Saturday, March 24, 2012

Welcome home, Oona!

As many of you know, we lost our beloved Annie last July. It was a difficult period in our lives, not only because we were so sad, but my second book had just been published and we were in the process of selling our home. Many people urged me to get another dog, but we took our time before finding another furbaby, for several reasons. One, Annie was very ill in her last couple of years and needed special care. We did it all with love, but we needed some time to regroup. I also thought it was important to experience the grieving process, without just trying to fill the void.

So I grieved, and then I began to experience a different kind of life, one with less responsibility, which brought its own pleasure. Eventually I started looking online, watching rescue group sites and the SPCA. One of those forays led me to discover a blog written by Pickles. If any of you follow my Facebook page, you know that I am a huge Pickles fan. It was also nice because it allowed me to experience the joy of having a dog, without jumping right back in myself. I've become friends with her foster mom and learned more about the rescue groups and the wonderful things they do for animals. I've always been an animal lover, but I have recently become more active in my own way, trying to help them.

I was also in touch with Toni, the amazing kennel supervisor at my local SPCA. There were a couple of dogs my husband and I had visited, but something always held me back, a fear of commitment maybe, but something else as well, and I put it down to just not being ready. I had also thought I wanted a pit bull, or a dog similar looking to Annie, but again, each time I found one, something would stop me from taking that next step. In February, Toni and I exchanged a couple of emails. She was very kind and understood what I was emotionally going through after my painful loss. She said that she would let me know when there was a suitable match.

That's another point I want to make--too many people rush out and get a dog on impulse, or pick one based on looks alone. There are many things to consider, like temperament of the dog, does it match with yours? Do you need a calm dog or an energetic dog? Do you have other animals? Are they a good match? Does it need training and can you follow through? Can you afford the dog? There's not just the initial adoption fees, it's a life time of expenses.

In our case, when I commit, I commit for life, so it was important that we find one that fit in with us and our lifestyle.

Around the middle of February, Toni emailed me about a dog who had been brought in from one of the First Nations reservations. She said she would have more details later, but I had already looked her up online, and though there wasn't a photo, I liked the sounds of her: lab crossed with corgi and young, but not a puppy.

I went that day to visit her. She was adorable! Though, I'd been looking at bigger dogs, I loved the idea of a smaller dog. Especially one who looked like a miniature version of a big dog! She was shy, had no training, and possibly wasn't housebroken. But when I drove away, I had a smile on my face and when I got home that day, I told my husband that I thought I may have found our next dog. One of the things that told me something was different, was my own reaction. With some of the others one we'd considered, I hadn't wanted to go through the process of working with them on any issues, but with her, suddenly dog school sounded fun, and anything else she needed, no problem!! I also realized quickly that she was nothing like Annie, which was a very good thing. There were no reminders and it was a whole new world.

The next day my husband came with me to visit her, and then the following day we took her for a walk. I had several emails with Toni. I liked the dog, who was named Pansy, but she was a little grumpy with some dogs in certain situations and needed to learn tolerance. I was apprehensive because Annie was dog reactive. I had done lots of training with her, but she was always selective and I had developed some anxiety around that. Toni kept Pansy for another week, working with her in different situations and testing her with dogs. She learned quickly. I also came in and observed and learned, until I was comfortable and realized that she would be very easy to manage and train. She picked up things fast and wanted to be a good girl. She was already coming out of her shell.

When she was ready, we took her home to foster to adopt her, which was very exciting. Unfortunately, she had picked up a bit of an intestinal virus at some point and there were a couple of rough nights with multiple trips to the backyard. We visited our vet ( Ken Langelier at the Island Vet Clinic, part therapist, part vet) and she was put on some antibiotics and easy to digest food. This led to a big panic attack on my part because I still had a lot of pain surrounding Annie's ill health. I wasn't ready to go through that again. But, my vet calmed my fears and within a couple of days Pansy, who we had now named Oona, was doing much better.

We've worked through some of her issues already. She's never had a single accident in the house, but she was scared of our car and truck. She was also more bonded with me than my husband. It took some time and patience,  feeding her in the car, taking her on short trips, and a couple of work days with her new dad, but she now loves car and truck rides and is just as bonded with him.

Something that also helped us was dog school. It's a great bonding experience. My husband also fed her by hand for a while, to reinforce their connection and we've established some good boundaries and rules in the house, so she can thrive and feel secure, knowing she has strong leaders looking out for her.

It hasn't been a smooth ride, there's been some ups and downs as there often is with any change, but we've had her for three weeks now and each day we fall more in love. Welcome home, Oona!