Continued from Part One, last week
When I walked into the dog room at the Humane Animal Welfare Society (HAWS) shelter last week, I was pleased to see that there were relatively few dogs there. That means that adoptions are strong and new dogs aren't being turned away because of overcrowding, which is good. I stopped to talk to one of the kennel workers while I petted a massive but friendly pit bull.
In the next enclosure was a gangly white dog wearing a lime green bandana that matched his striking yell0w-green eyes. He came ambling amiably to the door of his enclosure and gave me a delicate little lick as if to say "hey, bud," his tail waving casually. I'm used to looking at appealing dogs in the shelter, and I had no thought for bringing this one home. He was too big, too young, and probably too energetic for us. But he sure was an appealing fella.
Name, Butters. Sex, male. Age, 7 months. Breed, Labrador mix. Origin: stray. Medical profile: healthy, all shots, neutered.
A day later my son came home from his first full year at college. I told Xander about Butters, and Xander really wanted to see him, so the next day we went back to the shelter. We ended up "meeting" Butters in what is for all intents and purposes an interview room. When we asked about adoption, we were told that the next step would be to introduce him to our existing dog, Lulu, a boxer/pit mix we adopted at about the same age as Butters is now. Lulu will be eight later this year, near as we can figure.
Well, Lulu was in the car. Seemed like that process would be interesting, at least.
It was. We first put the two dogs into adjacent runs separated by chain link to see if there would be any aggressiveness issues. Then the HAWS trainer/behaviorist, an attractive, well-spoken, and self-assured young woman named Leann, kept Butters on his leash while we brought Lulu into the same dog run. By dropping Lulu's leash, we allowed Lulu to control the meeting.
The two dogs got along great, alternately wrestling playfully and ignoring each other, or walking around together side-by-side. During the time, Leanne kept up a running commentary decoding their behavior for us, and describing what she knew of Butters.
It turned out that Butters was a special favorite of hers—she said she was a bit conflicted between wanting Butters to find a good home, on the one hand, and not wanting to see him go on the other. For my part, I felt I could almost detect the point when she decided we were the right placement for her charge—her reserve and wariness of us subsided and she got enthusiastic and friendly. Maybe she'll read this and share the story from her own perspective. It was mainly the dogs who made the decision for both of us, though, I'm guessing—they just seemed to like each other so well and get along so naturally. They seemed like a match. It wasn't hard to see.
I really don't know at what stage "this sure is a nice puppy" morphed into "we're adopting this nice puppy." But a couple of days later, adoption papers signed, we brought Butters home.
To reintroduce them, I left Xander, his girlfriend Jenna, and Butters on the corner at the end of the alley. Then I went to get Lulu as if I were taking her on an ordinary walk. That way the two dogs encounter each other on neutral territory. They remembered each other, of course, and were very happy to reunite.
Then we took them on a long walk to get them used to each other and scrub a bit of excess energy off. The introduction to the house was smooth as silk—no issues.
It can be exhausting and anxiety-provoking to bring a new puppy into the household, especially one who's nearly full size. I have to say it went about as well as I could possibly imagine—both dogs just took to each other. Butters is remarkably smart and almost effortlessly trainable, and he seems just overjoyed to be here. He's very affectionate, to both of us and to Lulu.
His only issue is a bit of separation anxiety, not too bad but definitely present. The longest we've left them in their crates so far is about two hours. He gets especially anxious when Xander is not home and I disappear into the mysterious basement to play pool! So he's not feeling secure yet—but then, he did just come off more than two months at a shelter.
By Day 2 most of my anxiety had dissipated—Butters had quickly sussed out the lay of the land and was swiftly adapting to our routines. He's adjusting just great.
I'm actually a bit more worried about Lulu. At first she was protective and proprietary of the puppy, and they played together exceptionally affectionately, even tenderly. She kept looking at me pleadingly, as if to say "please don't take him away." But by Day 4 she was showing some definite signs of needing some alone time. We've had a couple of eruptions of more serious, er, adjustments between them—one of which was my fault, a lapse of attention when feeding. "Resource competition" between dogs and humans is not to be tolerated, but resource competition between dogs can be too ingrained to eliminate. And they're both jealous of me—when I give Lulu "loves," Butters comes running to interrupt, and vice-versa. I guess I am a "resource" too in a sense! So I'm being very careful to give them both affection.
We're also trying to alter Lulu's routine as little as possible. Part of her disruption, of course, is simply that she's suddenly a lot more active and getting a lot less sleep. It will be good for her in the long run, but right now she's a little stressed.
Although Butters is energetic, his personality is much more laid back than Lulu's was at that age—Lulu was an extremely intense puppy (if Gabi, her original rescuer, sees this post, she can attest to that). Butters already has a natural "soft mouth" (i.e., won't bite down on humans). Lulu's soft mouth is now very reliable, but it took well over a year of work when she was young. "No bites!" was a command she heard a thousand times. Age is dulling Lulu's intensity, but she's naturally aggressive and assertive. (And just as intensely loyal and owner-centric, so I'm not complaining.)
Overall—and so far—I'm enormously pleased. We got very lucky with Lulu (in my opinion)—she's been a great big positive in our lives. As we near the end of our first week with Butters, it looks like we've gotten lucky again.
Oh, and my barber loved the story! (See last week's post if you want to know what that means.)
We start obedience class on Tuesday evening, with the same Leann who managed Butters and Lulu's first meeting. I've never actually been through formal training with any dog, so I'm sure to learn a few tricks and get some "training" myself. I'm looking forward to it.
"Open Mike" is the often off-topic "editorial page" of TOP. It appears only, but not always, on Sunday.
Original contents copyright 2014 by Michael C. Johnston and/or the bylined author. All Rights Reserved. Links in this post may be to our affiliates; sales through affiliate links may benefit this site.
(To see all the comments, click on the "Comments" link below.)
Featured Comments from:
Tom Frost: "Hooray for you and the dogs! Adoption is the best way to get a dog; far too many breeders out there trying to make a buck and creating dogs with problems. All five of our dogs have been rescue or shelter dogs. Currently have a husky and a labradoodle. Also have two rescued cats, one of whom is curled in my lap, making it hard to type."
Roger Bradbury: "What a nice story. Just this morning I visited a friend who looks after the occasional rescue dog, short term. The inevitable happened and she now owns two dogs instead of one. Meanwhile, a friend in a village about eight miles away has finally taught his second dog not to act like a blacksmith; it doesn't make a bolt for the gate any more, when it's in the garden. :-] I know it's a dreadful old joke, but it's an important step forward. Both of his terrier type dogs were rescued, and they had bad habits caused by previous owners. That isn't the case with all rescue dogs, by the way."