Sunday, January 1, 2012

They have been ours for longer than they have not

We adopted Copley when he was a year and a half.  In January he will turn 3.

We adopted Kerrigan when she was 3 months old.  In January she will be 6 months.

That means both these dogs will have officially lived with us for the majority of their lives.

When I first met Copley he has been in the pound for exactly 30 days.  His paperwork showed he did his intake and got his Bordatella/Distemper/Parvo vaccine on May 28th, we adopted him on June 27th.  Back then before I volunteered in rescue and before I knew Copley this didn't seem that odd to me.  But now I realize it was an amazing feat that almost no dog could accomplish, especially in this city. For thirty days he was locked in a kennel, thrown food once a day, cleaned up after and mostly ignored.  Now I am very familiar with the shelter he came from.  They are not huge like the shelter Kerri came from, but they are high kill.  Their very few animal control officers do what they can, but the dogs don't ever get walked.  If they are lucky a potential adopter can walk them around a very small courtyard where they are being barked at in plain view of all the other dogs.  This shelter does not have a lot of volunteers, the dogs don't have toys and beds are old and scarce.  At least it is clean and the workers have always seemed kind but there is only so much they can do.

For 30 days Copley was in this place.  For 30 days he stayed healthy- because if he had even coughed he would have been put down.  Every morning he greeted the people at the shelter with a happy wag and hope they would come pet him.  Unlike so many dogs he didn't get scared, or protective of his kennel or his food.  He probably did not so much as growl or he would have been labeled aggressive and been killed.  And on top of that he avoided being euthanized just because his number was up.  Was there unusually low intake?  Unlikely.  Did the animal control officer who so joyfully said goodbye to him see how good of a dog he was and help him stay around?  Was he part of a court case and didn't get put out for adoption until later in the month?  I guess I will never know.

We spend a lot of time talking about what his life was like before he lived with us.  His previous owner was not totally irresponsible.  He was neutered, house-trained, well fed and taught a few tricks.  There were several dogs who all looked like Copley in varying ages at the shelter that month.  I assume they all came in together.  They were not owner-surrendered because they did not have names, only numbers.  At that shelter the dogs without names stay without names and the dogs turned in by owners keep their names.  We have lots of theories, some based on little things we notice, about his previous owners but we will never really know.  I just hope he doesn't miss them anymore and that while he was with them they treated him well.

The only thing I really know is that the dog that went into that shelter is not the dog that came out.  Not the dog I know today.  There is no way our Copley made it through thirty days locked in a kennel like that without some major trauma.  We can't make up for those days, nor is sitting on the couch hugging him and feeding him treats going to make it better (although a little of that helps).  We give him a stable pack, with lots of structure and lots of love.  We go on long hikes and we do agility and rally and got our CGC.  Actually we do a lot of agility.

At our training center Copley just lights up.  He loves the place and the people and is a total nut while he is there.  He just hams it up for all the trainers and they just love on him.  For a long time I kept telling them that the happy-go-lucky dog they see at class is not the slightly worried, always lazy, structure-craving dog we have at home but I could not explain it.  Then Ben said something that makes perfect sense to me; "I think that the way Copley is at class is the way he was before the shelter."  I agree, that it probably close to the truth.

That was long but really all I needed to say was that Copley has now officially been with us for the majority of his life.  I hope he knows he is here to stay and we are lucky to have adopted one of the best dogs on the planet.  He is the friendliest, coolest dog out there and we love him very much.


Now Kerrigan is a bit of different story.  We were very prepared to bring her into our lives, having bought all the puppy supplies and such that we needed.  I stalked the shelters for a little chihuahua puppy to call our own.  Being that we live in the Irresponsible Breeding of Chihuahuas and Pit Bulls Capital of the World I saw several litters go through the shelters while we were still preparing for a second dog.  Finally all the baby gates and pens and vitamins came in the mail and Ben wanted to go to the shelter right away.  It was a big city shelter that has a bit of a spotty past and HUGE intake and euthanasia numbers.  I knew Ben did not have the willpower to leave that place without a dog.  Not sure I did either.  I had seen her listed online that morning so I was on the lookout for her.

We saw her and she was just too cute and tiny to let stay in that place.  I brought Copley to meet her, he was the one who had veto power over the situation.  If he had growled or showed dislike we would not have done it but he accepted her and it was a done deal.

The way I see it Kerrigan never had a family before us.  Her mother and her litter-mates were her family, then she had a brief time at the shelter (she was put out for adoption only hours before we adopted her) and then she made it to us.  She was a social butterfly in puppy class and I hope she is even on track to become a therapy dog some day when she calms down a little bit.  I don't think she worries for a minute about being abandoned and I doubt she has a lot of memory of her time before us.  I think whoever had her had bought a cute puppy off Craigslist then realized they were in over their heads and gave up.  Off to the shelter it was for her.

In her time here she has gained about 2 lbs, outgrown a collar, and gone from a lanky, goofy puppy who could barely keep her legs under her to an agile spring of a young dog, sure footed and strong willed.  We still have many months left of puppy-hood before our work is done but so far it has been great.  Getting a puppy from a shelter is kinda like playing the lotto with personalities, but I think we hit the jackpot.

I will leave you with these two pictures.  Both were taken the first day we had them, Kerri's in the car before we pulled out of the parking lot of the pound and Copley's shortly after he was home with us.  They didn't even have names yet.  I think they both have the same look on their face.  Probably thinking "who the hell are you and what is going on?"

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