Whole Dog Journal's Blog November 2, 2016

A New Dog for Ava

Posted at 04:53PM - Comments: (13)

My close friends know that I have been looking for the perfect dog for my dog-crazy seven-year-old niece Ava and her mom for some time – and that this is in contrast to my usual stance in opposition to the whole concept of the “perfect” dog.

I don’t believe that dogs should be expected to come into a home that may not meet their needs very well and yet not cause a single ripple in the fabric (literal and figurative) of that home, any more than one would expect a new baby or adopted child or even an elderly relative to fit in seamlessly to a new home.  In my view, adjustments and accommodations should be made on all sides, with respect for all the parties’ needs considered, in order to make the relationships and living situation work for everyone. So, for example, when you bring home a Border Collie or German Shepherd Dog, you’d better accept  – nay, embrace ­– the exercise and mental stimulation needs of that dog, if you want him to be happy, and you can be happy with him. At a minimum, you will likely have to carve out a significant chunk of time in your day to devote to physical and mental exercise for the dog, and you may well have to do some problem-solving if it turns out that the dog develops problem behavior/s, such as separation anxiety, counter-surfing, urine marking, barking, chewing, over-excitement with guests, etc., etc.

I know all that – I preach all that! And I still want a perfect dog for my sister-in-law and niece.  They have just been through so much in the past two years: My brother’s diagnosis, too-brief fight with cancer, and death. The death of my brother’s dog, Hannah, who had been a loving guardian of and companion to little Ava for her entire life, a few months prior to my brother’s death. Having to move Ava’s grandfather, who is in the late stages of Alzheimer’s disease, out of their home and into a care facility.  I just don’t want to add any burden to Ava’s mom’s already heavy load of responsibilities, though we both want Ava to have a dog. She’s crazy about dogs.

Ava loved my Chihuahua-mix, Tito, and he liked her, too, but only for short-term visits. After a few days at Ava’s home, the senior dog would get cranky and snappy – probably due to his perennially sore back. He’s never liked anyone picking him up, and was just as apt to snarl as wag if someone petted him. A long-term placement there wasn’t fair to either of them.

Meet Rosie, a petite shepherd-mix

So I’ve been looking for a dog, not too big (Ava and her mom are both petite!) nor too small (so it could engage in active romping play with an active, outdoor-loving girl); not too old to be playful, nor so young that it knew nothing about living in a home. The most important attribute, in my mind, is a general affection for and interest in kids. This dog-loving girl needs a girl-loving dog!

I’m hoping I’ve found the right candidate (in my local shelter, of course!). She meets nearly all of my criteria, save one important bit: she’s too young, only about 4 months old, so she’s going to stay with me for a while for some training and socializing.

Woody could not be happier. He just turned a year old, but still has lots of puppy energy and need for a lot of stimulation. He’s been thrilled to have someone to romp, roll, chew, and wrestle with. He’s shared my home (and home office) with dozens of foster puppies since I fostered his litter last December, though I took a break from all that after the 11 pups from the Great Dane litter all went to their (forever, I hope) homes in July. Having this pup here has been like an early Christmas for him.

Woody has completely taken the puppy under his wing.

Otto, on the other hand, is looking pretty glum about this turn of events. I think he figured he only recently got Woody civilized – Woody was starting to behave like a respectable grownup dog –  and now that’s all coming undone. Idiocy reigns again (in Otto’s mind), in the form of puppies bumping into him or, worse, running over the top of him when they are playing; puppies racing past him to get the ball that he was fetching in a more dignified manner; puppies splashing into water he was delicately lapping, etc. Rude, rude, rude, and disorderly. Not Otto’s cup of tea.

My husband is in the same camp. Woody only recently stopped deconstruction of his doghouse, and it looks like our apple tree, which Woody had been chewing the bark from, might live after all. And yet, a new set of puppy tooth-marks have appeared on the bench my husband built on our deck back when Otto was an adolescent. We’re going backward in his mind, too.

It’s impossible to explain it to Otto, but my husband understands: It’s only temporary, and we’re doing this for Ava. She and the pup met last weekend, and it looked like mutual love and attraction instantly. This pup is affectionate and playful, sweet and smart, and though she’s just as mouthy as all pups are at this baby-tooth-shedding stage, she’s got a nice soft mouth. She’s doing great with house-training, crate-training, and lessons in basic manners. Ava’s mom is busy getting references for a dog daycare and/or a dog walker, and I’m making inroads into finding a trainer they can work with in their town. In another few weeks, we’ll deliver her to Ava, and I might spend a night or two to get housetraining in theirhouse initiated, and get them all settled in together. I can’t wait.


Comments (13)

Note to Besty: I don't know what the puppy's mix is, but I don't think it's Border Collie OR German Shepherd; those were examples I used earlier in the post. She looks very GSD, but her head and face are so petite, I wonder if there isn't mostly Sheltie in her. We will find out! The good news is that she doesn't seem to have the sort of relentless energy of any of the herding breeds; her exercise needs are pretty average, and she can turn her energy off like a switch and take a nap practically on cue. Every day longer I have her, I feel more confident it's going to work out. My sister in law and Ava are taking her for five days this coming week as I travel to the Pet Professional Guild conference in Florida, so keep your fingers crossed! I'll be checking in with them by phone, and a local trainer will be available as a backup (Hi Jennifer!) for problem-solving. I'll update y'all when I get back! -- NK

Posted by: WDJ Editor Nancy Kerns | November 4, 2016 11:44 AM    Report this comment

Woody is so handsome and the new puppy is beautiful. Sounds like a great plan and all are so lucky to have you in their life!

Posted by: Olivia | November 4, 2016 11:22 AM    Report this comment

Wow, a GSD x Border Collie mix for this home???? I have to assume you are SURE the home is going to be able to handle THAT smart, rocket. NEVER, would I have thought you'd pick this mix for that home (or most homes, for that matter) but maybe the dog is not typical of its heritage(s). I would have thought it needed exercise maniacs and/or a competitive obedience/agility/tracking home. I know you'll do a great job with the puppy's basic training and Woody is going to be sad to see her go. Hopefully, she will visit often, or vice versa.

Posted by: Betsy | November 4, 2016 7:15 AM    Report this comment

What a beautiful face Woody has. Years ago I agreed to try out another Jack Russell. He had just turned 1 yr. old 2 weeks before, already had had 3 homes, little training and had a wild hair up his butt. His name was Spud. I decided he needed a more grown-up name. He became Spudley I had 5 other Jack Russells at the time and had lost my beloved Elmo 18 months before. Elmo and my 14 yr. old Bean had been inseparable for over 10 years. Bean, 14 yrs. old, was still in mourning over Elmo. Spudley and Bean hit it off immediately. Bean found his mojo again. Spudley loved everyone else too. He was the youngest of the group and became the nursemaid to all of them. He has lost all his buddies and is now the "middle" child who is 8 yrs. old. I can't imagine not having this crazy huggable dog in my life.

Posted by: Cindie M | November 3, 2016 4:26 PM    Report this comment

What a cute, sweet, intelligent looking pup. My best wishes for her and your niece having a wonderful and long relationship and I will look forward to hearing more about her.

Posted by: PJKutscher | November 3, 2016 4:05 PM    Report this comment

She looks absolutely beautiful. Will look forward to updates on her progress!

Posted by: Carolyn M | November 3, 2016 2:41 PM    Report this comment

My 11 year old Puggle and I just adopted a 1 year old Puggle. I never thought I was going to get a dog the day I went to the rescue, I was picking up a client's dog. Well after walking past all the other kenneled dogs, my elderly one stopped and did a play bow to the little guy. And to my utter surprise the little one did a bow back. Next thing I know I'm going down the street with a new puppy added to our household. The two have been absolutely best friends forever. I could neve in a million years have put this match together. But somehow these two just new they needed each other. I'm so amazed and in awe at their friendship.

Posted by: liz1 | November 3, 2016 2:01 PM    Report this comment

This story is spot on with our recent experience. We have a 10+ year old yellow lab mix (Jimmy) who we rescued when he was 4. This was just after we'd lost our 2 older dogs within 6 months. Jimmy is an anxious type...especially with unfamiliar dogs. But, after a number of years he's mellowed somewhat. Then one day a small black puppy poked her head through the hedge to see what was on the other side. Alas! A new world. Our neighbor next door had picked up a puppy (a lab/hound mix) at a garage sale since their kids wanted one. Oreo was a free-ranger since they didn't know how to house train her (or provide her with the shots she needed). She was kept outside and would turn up regularly to play with our employee's Lab. We operate out of a home office so being here 24/7 was a draw for Oreo to pop through the hedge. All the while Jimmy took a very dim view... snarling at any contact with Oreo. Skip ahead. My husband fell in love with Oreo, as did our employee and her dog. I was a hold out with Jimmy. Then one day the neighbors were moving. What to do? We said we'd find a good home for her or we'd take her. She was 5 months old and not house-trained. Jimmy and her were oil and water. And we were running a business. It didn't seem like a good venture. Skip ahead. Decision time. Had a really good weekend with her so I caved and decided to give it a go. We rolled up the rugs, got her crate trained and just kept trying. It was a test for me because I'm the picker-upper and detail dog person. My hardest adjustment was not feeling guilty when Jimmy would see me giving Oreo affection or attention. After all he was used to this being his sole domain. Clearly the needs of a puppy and a 10 year-old are very different. It was hard to balance. Skip ahead. We're now a year down the road and I think we've made it. Jimmy has finally adjusted. Sometimes I think he actually likes her. Oreo is a sweet big hunk (75 lbs) of a dog. They take turns on the couch. So peace reigns and everyone is happy.

Posted by: JoanD | November 3, 2016 1:12 PM    Report this comment

Nancy, You have such a big heart. This puppy will surely be a comfort to them.

Posted by: harbormaster | November 3, 2016 1:11 PM    Report this comment

Look at those amazing ears! Both pictures show her eyes filled with curiousity. No doubt she will be both a great comfort and protector for your niece and sister-in-law. Good job.

Posted by: MJC | November 3, 2016 1:05 PM    Report this comment

you are so sweet to do that for them. They certainly could use some puppy kisses!!! Best of luck to all!

Posted by: Boss | November 3, 2016 12:36 PM    Report this comment

What a wonderful puppy. glad you spent so much time choosing her for Ava. Has Ava named her yet?

Posted by: meldrape | November 3, 2016 12:11 PM    Report this comment

They are blessed to have you.

Posted by: Alice R. | November 3, 2016 11:47 AM    Report this comment

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