Saturday, October 24, 2009

Are you crazy?

Two days ago we drove to Boston to pick up a puppy. Those who know me simply smiled and rolled their eyes. Those who don't said "FOUR dogs? Are you crazy?" "Leo" was arriving from a Nebraska shelter, Hearts United for Animals.

Leo is a 5 month old chihuahua/shih-tzu cross. Commonly known as a shi-chi, he has been fondly dubbed by the teenagers in the house as a shihtz-huahua. Weighing in at 7 pounds, he is the smallest member of the pack. Adopting a dog sight unseen requires a leap of faith and a willingness to roll with what ever comes our way. The adoption counselors at HUA are knowledgable, careful, and patient. Over the last few months I have been looking thriough the website and inquiring about some dogs. After narrowing down some choices on the website that I found appealing, Jenny and I discussed the positive and negative attributes of each dog, their history, the energy level and lifestyle of my family, and the temperment of the existing dogs in the household. I was looking for a small playmate for our pug-pom Dilly. I wanted a male to add to the pack of females. One dog, Spice caught my eye-- a brussels griffon from a puppy mill. I have always loved the breed and hoped to find one through resucue. OK, not male, but really cute! Jenny told me they would require a fenced in yard because Spice was still very fearful and had a tendency to bolt. Nope, not going to work in a household of clomping teenagers who don't always latch the door behind them. Zuko, and adorable bichon might be a good fit! But the grooming needs of a bichon would mean one more appointment for me to add to my already busy schedule, or grooming time at home, plus my husband really didn't like the "fluffy white dog" look.
As a former shelter employee and veterinary assistant and an experienced dog owner, I have worked through behavioral "issues" with dogs in the past from dominance to extreme shyness. I have handled dogs in all shapes and sizes and I have the experience and interest in working through a vartiety of potential problems. But to be perfectly honest with myself, I wanted a fairly easy transition this time.

With three busy teenagers and a full time job that requires some night and weekend work, I knew I wouldn't have the time to devote to a high energy breed requiring major exercise, an aggresive dog needing constant supervision, or an emotional wreck needing a very mellow household. I do know that I could raise and train a pup and wasn't much concerned about his exact temperment. "Loves people and other dogs" was the selling point! Plus he is darn cute.

Leo has the "look" of a terrier-- my husband is drawn to terriers but one terrier (Garnet, a bull terrier) in the house is enough. I wanted another small dog as a friend for Dilly (our pug-pom mix) and because I have fallen in love with small dogs. The kids will love any critter that comes through the front door, and although Mike was lobbying hard for a dachsund (and HUA had a dozen adorable doxies to choose from) I was sure that one hound per household is enough for me (more on our greyhound Flo Jo another time). Since I am the resident "dog-whisperer" and primary caretaker, the decision was ultimately mine, but I wanted the whole family to be happy and invested in our choice.

Leo is 5 months old- still young enough to mold and train, but not as needy as a tiny pup. I wanted a pup old enough to take on long walks, be crated for about 6 hours if needed, and to have a little more bladder control. Jenny's description of him sealed the deal-- I wanted to find a dog with enough energy and confidence to join our busy household. The usual puppy training challenges were something I was willing to tackle as well.

Within days of the decision to adopt Leo, Jenny had arranged a flight for him from Omaha to Boston through their "Jet-Set Dogs" program. Jenny watches the weather for mild conditions and uses non-stop flights only to avoid delays or worse. She then books the earliest available flight. My husband and I took the day off from work for the trip. Coincidentally school got cancelled that day so my daughter joined us as well! We loaded up paper towels, bottled water, a blanket, a bowl, Leo's new leash, a harness, the instructions from HUA with phone numbers and off we went. Leo arrived without incident and soon we were happily on our way home!

I called the kids at home and asked them to give the 3 girl dogs a good long walk before we arrived. I wanted them to be relatively calm when we made introductions. I wanted the first meeting and experience to go well for all of us!

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