Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Welcome Abbey

Bobby and I have wanted to get a dog for a long time, but we both felt pretty strongly that we should wait until we had time to spend with a dog. Time for walks, and time to play, and time to train. This December, with the thought that since both of us would be working from home come the new year, it was finally time.

Then the search began. We initially hoped to find a pup by Christmas, but we had a long list of criteria, and decided it was important to find the right dog, even if that meant waiting. It had to be a breed we liked the look of, but it also had to do well with cats and children, and we preferred a pup less than 6 months old (both for training purposes and due to our cat, Lucas). Bobby's tongue-in-cheek description of the kind of dog he wanted was, "Floppy ears... and could kill a man." But would love the cat, obviously.

Bobby, Emma, and I made a number of visits to shelters over the last few months, looked online, and called breed rescues. We watched Dogs 101 on Animal Planet a lot and took a few mental notes about breeds we liked. This Saturday, we picked Emma up and decided to go to the Riverside County Animal Shelter.

We only had a vague idea of where it was, so I checked Google Maps on my phone for a location. Instead of the Riverside County Animal Shelter, we wound up at the Riverside Humane Society, but decided to look at the dogs anyway.

As we were looking for parking, Emma and I were looking at the kennels that faced the parking lot. Upon seeing the first dog, I said, "That's the one!" We hadn't even gotten out of the car yet.

We made sure we saw all the dogs they had, but there were really only two we were considering - the first dog I'd seen, a 5 1/2 month old Bluetick Coonhound, and her cell mate, a 1 1/2 year old Basset Hound.

When we asked about the dogs, we mentioned that we already have a cat, and that it was important to us to find a dog that is good with cats. The coonhound had not been cat tested yet, but they agreed to do one with us there.

We first met with the coonhound, Soleil, and as soon as we were in the visiting room, she walked up to me and gently crawled the front of her body in my lap to let me pet her. When she got down, she did the very same to Bobby. She was a very happy, playful puppy. Emma was in love, and already begging us to take the dog home. (She's easy like that though. Every place we went there was always a dog she was madly in love with).

After a while, they brought in a cat carrier with a jet black cat named Phantom inside. I had been wondering how they go about choosing a cat to do the cat tests - obviously you don't want to stress any of the animals out too badly. Apparently this cat loves dogs, actually prefers to be caged with them than with other cats, and has been their cat test bait for as long as she's been there. Soleil was mildly curious, but not agressive in any way. After a little time, they let Phantom out of the cat carrier and he wandered around the room a bit. Soleil followed him around, very curious. The cat was finally irritated with all the sniffing, and gently batted the dog, and she just backed off.

The staff member we were talking to informed us that Julie had been cat tested, and she is okay with cats that do not run from her. Apparently if the cat bolts, Julie chases. I was a little uneasy about that, but we decided to visit with her anyway.

Julie was much mellower than Soleil. Again, a sweet dog, but more reserved, perhaps even lazy. If she needed to move forward just a little bit, she'd just drag her backside instead of getting up to walk. Bobby, who never thought he would like a smallish dog was really taken with her, and when they took Julie back we had a tough decision in front of us.

Bobby wanted Julie, but liked Soleil too. I wanted Soleil, but liked Julie too. Emma waffled back and forth (really, she wanted to take a dog home NOW, and it didn't matter which one). I was still concerned with how Julie would act towards Lucas, and the fact that she was an older dog. Bobby really liked Julie.

We eventually caved to our indecisiveness and decided we would get both. They seemed to do so well together in their kennel and it would be good of us to save them both right? And how nice would it be for each of us to have a dog? Emma was ecstatic.

Thankfully, the staff at the Humane Society held us back a little. Since we have a cat, and both the dogs were hounds - dogs with a strong prey drive - and since Julie was already predisposed to chase cats, they said we could only take one home that day. Take one home, acclimate her to the cat, then maybe see about another. That way Julie doesn't teach Soleil bad traits right away.

We tried to talk them out of it, but they were firm. We were back to having to make a decision. Finally, Bobby relented, and we decided on Soleil. He reasoned that it would probably be better to go for the puppy, and if we want a Basset Hound, then we can try to find a puppy in a few months. Better not to scare Lucas with two dogs all at once, right?

I liked the name Soleil, but Bobby didn't care for it, so we started thinking of other names. It didn't take long for Bobby and Emma to decide on Abbey. His family is full of Beatles fans, which is why her name is spelled the same as it is in Abbey Road. We filled out the paperwork, and picked out the collar, leash, water and food bowls, a toy, food, and some treats. Then we piled in the car and brought her to meet Jäger.

Jäger is Bobby's brother's labrador. We were understandable aprehensive about their first meeting - Jäger is a rather large, powerful, and somewhat uncontrollable dog, while Abbey is rather petite. It was clear rather early on that Jäger was simply enamored with this new girl. She walked around sniffing the yard while he just followed her around as if he were the puppy.

It was a breif visit, since it was time for us to be heading home. The closer we got to home, the more worried I was about how Lucas would react. We were fairly confident that Abbey wouldn't attack him, but he often disappears when there are people over he doesn't like - what if he just takes off while she's there?

As soon as we pulled the car in the garage, I jumped out to check to see if Lucas was in the house. I was hoping we could introduce them that night, since I didn't want them to surprise each other while we were all sleeping. Luckily, he was right there in our bedroom waiting for us to come home. I quickly closed up the exit we leave open for him. We brought Abbey in, but Lucas was already under the bed. She was so excited that she went right past him to explore the rest of the house.

After everyone settled down a bit, I closed the bedroom door and pulled Lucas out from under the bed. He wasn't really all that happy with me, but he loves me and never strikes out. I held him in my lap and pet him, while I called for Bobby to leash the dog and bring her in.

Abbey reacted the same way she did towards Phantom - extreme curiosity. It was clear that she wanted very badly to sniff and play with the kitty, but Lucas wanted none of it. He did hiss once and growl a few times, but over all he did remarkably well. He still avoids her as much as possible, but if we pick him up and bring him into a room with her, he will sit somewhat tensly in our lap and warn her if she gets too close. It will take some time, but I think they'll get used to each other.

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