Blending a Rescue Dog Into an Existing Pet Family
It's been exactly a year now since I met little Lucky at Shelter on the Hill. He was shy and cautious. But as usual with the guests enjoying that loving institution's care, he warmed quickly.
I'd sit on a stool and scratch his ears and jaw. He'd push on my hand to make it harder. Lucky has no teeth, a legacy of poor care earlier in his life. Then, during my visits he began placing paws on my knee and standing on his back legs to get closer to the scratches. Eventually, we cuddled, as long as the scratching continued.
You think, as even an occasional shelter visitor, that you'd want to adopt everyone in sight. That's a generous thought. But it's also an unfortunate excuse that can keep some people, me included, from getting involved with these little lost souls.
My wife Connie and I have always had pets around, sometimes a ridiculous number of them enhancing the fabric of our family's life and creating a way to teach responsibility to our two-legged members. When I was 7, I did not get breakfast until my horse, cats and dog did.
We already have a beautiful, zany two-year-old Border Collie, Fiona. One evening I was describing to Connie my latest charming encounter with Lucky. She interrupted me, "Let's just get him!"
I was surprised, pleasantly. I probably would have broached the same idea eventually. But wifely buy-in was a welcome go-ahead.
I phoned the shelter (661 248 5018) to put a hold on him. Word quickly spread among other volunteers that the sweet little guy was bound for a home. First, however, Lucky had to meet Fiona.
I borrowed Lucky the next Saturday afternoon. We introduced the two dogs on neutral territory, outside in the front yard. Much sniffing ensued. They did some business and then came inside. Fiona kept a wary eye on Lucky. But I suspect because of past abuse, he wasn't very assertive, actually quite accommodating. Good thing, Fiona is 32 pounds, Lucky 14.
Pretty soon, the entire family was out on the deck. Both dogs were splayed out on their bellies on the warm wood, nose to nose. They fell asleep.
We took that as approval. But truth be told, short of a death match, we'd have seen approval in virtually any reaction.
Days later, the Shelter's simple adoption procedure was completed. And we lived happily ever after, so far.
Fiona has become quite protective of Lucky, now dubbed Jamie or Jamer. If the little guy goes for an outing without Fiona, considerable caterwalling ensues. They each have their own styles. In the car, Fiona simply goes to sleep. Jamie is on back legs most of the time, peering out the window to catch the wind up his nose and send his floppy ears flying in the wind. He's taught me to appreciate more simple joys.
Jamie has taken upon himself House Guard Duty. Some unexpected sounds get him up on all fours. If they continue, he builds up steam in that tiny body and utters a bark. Sometimes several, until we acknowledge his good work.
I've always been a big dog person. I started at 7 with a St. Bernard from a shelter. Later, a shelter Great Dane. And a string of Border Collies, who are even smarter than their reputation. All were profoundly loved and deeply grieved.
Fiona is a character with a large vocabulary. Outside to fetch a ball, there was none in sight. "Where's the ball?" I said. She peered urgently around the yard to confirm the awful news, then back at me. "I think it's inside," I said. She raced inside.
A minute later she returned -- with no ball. "Did you look in my office?" I posited. A collie flashed by! Seconds later, she's back with a ball for another long play. With Jamie as an accidental role model, I think the one-time aloof Fiona has grown more affectionate.
Of course, our adoption of Jamie is only one rescue of scores that Shelter on the Hill arranges annually. You think you're doing a good deed. You are. But a larger truth is, a rescue pet enriches your own life deeply, so visibly appreciative is he or she of virtually everything.
I eagerly admit that little Jamie has captured my heart totally. And completely. When he sees me each morning, he bounces up and down on his front legs. Runs in little circles. If I'm slow to follow outside, he reverses course, skidding on the wood floor, and returns to check that I'm coming.
The best gift, of course, is when tiny Jamie falls asleep in my lap, something a St. Bernard cannot easily do. Connie and I can also report -- in total confidence, of course -- that to our delight the little rescue guy actually snores.