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Monday, March 14, 2011

Oh, my heart!

This is Leo. He's a two year old (+/-) Poodle / Jack Russell Terrier Mix who was rescued a year ago from a situation of "hording" with 16 other dogs. He's been living with his foster mom and dad since he was rescued.

I'm thinking of adopting him.

No, seriously.

I've been thinking about this for the past six months. Yes, we already have two dogs, Lenny and CoCo, whom I adore. But, at least for a little while longer, we are going to have to live apart from each other.

I hate it.

I really miss the morning ritual of feeding the pups, taking them for a walk, playing with them. I love having to come home - not being away too long during the day - because they have to be walked and played with.

I love coming home to them at the end of the day, feeding them, taking them for a walk, playing with them. I love snuggling and cuddling with them on the couch as I read or watch TV.

So, Ms. Conroy and I talked about it. Actually, she's the one who found Leo online at New England Poodle Rescue.

My biggest concern was allergies. Mine. I'm terribly allergic to cats and some breeds of dogs. I'm fine with dogs with "hair" vs. "fur". So, I'm limited to the kinds of pets I can have.

I had a "home visit" with Leo and his foster mom this morning. As you can see, he's really a cutie. He's very silky. I was with him for more than an hour. No wheeze. No sneeze. No harsh cough. Not even a scratchy throat.

He's very smart - given his genetic pool, his IQ is probably higher than mine. He has clearly bonded with his foster mom. Never barked once, although I understand that he doesn't do well with most men - especially big, adolescent young men. One can only imagine the story behind that anxiety.

Which is the thing. He's anxious. He wouldn't come to me. At. all. His foster mom and I tried two situations to see if it would change. She went into the bathroom and closed the door and stayed for a few minutes.

No dice. He just walked around the apartment, nervously looking for her.

So, we sat and visited for another 10 minutes or so. She told me that this is pretty much the way he is in all new situations - even when she visits her mom here in Cambridge. He's fine with other dogs, but when she takes him for a walk, he cowers and shivers if someone stops to visit with him.

After we chatted for a bit more, his foster mom then suggested she leave the apartment for about 10 minutes and leave us alone with each other.

Better. I kept him on his leash and walked around, talking to him in soothing tones. He did get up on the couch and sat with me. Even allowed me to pat him - a bit reluctantly and hesitantly but basically, he was okay. He didn't shiver or cower. Actually, he even seemed to enjoy it.

I know I did.

When his foster mom returned, he was obviously pleased, but then sat under the chair where she sat so no one could get to him. Wouldn't come when I called to him.


We've left it that I will think things over for a few days before considering taking him for a two week period of time. His foster mom thinks that, once I've fed him a few times, walked with him, slept with him, etc., he'll adjust.

I guess you can tell I'm a little disappointed. It's not that I thought there would be "instant bonding". If I'm honest, however, I guess I hoped there would be. You know - a sort of "Ah ha! Yes! This is the one!"

It's not that he isn't "the one". It's just that I don't know that right now. I guess I'm not only disappointed but a little anxious about investing two weeks - for him and for me - if it doesn't work out.

It's like dating someone, right? I was never good at the dating scene. Ever.

So, what do you think? Are first impressions really that important? Is he just "shy" or has he been permanently scarred by his first few months of life where he was so badly neglected? Will he ever "adjust" and "get better"? Can I expect other manifestations of his anxiety?

He's a good walker - doesn't tug or pull on the leash - but his foster mom says he does get skittish when other people stop to visit. No growling. No barking. No biting. He just shakes and cowers. Poor little guy.

Do I take the risk? What if, in two weeks, it doesn't work out? His foster mom says she'll take him back, of course, so he'll be okay, I suppose. But, will I?

I invite your prayers and wisdom and advice as I go through this time of discernment.


Elisabeth said...

You have to try the two week visit or you will be forever second guessing your decision. I think this is meant to be.

Kay & Sarah said...

We adopted a dog from the local animal shelter 6 years ago. She was very shy and skittish. She was very hesitant with people. She bonded with me (Kay) first. Sarah said that when I was not at home the dog would not come in the house if she was in the yard.

Maggie has become a part of our family. She is snoozing on the sofa as I am writing. Go ahead. Adopt!!

Lindy said...

It's really dicey. I've had an immediate reaction to all my dogs. I "knew" within seconds. It's easy when it happens like that.

That said, I did adopt a little dog one time who had been so badly abused that I considered giving him back. I just didn't think he could be healthy. But, after a couple months, He turned into a bundle of confidence and joy! And, in the end, I felt blessed to have helped him find himself. I had two things going for me, though: 1. I live alone so I was able to totally control his environment, and 2. I got good advice. It's hard. I do think that if you adopt this dog, you'll be able to help him become a fine companion, and you may find even more joy for yourself by making this kind of investment. In the end, you'll have to follow your own heart. That's the only way.

I will continue to pray for you and the little dog.


PS - He IS a cutie.

Mary Beth said...

I have no experience in dog fostering to offer, but oh, how glad I am that you are approaching it. As someone who came to dogs late, I can't imagine living without one.

My prayers are with you and Leo.

Grandmère Mimi said...

Elizabeth, I will pray for you and Leo, too. You look as though you belong together, if that's any help.

Hutch said...

Take the leap.

Ana said...

I've adopted three dogs in my life and only one came to me right away. The other two were a a) little skittish, and b) didn't really care if I was there or not. They both ended up being wonderful but not without issues. Neither am I without issues, though, so it worked out just fine. Ask the foster mom what the issues were when he arrived at her house, so you'll have an idea. Also, make sure you find out his favorite games and toys. I took Emmy to the PetSmart to buy a ball because I knew she was a ball dog, and when we went to the "Kong" aisle, I picked one up, and she sat and stared at me and wagged her tail like I'd just given her the hope diamond. Game, set, match, mama. Who says dogs can't talk?

Kemlynb said...

My lab, Eddy, came from a puppy mill/hoarding situation. He's been with us 2 years and has worked through most of his issues. Most dogs like that can heal. The big thing is that it takes time, a calm environment, and creative problem solving. If you take him for 2 weeks, Leo should probably meet your partner and some of your grandkids too. Lindy's comment on getting good advice is right. Good luck! Eddy is napping on the couch with me as I write this, and he makes a good armrest. :)

susankay said...

I think Ana is spot on about asking the foster guardian about how he was with her. I guess the question is in part: did you fall in love? and also can you deal with a broken heart if you need to give him back?

Molly the WonderDog is noticeably getting much older and we are dealing with the question of getting another puppy when she dies (and when our hearts are broken). But we are also getting older and must consider the risk of us abandoning a dog through our deaths. Difficult and much sadder than just dieing ourselves.

Paul said...

We adopted a dog about a year and an half ago. He was described as a Scott terrier mix, but he looks just like yours, right down to the curve in the tail, so maybe we have to rethink that assignment. For the first few weeks, he was very quiet and wouldn't play with any toy we bought him. Now he barks at everything and plays like any other dog. There is apparently a "honeymoon" period for about six weeks with a new owner. After that, you find out what kind of dog you actually have.

The foster guardian's experience with this period could be very helpful; we never had that information.

Our experience is that a dog gets attached to the person who feeds them. Treats work wonders.

Your mileage may vary, of course. I am certainly no expert on dogs. Good luck.

the cajun said...

He's beautiful and this post made me cry. Hording! Poor baby.

If anyone has the patience to get him through this, it is you, my darling.

But some wounds are very deep, so there is that to consider.

Miss you already. Keep us posted.

Anonymous said...

I have been in animal rescue for over 10 years. My experiences with rehabilitating dogs vary according to the tramatic event suffered by the dog, how long the dog was in that state, and the breed of the dog. Some breeds are easier than others to rehab. I have worked with over 40+ dogs. In that time period there was only one dog I gave up on because it was violent. Most dogs can be rehabilitated with time and knowledge. I would recommend reading "Help for your Shy Dog" by Deborah Wood.

Try the dog for two weeks. What do you have to lose? If it is too much work-give it back. You will have given this dog a chance at a wonderful home.

Marla (Sorry I do not have a google account)

renzmqt said...

Ok. So much I want to say and me here in the woods on my smartphone...
There is a much bigger consideration, how will he do with the other dogs when it is time to combine again? That would be the only concern I would have.
When I adopted my bichon, she would only bark at me when I first met her. When I rescued my schkipperke, he was so flipped out it took him months to calm down just a little, but eventually he was just fine. I've blogged about the Skittles rescue if you haven't seen them.

Sounds like Leo is very shy, that is all. As a dog all he wants to do is please his alpha. Smart as they are they think like dogs, not people. It's programmed into him that his alpha will change so after a little adjusting, he will be just fine.

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

Thank you all so much for your comments. The foster mom says he has gotten much better in the year she's had him - that he was really "a mess" when he came. He relates well with her husband now and does better on walks.

I think there's been progress. He just needs some stability.

I've decided to take on the two week trial visit and see what happens. I think I'll be okay if it doesn't work out. I just hope it's okay for little Leo who has had so much disruption in his short little life. I'm not planning on a disruption. I'm just trying to prepare my heart for the possibility. Not probability. Possibility.

I am starting to get excited.

barbara said...

Lets face didn't know for sure when you first met me, and look at what a find I was!

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

Yes, dear (Turns quickly, smiles and walks into the kitchen for a hot cup of tea to settle her nerves).

JCF said...

JMO: if you believe in Leo, Leo will believe in you. [But if you have a "Can Leo change/be fixed/recover-from-trauma?" 'tude (doubts), he'll pick up on that, and remain skittish]

Walking him is key. If you can walk him successfully, you're more than halfway there. "Exercise/Discipline/Then Affection" as one expert I like (but will remain nameless, as his name tends to provoke dogtraversy) says!

Here's hoping Leo finds a loving, forever home. Preferably w/ you, Lisbeth!

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

Thanks, JCF. I think you're right on this one.

Bateau Master said...

DO IT! That is most excellent looking mutt .... he will bless you and you him!

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

Thanks, Bateau. I'm taking a deep breath and heading for the deep end of the baptismal font.

whiteycat said...

Oh, he's SO CUTE, Elizabeth! I pray that this will be a good experience for both of you.

it's margaret said...

Mr Witty sez --when margaret saw me she was down on her knees by my cage and sticking her fingers through the cage even though there was a big sign that said, 'don't stick your fingers through the cage.' I liked her for it. Now I can't spend a night without her... the guys --she's still trying to teach me to like the guys... but I can't help remembering. And I don't like loud noises... I feel safer when she holds me and introduces me... give him a chance... to know your love--trust your lover, she found him. And let us know, please let us know.

Kirkepiscatoid said...

I e-mailed you the one bit of advice I had. Meanwhile, I'm praying.

Muthah+ said...

But what will Lenny and Coco say when you return to LSD?

We adopted a kitten in December and our senior cat is still punishing us. The kitten has become a kamakazi diving upon pore Tyke who is 3x her size.

I know that dogs and cats are quite different in their socialization. But just wondering...

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

Having had cats (before allergies which are worse with cats than dogs for me), I think I can say that there is no other creature on earth quite like a cat.