Two weeks ago last Friday, I went over to the OC Animal Shelter to rescue a Poodle who was being circulated on Facebook. But by the time I got there, the Poodle had been taken by a rescue. Good! But while I was there I of course had to visit with the pups.
Walking the aisle, I came across this little white dog. She was alone in a pen, and was obviously very frightened. I could see her trembling, and she winced at every loud noise (and really, the loud noises were constant). So I sat on the concrete in front of her pen and just talked to her in a soothing voice for about 15-20 minutes, and eventually she came closer. I was able to stick my fingers between the bars and just barely touch her cheek. She held her head down, and didn’t make very much eye contact with me. Poor monkey was so, so terrified and she had zero self-confidence. It’s really sad how the shelter can break a dog’s spirit in such a short period of time. It’s not the shelter’s fault; it’s not the workers’ fault. The shelter is what it is, and I know they try to dress them up and make them nice, but when you’re alone and you don’t know where you are and you don’t understand what people are saying to you, and you don’t know why you’re there–well, it’s hell, no matter how many potted ferns or cute hand-painted signs are decorating the place. Right?
After about 30 minutes, I got the feeling that this dog was probably going home with me, but I didn’t know if she’d stay.
I knew that a visit would be pretty useless, so I just adopted her, and when the volunteer handed her to me, she said, “She can’t walk on a leash.” I figured it was likely because she was so scared. You know how it is at the shelter, right? There’s SO much barking! And it’s SO loud. I wouldn’t want to walk with strangers either.
The second I took this little white dog into my arms, she tucked her snout under my chin and against my neck and I swear to God I felt every muscle in her body go limp. She just gave up, gave in. Whether it was relief or just exhaustion (or maybe a combination of both), I don’t know. But I do know that my shoulder, my chest, was exactly what that dog needed at just that time. It’s satisfying when you know that you’re in just the right place at just the right time, you know?
That was 18 days ago, and things are a bit different around here right now.
Mouse (this is, in fact, her real name, despite us having gone through about a dozen others and the fact that she’s wearing a collar that says “Jane”) is doing great. She’s blending in.
Mouse is about a year old; she’s a Jack Russell/Whippet mix. She’s wicked smart and hella fast. She watches the Vatos constantly, and she doesn’t have to be shown, or told, anything twice. She knows who eats where and in what order; who sleeps where and at what time of day; where Jack’s favorite spot on the couch is; where T’s is and where mine & Mr. Susan’s are. She knows that if she doesn’t get up for breakfast she won’t eat until the end of the day. She knows the dog door, literally, in and out.
She’s taking no chances; this dog is giving us no reason to take her back. Like I said, wicked smart.
More importantly, the Vatos bromance is intact. One of the names we kicked around for Mouse was “Six,” because she’s the 6th dog we’ve brought into the house to integrate. The other five didn’t work out, because what always happened was that one of the Vatos ended up being the 3rd wheel. That can’t happen. That really, really cannot happen. I won’t let it. I’ve talked about this before, and I stand by this decision. They’ve had their horrible past; they have nothing ahead but soft kisses and endless squeaky babies in their future.
But Mouse isn’t stepping on anyone’s toes, and she’s happy to curl up at the foot of the bed for the night. I’m not pushing the three of them together, but they’re slowly starting to touch noses and do that “dog communication” thing that they do. There’s been a fair amount of butt sniffing, and some fake-out play going on. If they’re going to be friends with Mouse, it’ll happen on its own.
When I’m adopting a dog (and this is actually the way it happens. I never go with a plan; I always just find myself doing it without realizing it). I enter with an open mind, but I usually leave with a bundle in my arms. Even on those days that I’m sure it won’t work out, I always give it a try, if possible.
And she’s turning out to be a pretty good catch, I think. And so far, Jack and T seem to think so too.
So for all you guys on Instagram and Facebook, Flickr & Twitter, seeing these photos of a very young looking Dot (who is actually Mouse) or wondering who the new addition is, that’s the story. I shot these on the first afternoon; her love of the camera has steadily declined each day.