Goodbye to Lucy Lou

Lucy, one of our two foster dogs, was adopted today.  Her brother, Rex, was adopted on Saturday.  I was happy for Rex with only a little sadness, even though he was my favorite.  Then something happened.  Lucy bloomed.  Removed from the shadow of her big brother, she came into her own.

She went from being terrified of the elevator to pushing at the door like she owned the thing.

She was suddenly sitting like she’d understood all along but was too nervous to sit in front of her brother.

She figured out walking on a leash didn’t mean towing me.

She learned to amuse herself.  First, she decided the socks on the bedroom floor should be piled on the couch.  Then, she decided to move all linens from her crate to the couch, too.  She started with the heavy quilt draped over her crate.  It weighs almost as much as she does.  She grabbed it by a corner and wrestled it off the crate, one inch at a time.  She managed to get one corner of it up onto the couch, adding to her pile of socks she’d collected.  Then, she hopped down on top of the rest of the quilt, took the corner in her mouth and tried to jump up on the couch with it.  She couldn’t figure out her own weight was preventing her from performing this feat and ended up in a wrestling match with the quilt, growling at it while she tried to figure out how to get it into place.

Finally, she gave up and went for the first blanket in the crate.  Then the second.  Then the towel we’d put underneath for extra padding.  She had a massive nest on the couch plus the large quilt draping down to the floor.

When Pat came home and sat on the couch to print a document he needed, she jumped out of her nest, barking at the printer across the room.  I laughed and said, “Maybe we can teach her to retrieve your printout?”  30 seconds later, the printer stopped and Lucy ran over, grabbed the printout off the printer, brought it to within 3 feet of Pat, and dropped it on the floor.  It was almost scary.

Sitting on the couch with her cuddled in my lap, she gazed up at me with her brown eyes and I started thinking thoughts like, “Maybe she could just sleep with us tonight?”  Then, I remembered she had an audition with a potential new owner this afternoon.  I rubbed her belly and tried not to think of it.

Pat came and took her to her appointment.  He came home without her.  He liked the family that took her.  I am happy for Lucy.  But, part of me wishes she could have left a couple days earlier when I was less attached.  The shelter says we broke a record for the shortest time to have a foster dog.  Turns out it’s not a record I was prepared to break.

Adoption Day

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Every time we take in a stray animal, we enter into the search for owners hopeful that we’ll find a happy place for the cat or dog quickly. There are reasons for this.

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.