After our family dog, Callie, died from cancer of the spleen from one moment to the next, I was heartbroken. We all were. This happened shortly after her tenth birthday party, a tradition in our home, mocked by the boys but revered by the girls. This year, being her BIG birthday, even the boys made an appearance and I was so happy. I even bought the number 10 candles and put them in her special mushy dog food that we gave her once a year as a treat. Little did we know it would be her last birthday and that she would die shortly thereafter. My son took me aside after she died and said quietly “Really glad you had that birthday party, Mom, it was a good party.” Of course, I burst into tears but was grateful.
Of the four of us and our neighbors, I was the most emotional; I’m always the most emotional. I couldn’t walk around our small, cozy house without crying. It was too quiet in the house, no one followed me or greeted me at the door, no one loved me like Callie did and I missed her desperately. I grieved intensely for a while and then decided I was the type of person who needed a dog. Against the lectures of my family, I started visiting animal shelters on my own, with my husband and with my friend, Sarah.
After months of visiting, holding, petting, I hadn’t found the right dog for us. I had been told to adopt an older animal (and next time I really will) but at this point I didn’t want to miss a minute of a puppy’s young life. I looked at older dogs but not seriously. I was happy just being near dogs and puppies until one day, my thirtieth trip to an animal shelter but the second trip to the North Shore Animal League, my friend Sarah and I walked in and my eyes met the sleepy eyes of a rust colored puppy, curled up in a circle, sleeping. I had just met MY dog. We fell in love. I asked to see her, this “German Shepard Mix” and soon I was led to an inside room and she was in my lap, all kisses and hugs and sleepy sweetness. When another woman asked me if I was taking that dog, I immediately said “Yes, this was MY dog” and so she became mine. My friend Sarah and I filled out the papers, (I tell the dog that she has two mommies) and I called my husband and said “Honey, it’s a girl!”
I named her Lexi (were both names from my favorite show Grey’s Anatomy?) and I sat in the back seat, Lexi sleeping in my lap, while Sarah drove us home ever so carefully to avoid the huge pot holes in the road. I did not substitute Lexi for Callie, it was a different love, a new love, a love I had to grow into and an important lesson to learn. There are no two loves alike in this world. You can love equally but not exactly alike. This applies to every type of love there is, it’s a huge life lesson.
I admit, I had forgotten what having a puppy was like, after all, I was ten years older now and that makes a big difference. I think my puppy years are behind me and while I know I will always be a “dog person” I can see adopting an older dog in the future. But, what was most different were their personalities, Callie was a lap dog, a fearful dog, terrified of being in cars, scared of people, perhaps abused before she came to us. She liked nothing better than to stay at home in her comfort zone, yet she was perfectly attuned to my feelings. Lexi, wild thing, crazy dog, likes nothing better than to hop in the back seat and go for a ride, has the strength of a bull, loves to play, jump and go places and hasn’t shown a lot of tenderness (yet.) She’s fun and playful and but when I fell on the ground once, she didn’t leave me, I even saw concern in her eyes and gratitude in mine. Once she’s through her puppy phase I’m hoping she will settle down and be a really great dog. Actually, I’m counting on it.
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You will look back at this with fondness 😀 … but I totally understand. I think it will be a long time before we are in the market for a canine addition, but I will probably go senior as well!!
Laurie, try to think about Lexie this way…
If she were a human child, you would have raised her to her adolescent years to be a confident (rather than fearful), outgoing, curious, fun-loving, healthy young person, eager to explore the world, and not so keen on sitting in mom’s lap… because you did an *excellent* job of raising her to fulfill her potential.
As she matures, she will settle into her working years, and work for her means being your protector and constant companion. But right now, she’s just like any teenager – all play and fun, a touch of rebellion perhaps, but certainly nothing “serious” and “grown up”… YET.
She will get there, and she will be a great dog, because you’ve given her a great foundation to be a great dog. Just like with our human children, it will take time and patience. She will likely settle some by the time she’s a year old, but for real maturity, I wouldn’t expect it before she is 2.
The majority of dogs are given up for adoption between the ages of 6 months and 2 years, I believe. The puppy newness has worn off, they’re big and a handful, full of energy that MUST have an outlet, and are not terribly bonded, in most cases. We really wondered if we were going to be able to keep Kodi – got him at 14 months with a whole bunch of behavioral issues, including serious aggression, me so very sick, and his breeds not maturing until they are 2 to 3. But we stuck it out because we knew the shelter would euthanize him because of the aggression. It was slow work, and I was bruised and battered from his claws for several months, but he finally worked thru most of it, and, most importantly, turned 2 in April. It really made a huge difference, and he’s settled even more since then. He always wants to be in the room with me, if not snuggled as tight against me as he can get. It’s quite amusing sometimes, sharing my bed with a 120 (130? 140?) pound Rottweiler/Tibetan Mastiff.
So just keep hanging on. She’ll settle down slowly, a little bit every day (with the occasional relapse), and before you know it, you’ll have the best dog ever. I know she’s in good hands.
Ash & Kodi
Dear my pal Lexi,
It’s very good that you are training your Humans right off the bat to learn to have more fun in life and get out of the house. You have done such a good deed adopting older humans. They are the most difficult to train.
So glad she is beginning to calm a bit….after about 18 months most dogs settle into adulthood and mellow out. And some dogs train easier than others….Blessings on both you and Lexi!
They do calm down. I did the same thing after Mr. H died. He was 17 and my “lump.” I mean he was like me. He didn’t move much. Then I got Buster, my little wrecking ball of love. I thought I made a mistake. He had so much energy! It was tough to deal with. I couldn’t bend over and play and run. This dog wanted ALL OF THAT. I seriously considered giving him to another family. What this little thing did was worm his energetic little paws right around my heart. He is calming down some…..(very little but some) but he makes me laugh. He has personality and he will lay right beside me when I don’t feel good. He’s learning…..but I think the unconditional love that they have will override the extreme puppy energy. I now call him Boo-Boo….I’m learning too.
I think we sometimes think that getting a “new” dog will be like giving birth to another child…that it will be instant love when we look in their eyes. NOT! When Tootsie came to us she was just 7 weeks old, and she slept for most of the day. Then it happened….she turned into a demon puppy. I remember telling her I didn’t love her yet, so she better watch her herself, but it didn’t take long. She is a calm breed, and only gets feisty around the guys. You got a wild one there, but soon she will be yours….and only yours!