Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Settling In

I have no plans to ever again have a puppy as my canine companion. Of course, if a homeless puppy turned up on my doorstep and my resident canines showed no inclination to do it severe bodily harm, my plans could change in a hurry. But given the fact that John and I have made the decision to adopt rescues and given the fact that we have no inclination to train a puppy, our plans are likely to stand.

However, bringing an adult dog who has either never known a real home or has associated bad things with humans also requires loving patience and consistent re-training.

For many people, that process is too long and too demanding. But for some of us, helping an adult dog become a trusting member of a family is rewarding beyond words.

Nine days from today, Magic will have been with us for eighteen months. Her behavior patterns are dramatically different now from the way they were when she first arrived. She was a "Bolter", an "Escape Artist." She had to learn to walk on a leash. She had to learn that carpeting was NOT the place to relieve herself. She had to learn that she could trust men, most particularly John.

Magic and Bingley had to work out their relationship. Bingley is an easy going, get along kinda guy. But he was accustomed to pretty aggressive play with Portia, who always gave as good as she got. Bingley's overtures terrified Magic. His repeated play bows--his gentlemanly way of reassuring her--meant nothing to Magic.

And then, there was the First Out The Door Issue. Anytime John or I approached a door, Magic was there, ready to bolt. In her determination, she almost knocked me over more than once.

She had to learn that when returning from a walk, the human, not either dog, enters the house first. Then she had to learn to wait at the back sliding glass door until it was opened.

The very last lesson had to be taught by Bingley. With dogs, first in and out is an important expression of dominance. Bingley was clearly unhappy to have the new interloper blast past him when he was venturing into his kingdom--that is, the back yard--or returning from exploring his kingdom.

I felt sorry for Bingley, but I leave it to the dogs to tell each other what they can tolerate. It became routine to see Magic push her way out the kitchen door in front of Bingley.

Then, a few weeks ago, I opened the door to let the dogs in. Bingley was standing right by the door. But he did not come in. I called Magic. She ignored me. Bingley trotted over to where she was and transmitted some doggy signal. Magic came racing for the door. Bingley followed her in with great dignity.

The next time I let them out, I realized that it was Bingley, not Magic, who exited first. Without any help from me, Bingley had let Magic know that he would wait for her to be the first in, but she would have to defer to his being the first out.

At eighteen months, a puppy is adult size but still a puppy in behavior. At eighteen months, a frightened, insecure Magic has become an integral part of our human/canine family. Still a little quirky. Still sure of what she wants and doesn't want. But a loving companion to John and me and a reliable sidekick for Bingley. Nothing beats two middle aged dogs who get along with each other, love their humans, and fit themselves into the routines of the household.

And when both dogs are rescues, the rewards for their humans are indescribable.


  1. So happy that your Greys have worked out their living arrangements. And, you are spot on with rescues and the time it takes to settle in to a new home and routine. We’ve had the Maltese for about 16 months and when she came to live with us, we had 2 older dogs…both rescues of a sort. So, she was low girl on the totem and spent several weeks in the bedroom except for eating and going out. She just wasn’t interested in being part of the family. She paid no attention to the two dogs or the four cats. And, she barely acknowledged me. Charlie’s arrival home was the highlight of her day. He had been her groomer for a few years, and he was her connection to her old family.

    We lost the two old dogs within a week of each other and Miss Independent found herself the only canine and what a personality change! She became the guard dog of the yard, patrolling the fence line and barking just in case someone was around. The cats were no longer allowed in the kitchen when I was cooking or her food was down. She parked herself by my work area and protected me from any perceived cat attacks. Cats playing with each other was another event that had to be monitored and disrupted when they got too rambunctious. She had found her job and place in our family. She was content.

    And, then along came the Pekinese, Brody. You’ll remember him from this blog! What was only going to be a temporary arrangement until he could have a forever home…well, he found his forever home with us. Lacey wasn’t too thrilled and reverted back to staying in the bedroom except to eat. However, Brody is such a laid back guy and absolutely non threatening, the Diva didn’t pout for long. She was still in charge. A silent lip curl at dinner time and he has never tried to get between her and her food again. And, he allows her to be first outside and patrol the fence line.

    Dogs are creatures of habit. They like rules and routine and want to know where they fit in as a pack member. If they’ve had no rules or routine, it takes time and patience to teach them where they fit in and what their job is within the pack. Brody is quit content to be a follower and Lacey is more than happy to continue her leadership role but it didn’t happen overnight.

    Adopting a rescue can have challenges but the rewards are more than worth it!

  2. All rescues reward us every day. One of our rescued cats just tolerated my lap for the first time - it took a year.