I’m quite surprised that I have resisted writing about my dog so far! She is adorable, a ball of pure fluffy love.
We adopted Phoebe from the SSPCA, she had been in the shelter for three years, bar the odd few month where she would be rehomed temporarily by people who didn’t understand what it meant to have a bigger dog. She is an Utonagan (quite small for her breed actually) but certainly high on the fluff-scale! She is great with people, very affectionate (cuddle monster!), very intelligent so easy to train…but also easily distracted and very strong with a high prey drive, like her Malamute and Husky ancestors!
We were told she was aggressive towards other dogs, and from what we saw in the shelter she was…somewhat, although it seemed more anxious, defensive behavior than outright aggression. Thankfully our neighbour has a young Scottish Deerhound, fast, agile, boundless energy and keen for a bit of rough play! By introducing them (very carefully) it turns out Phoebe isn’t aggressive at all. She is boisterous, strong and just needed a dog to be her match in these areas to play happily. She definitely doesn’t like fences…or leads when it comes to other dogs. These things seem to set her off panicking…that and staffy/bull dog type dogs. My guess would be that having spent three years in a cage, being barked at constantly by other dogs, most of which were too small for her to play with without doing them damage (Staffies/ Staffordshire Bull Terriers are the most common dog in Scottish Shelters) has led to some undesirable behaviour in regards to some dogs, but to label her aggressive is just outright wrong and dismissive!
Don’t get me wrong, of course initial introductions have been wrought with anxiety on our part (of course trying to keep that subdued with a calm energy for Phoebe’s sake!). I am well aware of the implications of what could happen if she attacked another dog and it would certainly be heartbreaking. But honestly, to see the two of them playing just makes it all worth while.
We’ve had some not so great encounters too…our poor furry friend Morse, a chocolate lab. She is about 9 years old and not one it turns out for the same rough playing! No-one was hurt though thankfully and we were all able to chill out in the house for some dinner (although Morse kept to the sofa distrusting of Phoebe’s relaxed behaviour when she is in the house!).
What has started getting to me though is that, well Phoebe is 7, coming on 8 (although she doesn’t look or act it!) and Flora is coming up 1. So even though while playing Phoebe gives it her all…she needs to take breaks whereas Flora desperately wants to keep playing. Then when we finally call it time as Phoebe is getting grumpy because she is so tired and make to take Flora home, they become inseparable again. Phoebe pines at the window watching Flora go, and every time I let her into the garden she stares at the fence separating our gardens! Flora actually made a great escape one evening and came to our front door, we let her in and she ran through to Phoebe, the two of them running circles round each other, full of love! This is all incredibly beautiful…but in reality, Phoebe can barely move for the rest of the day and the next! She is stiff and has incredibly low energy, she struggles to even jump into the car, her favorite place to be in the entire world (she is a head out of the window kinda dog!).
Now, we are very lucky dog owners in the sense that Phoebe fits so perfectly with us. As I have said in previous posts I have M.E, which limits my ability for physical activities but I am home a lot, and my boyfriend works from home as a Games designer/software programmer thingy, again he is home a lot but his job is very demanding. We have the financial ability, space and time to take care of a dog that doesn’t need loads of walking! Phoebe is happy with one walk a day, a car ride a day and a play time with Flora every 2-3 days, any more than this and she doesn’t function very well (other than car rides…she would live in it if she could I think)!
After much discussion I think it’s in her best interest to have a permanent doggy friend. A friend her own age, around her size, who she could play with then chill out with in the house, which is what she seems to want to do with Flora, but Flora just has too much energy to even lie down!
So on Tuesday we are having a home visit from a lady at the Malamute rescue. We decided on a Malamute as Utonagan dogs are very rarely re-homed at that age and they are more of a match for Phoebe in size and temperament than a Husky or German Shepherd (which are the other two of the three lineages Utonagan dogs have).
At the moment all I can do it hope this is the right decision for Phoebe. Once we have met a dog we think is right and has the right energy for us, we will introduce the new fluffy friend to Phoebe and let her decide if it’s the right pooch!
I wonder how many other dogs have been given negative labels by shelters, or how many haven’t been given the time and effort required to deal with some surface issues. I’m not biased, I always rehome shelter dogs and have worked in one myself. I know there is no way you could have the time or resources to fully understand every dog and obviously dogs behaviour is usually drastically different in and out of the shelter…but it’s still a very sad state of affairs that so many get neglected! I just also wish people would think a lot more before attempting to re-home a dog. Obviously there are going to be issues, but if you don’t have the time or energy to work with the dog for more than a month then just don’t do it!