At the risk of confusing metaphors, you know that saying about a stitch in time saves nine? Well, yesterday we got a stitch. In the arm. Specifically, our resident wonderdog Chick got one.
Although they are clearly on the road to being soulmates, it’s going to take a little more time.
The other day, Lollie and Chick went out for a romp in the yard after being pent up all day in separate rooms. In the excitement of burning off their energy doing crazy laps around the yard and frolicking, a playful interlude escalated into a little spat. Their disagreement ended as quickly as it started, but Chick ended up with some scratches and a cut on his arm. A trip to the vet earned him a stitch, some drowse-enducing meds, and the dreaded–but well-deserved– Cone of Shame. Lollie barely had a scratch.
While we wish it hadn’t happened, we are thankful for the early and relatively minor reminder that, borrowing the advice of BAD RAP, “we can’t go too slow” when introducing a new dog into the household. So for now, we’re back to the baby gates, and have learned an important lesson: while your new dog is new, burn off each dog’s energy solo before letting them hang together!
Date: last night. Location: my suite. Feeling: confused . . . i’m in love with a worm!
We have reason to believe that Lolita has never played with toys before. Balls are of no interest unless they’re moving, but the raised arm that has to throw them is scary. Same goes for sticks– even scarier. Stuffed animals are just downright confusing.
After what seemed like eons of encouragement, we finally got her to play with the blue worm/hotdog toy we bought her the day we brought her home. She nibbled on it tenderly, and initially recoiled in fear when it produced a surprising little squeak. Progress was made, but she seems to prefer just holding it lovingly than actually playing with it– as though she’s afraid she might hurt it.
OK, our resident wonderdog, Chick, is leash-reactive. What this means is, when walking on leash and surprised and confronted by another dog, especially an off-leash one, a little switch flips in his head, and he gets defensive. Sometimes even aggressive. The interesting thing about leash-reactivity, though, is that it often is not correlated with a dog’s general dog-friendliness. This is certainly the case with Chick, who is otherwise a lover—or at least a tolerator—of all beings canine.
Still, the stakes were high when we brought Lolita home. We didn’t know her history, and though she had shown to be generally dog-friendly or dog-neutral at the shelter, she had a sad collection of scars littered across her face and front paws. The scars could tell any number of stories: fighting, abuse, under-fence digging, etc. Her first night, we kept the two dogs completely separate, but let them sniff each other’s belongings to get accustomed to each other’s scent. I took Lollie out in the yard alone, and she met our neighbor’s dog, Flash, through the fence. She was super excited to see him and showered him with kisses. A good sign.
Over that evening and the next, we brought the dogs together very slowly, reinforcing every positive interaction with plenty of bribery and love. We allowed a series of very short sniffs between the dogs, but never more than a few seconds. A joint walk went well, and an open-door visit session through a baby gate resulted in a very wet face for Chick, who was lick-bathed by Lolita. He looked a little sheepish afterward, but didn’t seem to mind the rather soggy attention from his new sister.
Next, the dogs went off-leash together in the yard, and when that went without incident, everybody came indoors. Other than a decisive woof from Chick when Lola tried to climb onto him (a signal she immediately understood), there was no drama. The two happily snacked on treats and trotted around the house together for the rest of the evening.
Vigilance continues, but outlook is positive.
Nobody has ever accused us of under-appreciating our family dog, Chick. He spends the day lounging about on a throne made of couch and silk pillows, snuggles in a custom doggie sleeping bag when it’s chilly in the wintertime, owns a stylish red hoodie, and gets to have play-dates with his friends at least every week or two. He enjoys grain-free, organic food and the occasional salad, happily snacking on apple cores, cabbage, carrots, and lettuce. Of course, this spoilage is partly because we are big suckers for pit bulls, and partly in reward for his impeccable behavior. He does not bark, he does not pull on leash, he does not beg, he will not take food until given the OK. His butt hits the ground mere milliseconds after the word “sit” comes out of your mouth, and he is always up for a good cuddle or play session.
We joke about Chick having been an “insta-pet” when we brought him home, but in truth, we have come a long way in six years. Lollie’s first day brought back a flood of memories of our first days with Chick. How uncertain and unrefined he was. How obvious it was that he had never had a soft bed or a gentle touch. How many hours we spent nurturing and training him to be the perfect dog.
Though Lollie is a bit of a spaz and has a long way to go, she is exhibiting a lot of very promising traits already, and we may look back on her an insta-pet too. She is extremely attentive, and responds well to treats. She is housebroken. She isn’t much of a jumper, and doesn’t grab food forcefully. She is quiet as a mouse, except when first left alone in her crate—at that point she whimpers a little bit, but even that is quiet, and only lasts a minute or two. Most important of all, she has a lot of love to give. She showers us with affection from the second we open her crate to the second we put her back in.
It’s a great start, and with lots of time and patience, the rest will come, too.
Lollie is more of a favorite at the Montgomery County Humane Society than I ever will be anywhere. When I went to pick her up, each staff person present lit up at her name, and at knowing that she was finally getting a chance at something good.
She was nervous at seeing the open hatchback of the car, cowered a little at closing doors, and couldn’t figure out how to best navigate in the back of the truck on the way home but got home unscathed and undeterred.
She got a leashed tour of the house and yard, and much to my delight, has shown to be (at least so far) housebroken. Her nerves are too high to eat much, but after a bit of touring and a bath, I introduced her to her new luxury suite– her crate. It’s been an evening full of new things for her, and I bet she’s exhausted. She has fallen quiet now. I hope she has sweet dreams.
Tonight we make the trek from DC up to the Montgomery County Humane Society to pick up our first foster dog: a brown-eyed beauty named Lollie. Lollie is a three- or four-year-old pit bull mix who has been through a special kind of hell. In early September, Animal Control received a call about an animal in a dumpster on University Boulevard– something was in there, making noise. Expecting a raccoon or other small wild animal, rescue workers opened the dumpster and found beautiful, gentle Lollie– skinny, frightened, filthy, and covered in cuts, sores, and bruises.
She was brought back to the shelter and washed– and washed again– and washed again. Although nobody knows for certain, shelter employees believe she was mistreated by her prior caretakers and over-used for breeding, then tossed away (literally!) when her life became an inconvenience. Despite her rough background, Lollie proved to be a big sweetheart. Gentle and affectionate with people, uninterested in dogs. She became a staff favorite.
And yet, seven weeks later, no adoption. Like all dogs living in a shelter, she was at risk of getting sick or going “kennel crazy”– a condition especially likely for pit bulls because of their ultra-social nature and high energy. We went to meet her last weekend, and it was love at first sight. She has no idea what awaits her, but after today, her life will never be the same. In our home, she will find a soft, warm bed, a quiet, safe environment, good food, loving hands, and our own wonderdog Chick to mentor her. Soon enough, we hope, adopters will be lining up at our door!