dog adoption

Guest Post: Diamond in the Rough

I have been volunteering for a while now, and I have seen many dogs come and go. Some are especially memorable. This is the story of one of those dogs.

In January, TAGS “adopted” a dog who was about to be euthanized from the pound. The five-and-a-half-year-old boxer cross came with a chain collar and the name Bella. Both were changed immediately, and Bella became Buttercup.

The first time I met Buttercup was at the TAGS dog park. It was one of the coldest days of the year, so the park was very quiet. Since there weren’t others around and I didn’t have much to do, I decided to take this new dog out of her crate and into the park to see what she was all about. She went crazy. Others around us were overwhelmed by her energy, but I quickly realized it was harmless, excited energy (at least, I hoped it was).

Buttercup couldn't even lie down to chew a bone. She had to do it in the play bow position.

I’ve met dogs with high levels of energy before, but putting a leash on Buttercup was impossible. I had to use a slip leash and lasso her.  Once I got her in the dog park, I picked up a tennis ball, which elicited an intense wide-eyed stare. So I threw the ball, and she chased it down as if her life depended on it (see video here). She brought it back but circled me, chewing on the ball vigorously. It was obvious that she had a lot of energy pent up from being caged in the pound, most likely for months. Buttercup’s pace didn’t slow the entire time I threw that ball for her. I was trying to see how long it would take to tire her. I never found out.

I don’t have a dog of my own, so in the middle of winter, I experience dog withdrawal. Knowing Buttercup would benefit from a nice run, one day I contacted her foster mom and asked to take Buttercup to the park. This is one of the ways I see myself having the largest impact as a volunteer. I picked Buttercup up just before 11 a.m. and dropped her off at 2 p.m. She ran the entire time!

Head out the window in February?

For the first two weeks, I don’t believe she ever came close enough to let me touch her. But slowly, she started to trust me. It seemed that she was experiencing many things for the first time: her head out the window of the car, long grass, even just going for a walk.

On our third “date,” she rolled over onto her back and asked for a belly rub. I felt as though I had been let into the Buttercup Club. On our fifth date, I took her into Brooklin, a small town in north Whitby, to go for a walk on a busy street and among people. She seemed to love the walk in Brooklin even more than the dog park—I attribute it to experiencing more things for the first time. She was very social, walking up to storefront doors, wagging her boxer bum. It was fun going on walks with her because of her childlike playfulness.

Once she started to trust, her character really shone.

On these walks, I felt really good that I was helping out a dog like Buttercup. She had already come a long way compared to when I first met her (when she wouldn’t let me touch her). I learned on future walks to fill my pockets with TAGS business cards because her happiness was so noticeable, even people stopped at a red light would comment on her.

During an adopt-a-thon at Petsmart one weekend, Buttercup was a hit—as I knew she would be. I was over-the-moon happy when I found out someone had put in an application to adopt her.

The first step, the meet and greet, was set up with the applicants. I wouldn’t miss it for the world. Up to this point, it had always been just the two of us, alone, nobody else around. I sat down at a picnic table at the dog park with the nice couple who had applied. Every 15 seconds or so, Buttercup would look at me to make sure I was still there.

The home visit the following week was more of the same. It took Buttercup 20-30 minutes to calm down, but she eventually lay on the carpet. The couple seemed very understanding of Buttercup. My mind was put at ease when the husband said that once she got into a routine, she would feel comfortable and would relax. I couldn’t agree more and gave my thumbs-up for the weeklong trial run that is the extended visit.

Sitting on the couch having a conversation

As is custom with extended visits, I called the couple 24 hours after the visit started and spoke to the wife. She said Buttercup was very well behaved, was beginning to settle down, and was even giving “gentle” kisses! They were concerned, though, about her relatively poor socialization skills in the local dog park, which I knew could be an issue. But she was eating and sleeping well.

After a few more days, I found out that the couple had decided to adopt Buttercup, which just made my week. Here was a dog who the first time I met her wouldn’t let me put a leash on her—and now she was being adopted. I felt like a father marrying off his only daughter. I was very proud of Buttercup, but mostly I felt vindicated. I saw in her that first time we met that she was a dog who was eager to please but, because of her circumstances, was misunderstood.

When the couple came to sign the adoption papers, the husband said to me, “I feel like I’ve had her my whole life.” All Buttercup needed, as is the case with all rescue dogs, was someone to see her for who she really was, a loving dog looking for someone to love.