Reggie is currently curled up at my feet, resting his head and one paw on my ankle. His scruffy face towards mine, but his eyes keep fluttering closed. My left leg is seemingly falling asleep, but I don’t want to move on account of cuteness. We just got back from a morning walk where squirrels, one dog, and 2 birds “taunted” us.
Two and a half months ago, we brought a dog home that we knew little to nothing about. And though we’d considered and were open to either getting a new puppy or adopting, we ended up with Reginald. The truth is, that dog adoption is really tough. The process of searching and applying for dogs is emotionally taxing. And the difficult questions on those forms could not possibly prepare you for the whirlwind of cute, but hard work, that is about to enter your life.
As I mentioned in my last post about Reg, adoption happens very quickly once you are approved. These organizations want these dogs in loving homes as quickly as possible, and for good reason. Seeing the toll that his uncertainty took on him is really upsetting.
BE FLEXIBLE WITH EXPECTATIONS
Adam and I both grew up with golden retrievers, raised from puppies. Receiving a 2 year old terrier mix who’d just made a huge journey from California to Vancouver is no where near the same thing. When Reggie came home, he was scared and confused. He didn’t care about food, wasn’t into playing, didn’t follow basic commands, growled at people in the hallway, and barked at any dog he saw on a walk. People always go on about how much work a dog requires, but we didn’t realize realize, you know? Despite all these traits, we knew that Reggie was a sweetheart. He’s so calm and great with people of all ages. So, we simply had to adjust the life we’d envisioned as dog owners. Walks require training every single time. That’s 3 walks a day, every single day. I’ve had to work from home more than ever (hence my massive departure from Snapchat/Insta Stories. I doubt you want to see me in my pjs on the couch, again) because we can’t leave him for more than a few hours at a time and because of his social awkwardness with other dogs, he’s not quite ready for doggy day care. Not only have we had to adjust our lifestyle, I’ve also had to make major work sacrifices. None of it is what we’d planned, and yet, it’s been manageable so far. We also know that this won’t be the norm forever.
ESTABLISH ROUTINE AND RULES
This is needed for any dog, but I mean this for dog parents as well! Teamwork is vital, we always have to be on the same page and communicate with each other. We had to decide what was allowed or not from the very beginning, like how he’s not to go on our bed. He is also crate trained and quite likes going into his little ‘cave’ with a bone. We now have to check in daily with each other about his behaviour and scheduling. Our life has never been so regimented, but we see how comfortable Reggie feels with structure. Others may not find it so difficult, but my life lacked any sort of routine. It’s been really good for me, forcing me to get outside every day and exercise. When it comes to making this happen though, it’s important to…
I mean, learning how to be more patient is always a good thing, isn’t it? Realistically, it takes time and repetition to build that confidence and trust with your dog. We felt like it took FOREVER to make any sort of progress with Reggie, but thinking back to where he started just a few months ago, he’s like a whole new dog. He is completely food motivated, absolutely loves playing, is great with basic commands, no longer growls at noise in the hallway. He can even ignore other dogs sometimes on his walks, which is incredible considering. His latest thing is that he smiles at home and on his walks which shatters our hearts into a million pieces. He’s at this point now because we took the time to support him (andddd professional help, see below lol). Being patient has been the biggest test of all for us, and it feels great to choose being calm over angry when we feel frustrated. One of the best pieces of advice I read online was that your dog is not ‘acting out’ to piss you off, they’re just being a dog. It’s your job to take the time to help them learn what behaviour you’d like from them. With adopted dogs especially, it’s important to be firm but gentle with training. We cannot raise our voices even a little. I’ve never used baby voice so much in my entire life.
ASK FOR HELP
I reached out to anyone and everyone on my social media with an adopted pup. People were incredibly kind and hearing the success stories of how far their rescues had come was beyond comforting. Their words of encouragement were what we’d often repeat to ourselves if we felt overwhelmed. Our first week, we hired an AMAZING trainer to keep us on track. Annika believed in Reggie from the beginning and is our couples therapist through these first days of dog ownership. She assures us that we’re doing a great job, helps us adjust our techniques where needed, and provides us with tons of exercises and tools to teach Reginald how to overcome his fear of other dogs. Our family and friends have been incredibly helpful with dog sitting when needed, especially since it’s our only option at this point. We absolutely would not have even got past our 2 week adoption trial without all these people in our corner.
We’re only a few months in, but I can’t remember what life was like without Reggie in it. I think it involved a lot more brunches and spontaneous nights out. He has filled our house with so much love and we really did end up with the perfect pup for us. Adopting this dog has been one of the most difficult things Adam and I have done, but also the most rewarding, by far. That old saying rings true about how it’s tough to know who rescued who. Getting a dog, adopted or not, when you’re ready, is simply the best decision you could make.