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.

All-in-One Resolution

Let’s say, for arguments sake, that when you thought about your New Year’s Resolutions for this year, you decided that you wanted to lose weight.  But, instead of setting that as a goal, you decided to set some specific steps as goals instead.  Your New Year’s Resolutions might look like this:

  1. Take the stairs instead of the elevator every time you go up or down the 4 floors to your home.
  2. Get up earlier so there’s time to start every day with a walk
  3. Eat less
  4. Take a long walk at least 3x a day

Perhaps you will undertake these resolutions for a week or two and then, the elevator is mighty nice when you come home with a load of groceries.  Suddenly, the next time it’s harder to take the stairs.  Getting up early wears you out, makes it too difficult to walk in the morning.  Soon, you’re sleeping in and skipping that morning walk.  Then, you’re not walking at all.  And, when you give up walking, you spend more time sitting near food and suddenly your food consumption goes back up.

I think I have the solution for these New Year’s Resolutions.  First, if you don’t already live in a 4th floor apartment or condo, move into one, but make sure they allow dogs.  Second, make a single resolution to foster a pair of adolescent dogs who have apparently lived in the woods most of their short lives.  Preferably ones who don’t know how to walk on a leash, aren’t potty trained, think elevators are leftover from the holocaust, and have never been around traffic.

Log, Day One, Early Morning:

4:15AM Get up.  Get dogs out of crates.  Put on leashes.  Take them outside as quickly as possible, pausing to squat down and call them every time they balk at walking on a leash.  Coax them down the stairs, which are only slightly less terrifying than the elevator.  Walk around the block while reassuring dogs they are not going to die.  Make sure they both go potty.

5:00AM Feed dogs breakfast.

5:15AM-6:15AM Take Dogs for long walk in the dark, in the pouring rain.  Discover one dog doesn’t like puddles.  Carry over large puddles when necessary.  Discover other dog is capable of backing out of his collar if panicked.  Feel grateful said dog doesn’t run away after escaping from said collar.  Avoid getting poop on hands when picking up out of tall plants (which seems to be Rex’s preferred potty).

6:15AM Return to building.  Coax dogs up stairs to entry door.  Coax dogs through the door.  Coax dogs into stairwell.  Coax dogs up the stairs.

6:30AM Attempt to dry dogs with large towel they think is a new chew toy.  Get dogs back behind the barrier separating the non-puppy-safe area from the semi-puppy-safe area.  Watch dogs wrestle and try to keep them from waking up all our neighbors.

7:00AM Curl up with said dogs on couch.  Smile to self while nodding off.