For most of the 16+ years my partner and I have been together, we’ve had a dog.
Yep, we’re “dog people.”
When we first met, I became "Step Dad" to Max, a gentle, sweet, miniature Schnauzer, who was probably around 9 years old. (My partner had gotten Max when he was just a puppy.) By the time he about 16 years old, Max developed numerous physical problems which the Vet said were terminal; he was in so much pain. We made the difficult decision to put him down. I was there, holding him and talking to him in his final minutes. It was one of the most emotional events I’ve ever endured. I was weeping openly as we left the vet’s office.
We swore we’d never get another dog.
Several years passed, and we met a woman who “accidentally” had several Schnauzer/Poodle puppies. The story was she’d inherited her mom’s Schnauzer and he mated with both of her female Poodles. (At the time, we’d never heard of the designer dog, Schnoodle.) We were never sure of the truth of the story or the breed, but the puppies were so tiny, cuddly, cute...and we adopted Marlene. She was affectionate and so very smart. She loved to cuddle and give face kisses. (Is there anything better?) When she was a baby, she slept on my chest. Everyone called her my dog.
Then, when she was about five years old, something horrible happened. One morning, when I reached down to pat her, she attacked me. (I know, these stories are normally about bigger dogs.) Her sharp teeth ripped into my hand, and she charged at my face. I fell backwards, and had to forcefully knock her away. For days afterwards, whenever I’d walk by her, she would growl. We consulted our vet, who was stunned and we brought in a behaviorist. Everyone had a theory, but no one could find a solution. We had to put her into a no-kill shelter. I cried for days, thinking I’d done something wrong and wondering why she stopped loving me. (Silly, I know...but that’s how it felt!)
And we swore to never get another dog!
Once I was put on disability, I was lonely during the day and my partner brought up the idea that a dog might be good company. After months of discussion, we decided to adopt a rescue puppy. The process was tedious, and often disappointing; we’d find a puppy we liked, but by the time we filled out and submitted the application, the dog was gone. One day, a friend sent me a link to a local agency with a new listing for a Chihuahua-Terrier mix. They were having an adoption clinic near us the very next day, so we went and met “Toby.”
He was not a puppy, but was so adorable. We were told he was probably three or four years old, and they suspected he’d been abused, then abandoned. (Our vet later confirmed his leg had been broken and never set properly.) He’d been living on the streets when he was caught by animal control. He was one day away from being euthanized when a volunteer at the facility called the rescue agency, and they took him.
Toby’s “foster Mom” was at the adoption clinic, and told us that he was a little skittish, but was a good eater, was housebroken and crate trained.
We'd filled out the paperwork prior to our visit, so we paid the fees on the spot, and became new “parents.”
We re-named him Brody.
He weighs less than 10 pounds, and we think he's part Boston Terrier (his coloring), mixed with Chihuahua (his temperament), and perhaps other breeds as well.
Author's Note: Since designer dogs are popular (Cockapoo, Maltipoo, Labradoodle, etc.), and I always want to be fashionable, I tell people he’s a Botehuahua. (Bo-Tee-Wah-Wah)
Sounds better than "He's a mutt," right?
This was our first time getting an adult dog and also going through a rescue agency.
And in my opinion, we were not given factual portrayal of the dog we were taking into our home. In the weeks following the adoption, we spent so much money and experienced so much frustration that we often had second thoughts about our decision. It was heart-wrenching.
First, I would not classify him as “skittish.” He was terrified! Of everything. I’m not exaggerating when I say that if we looked in his direction, he would dart under the table, termbling. The first time we opened the front door, he bolted outside and it took us a while to corner and catch him. Any sudden movements or noise would cause him to have an “accident” in the house. Training a dog that was afraid of everything was out of my skill set. Food did not interest him, so a reward system was ineffective. (Raising a hand with a treat in it would send him running away in fear!) We finally hired a trainer who specializes in what she called "'fraidy dogs." She's been extremely helpful. (Yeah, that was costly!)
Second, we could not get him to eat...anything. Everyone said that when he gets hungry, he would eat...but they were wrong. We tried numerous varieties, to no avail. (Also costly, though our local animal shelter grew to love us as they got numerous donations of just-opened bags of dog food Brody rejected.) He was losing weight and lethargic. We learned that while he did eat at the foster home, he was crated at the time. In desperation, we bought what amounted to doggie fast food (cheap and unhealthy), and he loved it. He was finally eating. And gaining some weight. Over time, we were able to switch it out to a healthier brand. To this day, he won’t eat when we are in the same room; he will wait until we are seated in another room...then he eats. And during his meal, he will regularly peak around the corner to make sure we are still seated and not watching him.
Third, it’s an exaggeration to say he’s crate trained. He has destroyed five crate pillows/cushions, clawing, gnawing and scratching them to get out. (More costs!) He whines and howls until he finally falls asleep, exhausted. (Leaving us just as tired!)
This one is still an ongoing issue that we haven't yet resolved.
He is not an overly affectionate dog. He’s not the kind who seems excited to see us when we return; he doesn’t come running to greet us when we get home. He still moves in the opposite direction if we come into his space. On the other hand, he insists on laying next to us in the evenings when we watch TV, where he snuggles and falls asleep. (My heart melts!)
Several weeks ago, he came into my study and he put his front paws up on my chair for the first time. I was thrilled...and choked up. Several days ago, while we were on the sofa together, he crawled up on my chest and licked my face. I cried!
Our trainer suggested he needs to spend time with other dogs, and we’ve found it's very calming for him. We try to go to our local Dog Park as often as possible, and also to "Doggie Daycare." (More cost.) While he’s afraid of humans, other dogs don’t intimidate him at all and he has a great time. He enjoys car rides. He's learning to walk with us on the leash. We are not pressuring him to learn "tricks" but concentrating on the basic of "Come" and "Stay." Obedience is an ongoing challenge, and he will occasionally revert to hiding under the table rather than interact with us. (Treats still don't interest him, and we've tried many varieties. The only way he will take them is if we are not watching him.)
We wanted a puppy, but we got a grown dog instead.
He’s not the dog they described to us.
He’s not the dog we thought we were getting.
But he IS the dog we got.
And I’m convinced he’s not the dog that he will be, with time, patience and lots of love.
He had a rough life before he came to us. His life was about to end. He didn't deserve to be treated that way, but he's our dog now.
I want to make the rest of his life better.
And even now, I can’t imagine our lives without him!