So, I lied, maybe. Last column, while lamenting the loss of my dog, and recollecting her predecessor and how one left my life and the other came in, I mentioned that I wouldn’t be getting “another” dog in the span of three weeks again. Technically, I passed that mark, and technically, I’m just fostering and haven’t yet adopted, but a “new” one did come into my life, just about a month after the passing of my “cosmic-level perro.”
While grieving her loss, I thought a lot about how we came to find one another, and I guess I was hopeful that past strategies might work this time. They did and they didn’t. Within a week, I’d gone to the local shelter to walk a dog, only to learn that was reserved for volunteers, something I was non-committal on. They said I could take any dog into the playroom, but I wasn’t ready for that, and I didn’t go there with that intention. I wasn’t looking to build a new bond; I just wanted the activity of walking with a dog. It wouldn’t even have required the dog to acknowledge me, and it probably would’ve been better if it didn’t. But that wasn’t possible. Instead, I walked through the six kennel areas, totaling more than 70 dogs, and each one I stooped down to their level, smiled, and offered my hand to sniff. Most were eager to do so, others were not. I came away so thankful that we have places like these, but so depressed by what they were. While I knew they were in desperate need of volunteers, I couldn’t do it, not at that time. I’d have to let the scabs heal before I could do that this time.
But just like that, the seed had been planted, and I started to think about the “next” dog, whatever that may be and whenever that might happen. Maybe five days later, I’d reached out to a rescue to inquire about meeting a cattle dog and did so about a week after my visit to the shelter. Her name was “Xena,” and she was pretty cool and pretty cute, apparently a runt because she was full-grown at 22 pounds. She already had a family interested in her, and not that I was looking to move that quickly, but I couldn’t put dibs on her even if I wanted to. So, I met several more, and over a period of roughly three weeks, I interacted with seven dogs spread across a 120-mile span. There were only two I was really interested in of the group, Xena, and the one who eventually came home with me, “Sable.” But there’s more to it than that.
I met Xena three times, and Sable four. It was a really hard decision, and at one point, I foolishly thought about adopting both at the same time. I could afford it, I had the space, and I was ready to sacrifice my social life to the onboarding of two dogs, but in the end, thankfully, I decided against it because I knew how hard it would be to bond with two new dogs at once, and training would be a nightmare. I did, ultimately, tell the foster parent of Xena that if she was still around at the end of October to let me know, as I’d bring her home, too, if the first one had acclimated well enough. I’m not sure if even then that’d be a good idea, but we’ll see. I suspect she’ll find a home before then, anyway.
I chose Sable because of two factors, the first being that she had some endearing social qualities, making her very affectionate and outgoing with people, and also because she’d been in shelter/rescue for so long, roughly five months when I brought her home. Xena seemed more out-of-the-box trainable, but as a cattle dog, she had a bit of that aloofness that resembles a little disinterest, but I’m sure she would’ve grown out of that with me, as it was clear she had with her foster mom who had her for a month.
Some things I was hesitant about with any dog, was whether they could ultimately be free roamers – I don’t like crating, and whether they could, well, be free roamers outside, too, as I like to have my dog off-leash when I go to the woods, which is often. I’m not sure on either quality in Sable, but I’m hopeful. She’ll have to be crated for a little while when I leave until I can trust her – I don’t want to put her in situations where she can’t be successful or could hurt herself. She’s also evidenced a bit of a prey drive, so I’m not sure how that’ll work in the woods – I don’t want her darting after anything she sees, and certainly not anything that could hurt her. I plan on starting obedience training soon, as well as agility, and I’m doing my own training until then; I hope she comes around on both accounts.
One thing I wasn’t counting on that came with the new dog – and at this point I should say I’ve committed to a three-week fostering situation with the option to adopt – is a new wave of sorrow. I knew I’d still greatly miss her predecessor, but I didn’t expect to have the wounds feel as if they were brand new. There must be some guilt in there, but it’s also that when I look at this new dog, I don’t see my old one, in more ways than one. It’s like some sort of forced closure I wasn’t yet looking for or ready for. It’s a really tough set of mixed emotions: happiness and excitement for my new friend, and loss and sorrow for my old, very dear friend. I hope I can work through it, because it doesn’t feel good. I don’t want to cast the new dog in the light of the old, and I don’t want to project characteristics and expectations on her either. It’s not fair to either of us, especially her.
But for now, I’m just trying to work through it, and make the best life for this new gal, and improve mine along the way, as challenging to do as that feels right now. I’ve asked myself if I rushed into it, but I don’t think I have. So, I’m trying to hold the pain of loss and the joy of new friendship in balance, and it’s as hard as you’d think. But I want this new friend to have all the love and possibility that my old one did, and that will just take time. This time it was 29 days; I hope it was the right decision.