own so I won’t go on much more except to say I’m glad I read Love Has No Age Limit because it did help me create my very successful plan for transitioning him. Thank you.
I’ll comment tomorrow on a lot of these wonderful stories, but I stopped cold, like a dog who saw a squirrel in the living room, when I read the phrase “A fussy, blustering little business…” from Mary. That is one fantastic piece of writing Mary, it makes my heart sing.
Lesley Osborn says
I would like to make a correction to my comment from 1/7/2020 –
My comment was made prior to my Greyhound’s visit with the vet today – this was based
on watching a sudden decline over the last three days.
I am happy to report that she is still at home with me, on a trial of pain medication to see if she is more comfortable.
Quality of life is and always has been of paramount importance to me whether I am speaking of the seniors who share their lives with me or the special needs who lighten up my world.
This was a good day as she is home, comfortable and happy.
Happily submitted –
Noel came to me at 6-8 months old, she had adult teeth, never potted in the house, learned basic commands easily as she had been emaciated so was food driven. We went to obedience class for 2 semesters and she passed her CGC. I was told she was a boxer/collie mix. Turns out she is an Amstaff. She is my first dog. Now the love of my life. We have been together for over 6 wonderful years. She is also one of the strongest dogs I have ever seen, just a solid muscle. When she runs it is sheer beauty. I adopted her from the humane society, and have been a monthly donor ever since. That said, she will flinch if I reach for her with anything in my hand, even a small poop bag, obviously something happened to her, but not at my house. Here she is a well behaved pampered pooch who I cook for weekly, walk daily, and love on most of the time.
Donna in VA says
My first Sheltie 4 year old Max came home w/ me after being at the shelter for several weeks. We went outside on leash MANY times that day, basically every time he whined at me for whatever reason. As I was eating lunch he laid his chin on my leg and gave me the “big eyes”. Hm, I wonder where you learned that trick. He never sat or lay down until about 10 pm that night, he was EXHAUSTED and sort of collapsed. I leashed him to my side of the bed that night and banished hubby to the guest room. He smelled awful from the shelter so I did have that 3am “What have I done” moment you mentioned. The first several days he exhibited a lot of nervous pacing and I took him for many walks. A few evenings later he lay down in the dining room as we were eating dinner. I looked at my husband and said “That is why I walk him so much.” He was respectful of the furniture until I finally decided I WANTED him on the couch with me. So many dumb rules out the window. ha ha.
Claire’s life with us is documented at my blog, gundogrescueclaire. (⌒‐⌒)
Jim Johnston says
Hank, an eight year old golden, was my first older dog. Hank and I spent the first week together at my cottage. Hank stayed close and seemed to me, be seeking acceptance. I talked to him in a reassuring tone and when he came to me, he got as much physical attention as he wanted – scratching, patting, grooming … We bonded very quickly that week and he was one of the most wonderful dogs I have ever known. I learned a lot from Hank which was helped along by sharing with other older dog adopters on the internet. About a year after Hank arrived, I dated a woman who had two goldens of her own. It was amazing to watch Hank interact and come alive with Gracey and Honey. After seeing Hank’s positive reaction to these two, I knew that multiple dogs were going to be a part of my future. In the ten years since then, Millie & Nikki (7yr golden sisters), Matar (10 yr old golden), Lulu (5yr old Landseer Newf), Chevy (5 yr old Maremma), Cooper (8yr old golden) and Vadar(5 yr old Newf) have come into our pack. With each new arrival I have used the same process – giving each one as much attention, support, reassurance, support and direction as needed, while treating them all equally. The solid bond with each of these dogs never ceases to amaze me. Of course after the initial period until bonding (with Nikki it took about three months), you get to know better the dogs personality and adjust appropriately. I think the trust built during the bonding with older dogs is something they really respond to. Currently the pack consists of Millie, Lulu, Cooper and Vadar and I am enjoying them immensely and know by looking at them, that they are four very content and happy canines.
I brought Mr. Miles home about 8 years ago, when he was roughly 3 years old. I only had a vague background story on him, but was told he was a ‘retired stud’ at what I suspect was a doodle mill.
I had been preparing myself for the normal training challenges of not jumping on people and walking nicely on lead. I instead brought home a stately but shut-down standard poodle. He’d follow me around like a shadow, but was scared of sudden movements and noises. He didn’t urinate for the first 24 hours he was home. He’d trudge along behind me on the leash, and play was out of the question.
The rule of threes fit perfectly:
Day 3, I learned that he had separation anxiety and was an escape artist and wondered if I made a huge mistake.
Week 3, he offered his first play-bow in the back yard.
Month 3, I heard him bark for the first time and we could play chase without scaring the fun out of him. His sense of humor came out too, usually starting games by pretending to run for the weak part of the fence, knowing I’d run to head him off. It took me a few repetitions before I realized he was messing with me.
By year 3, we had completed our mind-meld. I trusted him enough to let him go hiking with me off-lead and witnessed him at his most joyful. He loved running up and down hills at full speed, going out of his way to leap fallen logs and pushing his range to the edge of my tolerance, just to get a reaction.
Now he’s slowing down some, so we’re in a new adjustment period. Walks are slower and flatter, focused on sniffing rather than running. We’re learning about ramps, so we can minimize the use of “Elevator Ellen” when getting into the car. And strangely, he’s far less aloof to other dogs than ever before, now happily greeting other pups on our walks after years of studiously ignoring anything else on a leash. It’s enough to make me think he just might enjoy a friend…
Marianne Johnson says
We foster failed with Leisa our rescue rottweiler. Our previous rottie, a pseudo rescue (knew the owner and the dog from puppyhood) was our heart dog. She was absolutely amazing. So after she died, we were too traumatized to seek another dog right away. She was my 5th dog, I’d been through letting the previous ones go, but her passing just ripped the heart out of me. However, a couple of years later, I saw an emergency foster request on a rottie rescue site I checked in one occasionally, and talked my husband into applying for Hannah.She was 9 years old, her owner had died and the person who was supposed to take her on had gotten ill. But everybody volunteered for Hannah. Then the rescue called and asked if we would consider fostering Leisa. Leisa was a six year old rottie they had brought up from Texas. Leisa was in dire straits, she was very pregnant, emaciated, anemic and heart worm positive. She had been part of a “pack” of “guard dogs” at someone’s business. None of the dogs were neutered, meals were a sack of food thrown out in the yard and water came from a dirty bucket. No shelter. If she lived through the pregnancy and once her pups were weaned, would we nurse her through her heart worm treatment? We said yes. She lived through an emergency C-section, had 12 pups, 10 lived. (I think rescue people are the best kind of nuts because the head of the rescue had Leisa and all the pups in her house for the round-the-clock feedings.) Leisa had no milk, but did help take care of all the babies. When she came to us she was timid, wary of men, terrified of thunderstorms and just sorta getting the hang of being housebroken. Leisa has lived with us now for almost 4 years. Potty training took about 6 months to really lock in, and there are still occasional ‘accidents”. She runs from any loud voices, but will return when she thinks the coast is clear. She has physical problems that don’t slow her down too much. She loves little kids, women and quiet men. She goes on off leash walks everyday, isn’t really dog reactive, but is definitely an alpha female and won’t take any rude behavior from any other dog. She has absolutely no interest in chasing toys or critters. She will vociferously defend the house from delivery people when she’s indoors, but mostly ignores them during our walks. She is getting better with affectionate behavior from the crazy primate she lives with, who insists on kissing her head. We didn’t do much formal training with her. She is very smart and crazy observant, so we all just kinda melded together. We hope Leisa is living her best life right now.
Jeanine H. says
Your book told me I’m not the only one suffering buyer’s remorse. After 2 months I’m still waiting for it to go away! Charlie is a wonderful dog, but in spite of walks and play and training and snuggles on the sofa, we’re not bonding with each other. We are good friends, at least. More time?
Help! We adopted Rose about 15 mo ago. She was around a year old and a stray picked up with 2 other dogs. She has some reactivity with dogs when on leash, but we’re working on that. She also had some separation anxiety at first. We have another dog, Eddy, we’ve had since he was about 11 months old, he is 11years old. They get along well, play, eat together, etc. Rose is showing some signs of dominance and is a little possessive of us lately. The problem is, someone has started peeing on our bed; 3 times in the last 2 weeks. I don’t know which dog. I think it is Rose. The first time, we had left them home for about 6 hours and I thought it was a separation issue. The next times, we were home. Eddy was recently checked for kidney issues and was fine. I will take them both to the vet to be sure there is not a physical problem. The dog door is always open and this has only happened on our bed. We’ve been trying to keep the door to the bedroom closed. If it’s not physical I don’t know what to do next. We live in a small county and I don’t have a lot of confidence in the local trainers for behavioral issues. Any suggestions?
We were happy to take a 7 year old terrier from a shelter one county over who had come from an ugly situation. His neck was permanently indented from a very tight collar and he was obese. He came home on a harness and was introduced to our huge fenced yard to explore, after which we slowly released one dog at a time for him to meet. Things went much better than we expected! We had been told he had never lived with another dog, and was aggressive with them and all men.
Our pack sleeps on the bed with us. Our new guy began by sleeping between us with his head touching one of us and an outstretched back leg touching the other. He was hypervigilant and jumpy/barky for several months.
Eight months later…He romps and plays with our pack, sleeps in various places on the bed, displays exuberance, has learned a few tricks, and has a new, sturdy, muscular body. He does one thing that is odd, however. He drinks water only rarely and drinks large amounts of it at that time. He does a similar thing with urination, as if he holds it until he can hold no more and then urinates a large amount. He has been to the vet, had all the bloodwork, etc. It’s definitely not of medical origin. Could this be a leArned behavior from neglect?
Absolutely could be learned! Give him time, it might take a year or even more, but as long as he’s still healthy it should be no problem. (Be prepared for people to write in and ask if they could have him! Especially us with dogs who have to pee every 45 minutes!)
Yes yes, another vet visit critical. Whether a health issue, it’s critical to prevent this, so door shut always. Not “trying,” but always! Go back as if you had puppies and reinforce for going outside. I wouldn’t let Rose on the bed now if she was my dog, given the possessiveness you’re starting to see. I’d do lots of impulse control exercises that also teach Rose that she gets what she wants (attention, food) for being quiet and polite. (Stays are such a wonderful thing to work on for just about any issues! They’re like Type O blood in a way.) Get a copy of Feeling Outnumbered and work on the exercise in which a dog gets reinforced for another dog coming closer for pets, attention. Good luck! Keep us posted.
“Good friends, but not bonding?” I’m not sure what that looks like. You like the dog but don’t love him. How do you define bonding? Give us a better picture of what you feel is missing…
We adopted Roxy when she was 13. She is a long-haired dachshund who found herself in need of a home after her owner passed away. We did not know a lot about her previous circumstances, other than that her owner loved her, but became very ill, and finally died of cancer. No family member could keep the dog. We agreed to foster Roxy and thought she might stay a maximum of a few weeks.
When she first arrived, she ran throughout our house like a wild dog. Though she would roll on her back and submit to being petted, she did not seem all that comfortable with us. For the first week, she had accidents in the house several times per day. We began to believe she might be incontinent (based on her age) or perhaps never fully potty trained in her previous home.
Although she was a good looking dog, she received almost no interest from adopters due to her age. We knew that at age 13 she would not have lasted long at all in one of our local shelters., where she likely would have been euthanized, (there was never any talk of putting her in a shelter, but it seemed likely she might live out her days in rescue or in foster home(s)).
We felt very sorry for her, and wanted to give her a good life for her remaining years. So we agreed to adopt her ourselves.
Almost immediately, we began thinking, “what have we done?!?!” Adopting a 13-year-old, possibly incontinent dachshund was total madness.
But then, slowly, things with Roxy changed. She began to trust us more within a month. And once she felt comfortable in our home, we discovered that she was, in fact, potty trained. She even went to the bathroom on command!
It just took her some time to feel comfortable. We needed to be patient with her.
After about six months, we could tell that something had shifted. She felt at home in our house and with us. We are not sure what, exactly changed, but one day there was a palpable change in her behavior. She went from polite distance to a full-on family member who owned us all.
It has now been a year since we adopted Roxy. She is a lovely, brilliant, sweet companion. And every night we feel grateful for her.
“Good friends, but not bonding”. That’s how I describe my relationship with my newly adopted dog. Our connection feels superficial, and that’s probably part of my long-lasting buyer’s remorse. I thought you bring home a dog and everybody just has a love fest. Guess not. Is bonding the same as love?
I’ve had Charlie a little more than 2 months. He’s 6, a tall thin mutt, and I couldn’t have picked a better dog. He came with great house manners, he’s adorable, he’s polite, easy and trouble free. We play together, go on walks, go to the dog park, and spend a lot of time hanging out. Training has been a big help with getting to know him, with building trust, and with just having fun together. But I feel unable to emotionally connect with him. Is being bonded the same as having a deep connection?
I don’t really know what Charlie is thinking but here are examples of lack of bonding:
One, he growls at you when you rub his belly after he’s rolled over. My impression is him thinking, “I’d like a belly rub, but wait, I don’t know you well enough”. Two, he doesn’t want me to sit too close to him. Again, he’ll growl as if to say “I need more space”. He’ll let me take food away from him, however.
And here are examples of what’s preventing me bonding with him. One, my previous dogs were beagles. Charlie is not a beagle and sometimes for a split second I think he doesn’t “look” right. Two, I like Charlie, but I do not love him and that surprises me. My beagles were my heart and soul. Three, it’s easy to leave him when I go to work. Unlike how I hated to be away from the beagles. Four, maybe I compare Charlie with my previous dogs too much? I had my beagles for 15 years. Maybe it’s unfair to expect to feel the same way about a dog I’ve only had 2 months?
The best part of Love Has No Age Limit is your advise for patience, patience, patience. Charlie is so easy that having patience comes naturally. I’m hopeful that in time Charlie and I will “belong” to each other. Is that what bonding is?
Jeanine, in my humble opinion, what you may be craving is reciprocity. Perhaps you’re thinking about your dog: I’m petting your belly, I’m giving you shelter, food, a soft place to lay your head. I love you, but you don’t act the way I recognize as love. Charlie doesn’t sound ready to reciprocate in the profound way you would like. Six years is along time, and it will take a long time before he feels able to fully trust, I would imagine.,
That’s one of the hard parts about living with and loving some dogs. It’s truly on their schedule and each schedule is different.
Two stories I like to tell about Olive: She came with her tail cut off and was very, very sensitive about anyone or any dog going near her stump. If anyone even thought about her butt, she’d whirl around and snark and glare and then be nervous about it for a very long time. We respected that even though we did sometimes feel like if she trusted us, she’d know we weren’t going to hurt her. One day, years after being with us, she had a bit of grass protruding (one of her worst things) after taking a poop, and she looked up at me, presented her butt, and stood still so I could pull out the grass. That day was a blue-ribbon day for me.
The other milestone happened as we were all lying in bed, she gave a big sigh and flopped her whole body down with stress-free abandon and went sound asleep. I teared up.
She taught me that our relationship was a give and take, up and down, and I’d have to be okay with that. I am. And it was a steep curve for me.
@Jeanine Not all relationships will look the same. My previous dogs were herding dogs and they were responsive to me even thinking I’d like them to do something. My current dog is a Livestock Guardian Dog and he needs me to explain very clearly what I want him to do And what’s in it for him. I’m having to adjust my expectations and the nature of the connection. It doesn’t feel at all the same as it did with my other dogs. I love him dearly but I miss having dogs that could read my mind.
It sounds to me like part of you is missing the type of connection you had with your Beagles and it will take time to build and accept the connection you have with your new guy. It’s only been a couple of months and you have a good relationship but you haven’t really clicked yet. Concentrate on all the things you love about him and one day you’ll realize that the two of you are bonded in a way different than you did with your Beagles but still a great bond. All Good Wishes that Moment Comes Sooner Rather than Later.
I did not adopt or rescue, but purchased a 3 year old “ex-sire” from a kennel (when people ask if he is a rescue, I tell them he was a sire at a kennel – he probably hates me for “rescuing” him!)
I expected marking problems, and house problems. There were none. The kennel did a great job.
Initially I had that “what was I thinking” feeling when all 85 lbs of him would pull/lunge whenever he saw other people and dogs. I had no idea if the pulling/lunging was friendly or could turn ugly. He had no idea what games were. He told me in no uncertain terms when he was finished with me combing him. I actually thought all the whale eye he was exhibiting was just physically him….that’s how much it was displayed. I would come home from work and he would not be at the door to greet me. When I first brought him home, my last dog, who passed away, still owned my heart.
It was at least a year before I saw a state of comfort where all the good things that followed were exponential.
Before that, it was measured in smaller steps as I learned about him, his needs and all that was endearing about him. It took time to teach commands (or communication skills), and games.
It took him some time to realize I wasn’t all that bad after all! Even though his life was not riddled with abuse or neglect, I took him away from a home he knew for 3 years.
I am now confident there is not an aggressive bone in his body when he exuberantly lunges towards dogs and people. He loves “go find games”, and was top dog in obedience class.
He greets me when I come home. I love him.
Relationships take time. I somehow knew that in my head, but it’s hard to remember when you are going through it and wondering how it’s going to work out.
the one or two things i wish i had known: to read patricia mcconnell books and ted kerosote’s book, pukka’s promise, before getting a dog! and also, that a rescue dog’s personality/behavior is not necessarily going to manifest itself in the first day or week of homecoming. a lot of what we heard from the foster (through no fault of her own! i am so grateful they pulled paco out of animal control to give him a second chance!!) was that paco was a socialized, kid-friendly, people-person dog. ummm… no, he wasn’t, lol. i think he was nervous and shut down at the foster home, after being picked up as a stray in alabama. he lunged at every person that walked towards us on the sidewalk, he bit my young niece twice, and we worried we would not be able to have guests over, ever, unless we kept him in a separate room for all his fear-aggression towards strangers.
but wow, did he transform into a beautiful, amazing dog, inside and out. it’s a weird thing to say, but i really wish he had not been my first dog…i wish he had been my second. because i love him with all of my heart, and am so much better equipped now to handle what i struggled with back then. it was a steep learning curve for us both, but i am so very grateful we found each other.
Kristin O says
I tried commenting before, but I ended up writing such a detailed account of our tribulations and triumphs with Aki that I am guessing the system rejected it for being too long-winded. 😉 I’ll control myself better this time, because this post and the comments really touched my heart. First, I was so grateful for finding Love Has No Age Limit (and this blog) even though it came too late to prevent us from breaking nearly every rule at Aki’s homecoming. :O My husband and I grew up with dogs, but waited a very long time (until we got our own house last year) to FINALLY get a dog of our own. And we didn’t know what we didn’t know. Although we’ve definitely had some challenges with Aki (which we are addressing with the help of a professional trainer and what I’ve read in Patricia’s books and blog), love really has no limit – age or otherwise – where that dog and I are concerned.
But it took some time to get there. When Aki came to us from the shelter, he was so jumpy and mouthy we became convinced it had to be more than just normal doggy adolescence. He was so good in some ways – nudging the doorknob to go out, never an accident in the house from day one (and the shelter didn’t even know if he was house-trained), sitting to say please, zero resource guarding. But after he chased me across the bedroom one night doing his Jaws impression – head sideways on the floor, sliding along snapping his teeth at my feet as I walked – we banished him from the bedroom. We do research, find a trainer, practice, make mistakes, celebrate small victories…All the while, Aki curls up against the outside of our bedroom door at night, the closest he can get to us now that his bedroom privileges have been revoked.
One morning, my husband gets up to use the bathroom. When he comes back, Aki follows him into the room. We decide to let him stay there. Husband pats the bed, inviting Aki to join us, and then came a moment of magic. Aki launches himself into the air, flies the length of the bed (nearly hitting his head on the headboard), and lands right between our pillows. He is on his side, facing me. For a moment, we look into each other’s eyes – I can’t say what he was thinking, but I was wondering if he was about to bite my face off. Then, Aki shifts closer to me while nuzzling my neck with his nose, I put my arm over him, and we all fall back asleep. And Aki has had the run of the bedroom (and our hearts) ever since.