Indy Our New Dog
It was time for a New Dog. Rusty, our Queensland Heeler, passed away last December and it was time to get another dog. We like keeping two dogs at the house. They keep each other company. The contrast of personality is fun to observe. Maybe, I should say, we NEED two dogs.
I’m convinced that in the natural order of things, dogs’ lifespans were set to be between a decade and a generation. We measure the periods in our life by the dogs we’ve had. There was “Love” as a toddler, then one of my favorites, “Spot” as an adolescent. What a fun dog he was. He was the family dog, but I think I may have spent the most time with him. We went a lot of places and had many adventures. Spot would pull me around on my bicycle and my skateboard. Oh, how he seemed to love being a sled dog! As an adult, there were Smokey and Boomer, Casey and Murphy, and Max and Rusty. All pretty darn good dogs too.
Each one lasted a decade more or less. One of the gifts dogs offer is to help us get accustomed to losses of a higher order in our lives – if that’s possible. I’ve often wondered why, in the span of my lifetime, 60 years, the lifespan of humans has increased substantially. The life of dogs is about the same as it was when I worked for a veterinarian way back in high school. Like I said, it’s the natural order of things.
Rusty was 13 years old. I knew she was not long for this world. The decision to adopt a shelter dog was easy. My days of raising a purebred are behind me. Ranae, my wife, wanted to get a shelter dog, too. She didn’t like walking through the kennels and asked me to pick a good candidate.
We wanted another male dog. Rusty was our first female and, while she was an excellent dog, we felt boys were easier to deal with. Just a feeling.
We didn’t want a huge dog. Buster is about 75 lbs and big. As we age together, it could be a challenge to handle him. We couldn’t choose a small dog either. Buster would think we brought him a chew toy. No, New Dog would have to be in that mid-range of 30 -45 lbs.
Buster is a short-haired dog. We got Buster after Max, our Australian Shepherd. Max took constant brushing to keep him looking good. And, a handsome dog like Max deserves to look good. But, he shed and that’s a bit messy. So, short or medium hair was on the list.
If we’re careful about how we do it, we can have one dog in his later years, and a younger one. The younger one keeps the older one more active and, who knows, maybe the older teaches the younger a little about life and how to behave. We did not want the trials and tribulations of a puppy. The potty training stage and the chewing no longer have the appeal they once did. In my 50 years of owning dogs, this was only the second time I have not started with a puppy. The first was Rusty. Side note: Rusty grew up next door to us and I got to watch her grow. When the family moved, they couldn’t take her.
The Most Important Characteristic
Our New Dog would need a good attitude. The biggest challenge was to find a dog with the right temperament. Buster is a handful. He is protective. He is relentless. He is dominant. And yet he can be fearful. He is the most complicated dog I’ve ever owned. Yes, and he’s unpredictable at times.
While volunteering at the shelter for 16 months, I got to observe many dogs. Walking through the kennels, some dogs barked, some sniffed, some shied away. Often, I would hang around the kennels watching and observing different dogs. Would they bark? Wag their tail? Lick? Could I tell their personality through stainless steel bars?
The New Dog search began at the County Shelter. Like I said, I volunteered there for 16 months. Sometimes there are a lot of dogs, but none fit the criteria. That’s just the way it is.
Next stop SPCA. It was only a few miles from the County Shelter. Their dogs are $100 compared to the $40 for the County Shelter dogs. With neutering, vaccinations, microchip, and free vet check this is still a good deal. I had to be somewhere soon but walked around looking for potential candidates. I found a couple and talked the gal behind the counter. Have you ever just gotten a bad vibe off of someone? I’ve owned dogs for 35 years, I worked for a vet. I know my way around. When I asked about adoption, I thought that would shine through. Instead, I felt she was talking to me like I was in the 10th grade and I’d never owned a dog before. I told her I would be back for a meet-and-greet with a few of the dogs.
The City Shelter was next. Their dogs were $20 and had the same amenities. I found a Queensland Heeler and set up a meet-and-greet. He was about 3 years old. The meet-and-greet is tough. The dog has been in its kennel for who knows how long. Now, it’s out in the exercise yard where every other dog that had been there had either shit or peed. Asking him to focus on a human is a tough task.
The meet-and-greet is crucial. You have a limited amount of time to discover this dog’s personality. A kennel worker is with you at all times. How do you make the best use of this time? This is the procedure I practiced when I volunteered at the County Shelter:
We had to walk the dogs from the kennel to the exercise yard. I did this with a nylon lead and watched how the dog followed me. It often was a tough walk. These dogs had been locked in kennels all day and this was a taste of freedom. Once in the yard, I turned them loose to explore.
Our shelter preferred we limit the exercise to 20 minutes, so the first five belonged to the dogs. The next 10 were mine. I’d reconnect the lead and we worked on “heel” and “sit”. Very often the whole dog’s demeanor would change during these 10 minutes. A good percentage of dogs seemed to appreciate the exercises. Their heeling improved. Then, the last five minutes were theirs to do however they wished. After the heel-ing exercise, most wanted to be closer to me.
The Queensland at the City Shelter never showed any interest in heel-ing or me after 15 minutes. Some dogs are not a match. It’s not the dog’s fault. It’s not mine. It’s often difficult to move on, but I do.
Finding the One
I return to the County Shelter a week later. Finally, I think we have a good candidate. He’s a young, perhaps a year old, Queensland/Shepherd mix. He’s happy. He’s somewhat submissive, yet he has a quiet confidence in his kennel.
We meet-and-greet with Ranae and things look good. He loves people and really comes out of his shell quickly. We ask the shelter to hold him until the following day so that we can prepare Buster. They agree.
The following morning it’s raining. We bundle up and take Buster for a 3-mile walk. Luckily, the rain let up to a drizzle and we didn’t get too soaked. We’ve taken a little of the “edge” off Buster too.
Next, we took Buster to a dog park near the shelter. The rain was light and intermittent. Ranae stayed with Buster while I headed to the shelter. I returned 20 minutes later with the new dog. The new dog was happy to be free of his kennel. Buster was getting a little bored having no one to play with at the empty, rain-soaked dog park. They played and romped around for another 30 minutes. The New Dog, or “N.D.”, (later converted to Indy) got put in his place a couple of times. He was undeterred and Buster wasn’t too rough on him.
They both went in the truck. There was some jockeying for space in the cramped back quarters. They were a mess from running in the rain, wet grass, and mud. We got home without incident and now the two dogs are getting along fine.