My husband and I adopted a rescue dog in 2011. We think she was about five years old at the time. She came to us with the name Honey, and we never changed it. She was our fourth attempt at bringing a dog into our home, which I suppose is fitting because ours was her sixth home.
We knew we wanted a Bichon Frise or some sort of hypo-allergenic breed. My husband had a few Bichons when he was growing up, and is quite fond of the breed. I did research and found a nearby breeder of Bichon Frise dogs.
Our first attempt was with a lovely breeder of Bichon Frises in North York, Ontario. We met with her and her dogs, once of whom was pregnant with what we hoped would be one of our puppies. We got along, and we loved how well behaved her dogs were. We thought we were in, and that a puppy would soon be a part of our home. Our hopes came to a screeching halt when the breeder asked, expectantly, “So, one of you is at/works from home, right?” No, we both work in office jobs. Oops. As it turns out, Bichons are notorious for needing someone with them all the time when they are puppies. Otherwise, they will drive themselves crazy. Bichons were bred to be companion dogs, and their people are their entire reason for being. As an older dog, a Bichon can handle being alone for hours per day but as puppies they need 24/7 companionship. And this breeder only allows people to adopt her dogs’ puppies if at least one person is home. Though we were sad about not being able to adopt a Bichon puppy, we understood and appreciated the logic.
So began our search for an adult dog. Our first foray was to meet an adorable little Schnoodle with an occasional biting problem. As is often the case with the adoption process for rescue dogs, there is usually a visit to test for “fit” before making the decision to adopt. The visit went very well, and we took the little guy for a stroll with his foster parents. As I was changing from shoes into my sandals, the noise of my shoe hitting the floor freaked the dog out and he bit my pant leg and growled as ferociously as a Schnoodle can muster. It was heartbreaking, because I was also freaked out and decided he wasn’t the dog for us.
Most rescue dog organizations take re-homing their dogs very seriously, and it’s important to ensure there is a good match. In addition to the home visit to test fit and suitability, there is usually a trial period of two weeks during which time, if there is a concern that perhaps the fit isn’t right, the organization will take the dog back. Unfortunately, this happened on our next attempt.
Jasper was a sweet old boy, at about 11 years of age. He was a Bichon/Poodle mix and loved playing with balls. We had a blast with him, playing with him every night after work. That is, we had a blast most of the time. Jasper had issues and was better suited for a single-person home. When he was alone with one of us, he was the sweetest. When both of us were around, he tended to resource guard the person he was in the room with first, which was a major problem at night. He snarled and snapped at me when I came back to bed from the bathroom. He attacked Dave when he tried to come to bed after me. We didn’t know what to do. We realized, with pits in our stomachs, that ours was not the home for Jasper. The morning we went to drop him off was so terrible. He was being extra good that morning (did he know?). We were in tears. I felt like we had failed him. But I knew we couldn’t help him, that he would only be unhappy with us. We simply did not have the tools.
And then along came Honey. A few months after Jasper, I was perusing the website for Happy Tails Rescue again. I had seen Honey’s profile before, but hadn’t chosen her because of grade 4 luxating patella on her hind legs, which can mean very expensive surgeries. She was still there, gazing goofily into the camera. So I sent a message. We heard back almost immediately – would we like her to visit us in our home? When they arrived, she snuggled in with my husband almost right away. She was amped up, which I later learned was her actually displaying her anxiety. We learned more about her: she barks – a lot; once she knows you, she is very snuggly but until then will bark at you; she was never properly socialized so she is afraid of dogs and most people.
We thought about it. Since the rescue organization had the two-week policy where we could really assess if we were the people for her, we decided to adopt her. I took one week off work and stayed with her to bond and teach her a few things (little did I know how much she would teach me!). And we’ve never looked back. She makes us laugh every day. She did end up needing surgeries (4), and she was attacked by another dog which required another surgery. Her medical care has cost us way more than I ever could have imagined, but what was the alternative? She kept me company when I was undergoing chemotherapy and she made me laugh when there wasn’t much to laugh about. She is family.
We ended up hiring a positive-reinforcement trainer to help us with Honey. Her name is Caryn Liles and she owns the Toronto Centre for Canine Education. She trained my husband and I very well. I highly recommend her if you are getting or have a dog. Caryn came to our home, and for the first few visits did not come in further than the entrance. She just sat there, patiently, while Honey barked at her.
We’ve now had Honey for six years, and her approach to life inspires me. She is curious about everything, loves unconditionally, and wears her heart on her sleeve. She doesn’t worry about whether she is well-groomed. She sleeps when she’s tired and plays when the spirit moves her. When it’s “treat time,” she goes after what she wants with gusto. And she is an excellent communicator, even though we don’t speak dog.
Do you have pets? What have they taught you? Drop me a line in the comments section, as I would love to learn what else people learn from their pets.