Austin with red ball

Journey of a Rescue Dog

“What kind of dog should I get? Maltese? Chihuahua? a small one that will snuggle with me?” my friend had been asking almost continuously lately. I knew the time was nearing when she’d find the “perfect” fur kid because her persistence with wanting a dog had been intensifying. As we walked around another adoption event with all the sad eyes peering through the cages, all seeming to be pleading “Please take me home with you,” I could hardly stand it anymore. If I had room for them at home, they’d all be mine.

My friend coaxed me to accompany her to yet another event on another weekend, where we passed several cages of very small dogs. And, then, there he was – fixed stare, adorable face, floppy ears, one white with speckles on it. His gaze followed us as we petted the smaller pups. My friend turned to the rescue group staff and said, “I’d like to play with him,” as she pointed to that floppy-eared, 6- month-old, 28-lb. beagle-terrier mix. My mouth flew open in disbelief since this wasn’t what I envisioned for a suitable apartment companion.

We took him for a walk, played with him in the enclosed area, then handed his leash back to the foster mother with whom he had been living. “I’ll think about it,” my friend said. But as other potential adopters looked at that pup in the cage, my friend knew she didn’t want him going to live with anyone else.

Fast forward … The pup soon had a new home in an apartment with my friend, the new-doggy mom, who had fallen instantly in love with him. His name was Austin, which fit him perfectly. Yes, there would be behavior issues to resolve, but this would happen one step at a time. I said I’d help with training and problem-solving, which, I have to admit, made me run to some professional dog trainers for assistance.

The first task was to create structure and to set boundaries for what was acceptable behavior in an apartment setting. Then, establish a routine, get Austin checked by the veterinarian, find a kennel for safety when unattended, then sign up for obedience training. She focused on not projecting upon him her trepidations about his past life and what may have happened to him as a rescue dog. The lesson learned was that humans may live and think in the past, but dogs live in the moment. They may react from how they were treated in the past, but our job is to help them work through those obstacles without giving in to the “poor baby” mentality. It’s important to reinforce the behavior we want to continue. Coddling an undesirable behavior, such as fear, will only intensify it.

My friend has done all the right things and has a thirst for knowledge that stems from her love and immediate bonding with Austin. Trying times are ahead, especially with Austin’s need for constant attention and exercise, but so far, my friend has been able to offset the negatives with the realization that they have come a long way together in a very short time.

I will continue reporting on this journey, which is just beginning for Austin and his new mom.

 

Allison White
Wellness Alley, LLC
www.wellnessalley.com