First, let’s face it, animals that have been abandoned have often been abandoned because they lived with people who didn’t know how to train them and they’ve developed bad habits. While I enjoy training dogs (I don’t even try with cats), habits that disrupt my sleep wear on me quickly.
Second, there is an attachment factor. The more time I spend figuring out the particular quirks of a particular dog and how to work with them successfully, the more I get to know them, the better they start to behave, the more I feel like we’re working together as a team, the more attached I get. I’ve found there is an interesting pattern in the relationship that goes something like this:
I’m not sure what canine instinct makes a stray dog behave like the best dog ever at first. It’s as if they know to be cute enough to rope you into keeping them.
The dogs themselves seem to start out feeling complete adoration towards us plus nervousness about being in a new situation. Then, as they lose their nervousness and increase their confidence, they also let their guard down much the way a human might be the most polite person to a perfect stranger and then turn around and snap at a cherished family member.
By the time the dog really feels at home, I feel the frustration that led to their abandonment. When all the bad habits surface, I know it’s time to crank up the training.
With Rex, we had run into a few bad habits–he ate both our power supplies for our laptops, so if I don’t post tomorrow, my battery died. 🙂 But really, he was just completely lacking in training.
Sitting on the bench at the adoption center while Rex’s new parents filled out paperwork, he came and laid his head in my lap. I petted him and talked to him quietly. Then, his new dad came over and sat down on a nearby bench and Rex walked over to him and laid his head in his lap. His new dad leaned down with his face close to Rex’s, stroking his ears and looking at him with the kind of wonder parents show newborns. It was obvious that this man was in love with Rex.
This man struck me as the embodiment of calm. His wife was sweet, too, although I suspect she’s a little higher strung, like me. But the bonding that was taking place right in front of me between Rex and his new dad was what gave me confidence that Rex was going to a good home.
But you know what? I’m still sad.