I was just getting ready to move from one apartment to another. For the first time ever I was moving to a dog friendly apartment. I have ALWAYS wanted a dog, ever since I was little. My best friend Darcy had a dog, so did my best guy friend Dan growing up. In fact, Dan had 4 dogs. I used to go over to his house and sit under a tree and brush Sheena for hours. I also was with them, burying and mourning as each one passed away as we grew older. Dogs were a part of my life, even if I never had one growing up.
So it was time. I was 20 something years old, I had owned a cat for years, and he was still alive and kicking – so it was time for me to up the ante and get a dog. I knew I wanted to adopt. All the cats in my life growing up had been rescued, so it was natural for me to head over to the local humane society and find my new friend.
I took a friend with me, and it was her job to make sure 2 things didn't happen. One, I was only to adopt one dog, not 20. And two, I was NOT going to come home with a dog that day.
I made sure to walk around the kennels. I went for the "adult dog" area, knowing that a puppy would be too hard for me for my first dog, and since I worked 6-9 hours a day, I needed a dog that could hold its bladder that long. I saw many dogs that day, three stick out in my memory, but I only remember two of their names. A yellow lab named Max, a black lab mix that was a girl, and a black lab mix named Lucky. He was born on September 11th, but not THE September 11th.
For some reason I decided I wanted a male dog. I have no rationale for this. But that's what went into my mind, so the sweet black lab female mix was off the table – and it was down to Max, the yellow lab, and Lucky, the black lab. I asked to take each one outside to play with them in the yard. Max was nice enough, he ran around, he was about 11 months old, he was cute, soft, fluffy.
I asked to take Lucky out. Lucky was scrawnier, missing half the hair on his back from allergies to something, and he looked down right mangy. The experience of getting him outside is burned in my memory. He flattened himself like a pancake and refused to move. Little naïve me couldn't figure that one out. But we finally were able to get him outside – and he played ball. He was different than Max - he seemed smarter. He wanted to play with me – well, as long as I had a ball. I would throw it, he would get it, bring it back, and drop it. 10 months old and he knew to drop the ball, not have me chase him around the outdoor pen and try and pry it from his mouth - he just dropped it. After both dogs were put back in their kennels, I said goodbye and I went home and mulled it over.
I went back the next day and thought I would see them in reverse. I asked to take Lucky out, and this time he was super excited to head outside - no flattening like a pancake to the ground. We went outside and played ball, and again, he got the ball and dropped it. Then another family brought Max out into the neighboring pen... perhaps it was the excitement, or the testosterone - but Lucky and Max bolted for each other and I witnessed my first "fence fight". It didn't really deter me – for some reason I decided it was all Max's fault. And therefore, I had made my choice – because of a dog's birthday, because he couldn't possibly have started the fence fight, but mostly because, when I threw the ball, he brought it back and dropped it.
When I went to sign all the papers and pay I got to see the intake paperwork on him. There were two things that I remember from the form. One was the reason the previous owner couldn't have him anymore – and her reason was "I just can't keep him anymore". I don't know the circumstances under which she surrendered her dog, but I remember crying as I read it because it seemed so cold and detached, but maybe that's what you have to do if you drop your 10 month old dog off at the shelter. And the second thing I remember was reading some of the information that she wrote about him. At least she took the time to do that. There were some comments you could made about your dog's behavior if they bark at things, chase things, what they bark and chase. Well, she checked every box they had – squirrels, cars, kids, etc – and then she added about 5 more boxes of her own – with a final note of "he chases and barks at anything that moves". You might ask "how can you know it was a 'she' that wrote all this" – the handwriting – it was fat and loopy, so I'm 99% sure it was a she.
And then I paid $80.00 for my mutt. I was so excited, I was ready to take him home - and then I found out I didn't get to take him home! WHAT?! He had to be released directly to the care of my vet who would promptly neuter him and then I could pick him up after it was done. It was an agonizing 24 hours – but I got the call from my vet at 4:30 pm the next day and I went to pick up my dog. I walked in, to find my mangy mutt, missing half his back hair, wearing a giant cone of shame, and coughing up a lung. In 24 hours he had contracted kennel cough.
So it was home to recuperate, where I learned very quickly that his previous owner was right - he did chase everything that moved. Starting with the cat. But he was smart too - and quickly learned that kitty was off limits.
Many years later, after countless years in obedience classes, I have accepted what I can and cannot change about my dog Lucky. He doesn't chase everything that moves anymore – but he will bark at it, he has on-leash aggression, but can play, without issue, at the dog park. He's the best house dog, he's the best yard dog given that I have a fence he can't see through! He gets so excited chasing tennis balls that he'll give himself a seizure, he would probably die if there weren't any more tennis balls. He is smarter than a whip, he's the first to "sit" on command, the first to "down", he knows "off" simply if I look at him when he's on the couch and I need his seat, he learned "find it" – and he will, no matter where I hide the tennis ball he will hunt it down, and I taught all 50+ lbs of him to "shake" and even better, to "beg". He isn't really a snuggler – except when he wants to be – but I tell him every day, every day, that I am so very happy that I picked him. I love this dog.