rescue dog

Cora and Dusty’s Adoption

Wes, Dusty, Cora, and me on adoption day

At the end of our trial week with Cora and Dusty, we made the adoption official. On April 23, 2011, they became ours, and we were thrilled! We drove out to TAGS headquarters to take care of the paperwork and other details. Our TAGS experience was amazing—I’d recommend it to anyone and everyone!

Along with the dogs (who were spayed/neutered, vaccinated, and vetted—making them very affordable!), we got from TAGS eight weeks of obedience training. Because TAGS’s mission is to find dogs their forever homes, they help new owners train their dogs to be good. A well-trained dog is less likely to be rehomed than an untrained one. We loved our training sessions! Kathy, Andree, Lindsay, and Andree’s smart and adorable little dog, Ty, were our instructors, and Dusty and Cora were fortunate to have wonderful canine classmates, including Snookie, Quincy, Levi, Luna, and Gracie.

Wes with Cora and Dusty on their graduation day

The eight weeks of training actually took place over 10 or 11 weeks, with a few weekends off along the way. We learned the basic commands—sit, down, stay, come—and some target training; plus, we played games with the dogs. It was wonderful to watch Dusty and Cora interact with the others, and also we loved the opportunity to spend that quality one-on-one time with them. It was in our early classes that we began to think of Dusty as our ADHD dog. 🙂 He thought he was at school to play with others, not to learn! However, over the course of our training, he grew into such a good dog, and by our final class, which was a “game day,” he came in second in two of the obedience contests. Cora came in second in one of them. She was still pretty timid, but everyone saw her come out of her shell a lot over those two and a half months. Watching Cora become a confident and happy dog has been one of the most rewarding experiences of my life, and it all started in our obedience classes. She still has some big steps ahead of her, but we’re so pleased by each little step she makes along the way. And TAGS gave us—and her—a huge head start!

How about a Third?

Several people are asking about doggy #3, so I’ll jump forward in time a bit.

Within our first month with Cora and Dusty, I witnessed something that got the wheels turning about getting a third dog. Dusty continued his desperate attempts to get Cora to play. And she still wouldn’t. By this point, we’d seen her run, get into the play position (albeit briefly), and dance around the kitchen at meal times (I’ll blog about all that later and hopefully post a video if I can figure out how to), but Dusty just didn’t interest her. He’s a bit of an aggressive player in that he goes at high speed all the time. We joke that he’s our ADHD dog. But we actually love that about him (except when we can’t get him out of his own little world)!

Anyway, one afternoon, my mom came with me on a walk with the dogs. She had Dusty, and I had Cora. Mom and Dusty were behind a little. Cora and I turned a corner on the trail and met a large black dog. Cora always loves meeting other dogs, but this one was, I guess, special. Cora got into the play position and bounced around trying to encourage the dog to play with her. Of course, since both dogs were on leashes, we couldn’t let them play (although had the other owner not intervened, I wouldn’t have because this was so amazing to me!). Once Dusty arrived on scene, Cora backed off. Hmm, I thought. I wonder if we could find a suitable playmate for Cora. Dusty would play with anyone, so any playmate who worked for Cora would work for him. And Dusty really seemed to miss having playmates.

My husband and I talked about it and then started poking around on Petfinder.com again. We decided that, as much as we loved our hounds, we’d really like to have a terrier again. Enter Hogan.

Hogan (picture sent to us by his foster mom, Julie)

Hogan was rescued by Rat Terrier Rescue Canada (RTRC). His story always interests people, as it did us: (updated December 2011) He came from Cozumel, Mexico, where he’d been found by four homeless men and where he was called “Gohan.” The men took him to the Humane Society of Cozumel. (Side note: If you’re ever vacationing in Cozumel, consider bringing a kennel for the Humane Society.) RTRC saw his picture and decided to save him by bringing him to Canada. Apparently, he generated a lot of interest among potential adopters. We feel so fortunate that we passed the rescue’s stages of application (written application, phone interview, home visit) and in the end were chosen to adopt him. On July 1, Canada Day, we picked him up from his foster mom, Julie.

Hogan is guessed to be around two years old. He’s a wire-haired terrier mix of some sort. We think he may have Cairn terrier in him, so that’s what we’re going with. (Update December 2011: He fits the Australian terrier profile better.) Others have guessed border terrier or Yorkie. Whatever he is, he’s damn lovable! He’s a really affectionate little dog who loves belly rubs but was really shy about “asking” for them when we first got him. When Cora and Dusty came to us for affection, Hogan held back, and sometimes, he still does. He likes to have our full attention rather than one-third of it, so he often waits until the others are napping before he snuggles up to us. He’s got one ear that always wants to stand up and one that always wants to flop sideways and the cutest little curly tail. He’s generally well behaved, but I think if we didn’t exercise him as much as we do, he’d be a trouble maker. A couple of times we’ve caught him chewing something he wasn’t supposed to (chair cushions, rug tassels), but it doesn’t take much to get him to stop. He seems to have learned “no” now. We’re fortunate that he loves his crate, because it will likely be at least a few months before we’ll feel comfortable letting him roam free when we’re not home. He also proved to be very food aggressive when we first adopted him, so we quickly started feeding him in his crate, away from the other dogs. We’re pleased that he’s much less possessive of food now.

We have some issues with Hogan. He’s fearful, just as Cora is, but deals with it in a different way—a terrier way. Whereas Cora cowers away, Hogan growls—mostly at other dogs, but we’ve also seen him snarl a bit at a child (his second day with us). When Hogan first met Cora and Dusty, he growled at them and got a little confrontational with Dusty, but within minutes, the two dogs worked it out and began playing. After a while, Hogan decided he was done playing and led Cora on a walk through the beautiful wooded area at the back of Julie’s yard. It was so cute to see them trot away together. Dusty, meanwhile, happily played with another one of Julie’s foster dogs. We knew Hogan wasn’t going to be necessarily easy (what terrier is?), but nevertheless, we thought, We can make this work.

And for the most part, it has worked. We’ve got some training to do with Hogan still, but he’s definitely a trainable dog. Smart and loyal, he should learn quickly once we put our minds to teaching him. We hired Joan Weston of Who’s Walking Who to help guide us in dealing with his growling. The main task she gave us is to make him feel safe with us, to show him he no longer has to protect himself. And, slowly, we’re making progress.

So from a household of two in April, we became a household of five in July. A happy little family.

Our “Trial Week” with Cora and Dusty

We had to wait five long days, but on April 16, 2011, we brought Cora and Dusty home for our “trial week.” Before picking them up, we invested a few hundred dollars despite what TAGS had advised—we bought bowls, a luxury bed big enough for two, harnesses, seat belts, toys, treats, and food. TAGS was prepared to lend us everything we needed; we did accept the loan of collars, leashes, crates, and the food the dogs’ respective foster moms supplied, but we knew once we got the dogs home, there would be no sending them back!

Our first day together was a rainy, cool Saturday. Dusty was even more easygoing than we’d expected him to be; he didn’t seem at all put out to be in a new environment. He played with the toys we’d bought while Cora stayed on the periphery, although every so often, she’d venture out and explore an adjacent room, crouching nervously and keeping an eye on us all the while. A couple of times, I lifted her onto a chair in the living room so she’d get the idea that she was allowed on the furniture. She’d immediately jump down and slink away. In the afternoon, we gave the dogs a treat of a bone each, which got Cora’s tail wagging some (victory!). Both dogs chewed their bones happily and then settled into a nap.

Cora and Dusty napping after some enthusiastic bone chewing.

On our walks, Cora and Dusty were angels! Wow, I’d thought. Walking two dogs is going to be easier than I’d imagined. (They were clearly on their best behaviour because those good walking manners all went out the window after the trial week.) Remember, too, that before Dusty (then 32 pounds) and Cora (then 24 pounds), we’d had one 12-pound dog. As far as I was concerned, the logistics of walking was a big deal. I needed to feel confident that when my husband wasn’t home, I could manage both dogs. And connivers that they are, Dusty and Cora made sure they instilled that confidence in me.

Our second morning together felt like a breakthrough. Cora woke me up by putting her front paws on the edge of the bed. She was wagging her tail so hard, her whole bum wiggled. Tears welled up in me to see her so happy and relaxed. Carefree Cora didn’t last long, though. By the time we got downstairs, she was back to frightened Cora, tail between her legs, but those first few moments of the day were incredibly special. Over the course of the rest of that week (and later weeks and months), I would grow to love mornings—although they really do come a little sooner than I’d choose—because of the surfacing of carefree Cora. Those morning wiggles are now part of our regular routine. And I have to say that it’s near impossible to have a bad day when sunrise brings with it such joy!

As the week passed, Cora slowly grew a little more comfortable. When Dusty came around for petting, Cora began to, too. But still, each time, she cowered as if she wasn’t sure our raised hands would be friendly to her again this time. Every wag of her tail—heck, every time it was somewhere other than between her legs—continued to excite us because those wags remained rare. And then the day came that she jumped onto the big chair with me and Dusty to get her share of the loving he was getting. Oh, happy day!

The Home Visit

For our home visit, two TAGS volunteers (Annetta and Louise) as well as two volunteers-in-training (Nick and Rachel) came to our house with Cora and Dusty. All six (four human, two canine) arrived on our doorstep at the same time. This was the first time the two dogs met. They sniffed each other to say hello as we greeted the volunteers. We saw Cora’s tail wag, albeit only slightly, for the first time.

Once in the living room, Cora remained nervous and uncertain, no more comfortable than she’d been at Petsmart, but she interacted with Dusty, which was encouraging and showed us a different side of her. The volunteers, with our urging, let the dogs off their leashes. Dusty immediately ran up the stairs to tour the second level; Cora sat in the living room, trying to suss things out yet not make eye contact with any human. While listening to Dusty tear around upstairs, we began to answer the volunteers’ many questions, about everything from what we planned to feed the dogs to how we’ve exhibited leadership qualities. There are no wrong answers, they assured us, but we felt nervous nevertheless. We desperately wanted to pass this stage: Cora had already stolen our hearts. Dusty, well, he was just a tag-along…or so we still thought.

Dusty trying to get Cora to play with the "Princess heart" pull toy.

Over the course of about two hours, we watched Dusty and Cora interact. When Cora saw Dusty being petted, she crawled over to get some of the same sort of attention. When Dusty nudged at her side or nibbled at her paws to try to encourage her to play, she turned her head from him, ignoring him and also sending the message that she didn’t want to play. She was patient with him for quite some time, but then at one point, her patience grew a little thin because he just wouldn’t take no for an answer, and she snarled at him—that confirmed for us that she could hold her own. She would teach Dusty her limits. Dusty, for his part, just wagged his tail, lay down next to her, and rolled over to show her his belly. He was telling her he wasn’t a threat to her.

Through the course of the evening, Dusty proved to be a really happy-go-lucky, funny little guy. We loved that he had helped himself to a self-assured unguided tour of the house and then had come back down to endear himself to us. It was as if he’d given the house a thorough once-over before deciding, Sure, I could live here! And once the house passed the examination, he moved on to test us. He jumped onto the chair and nuzzled my husband. He rolled over on the carpet to get belly rubs from me. He looked at us with those big, brown basset-hound eyes and sat in front of us with those adorable turned-out feet and his perfect posture. How could we resist? (And I should add that he didn’t bark in the house even once!)

By the time the volunteers left, we wanted both dogs. Although TAGS encourages prospective new doggy parents to take a few days after the home visit to make the decision, we made the call the next day to let them know we were ready to move on to the next step—the one-week trial.

Meeting Dusty

Dusty's adoption picture

The day after we met Cora, we went to Petsmart right at 10 a.m., when it opened. We were excited to meet Dusty, especially after taking a look at his adoption picture (at right). He just looked so handsome in his kerchief.

When we arrived, the volunteers were just trying to settle the dogs in. Dusty, however, was having none of it. Still a youngster (a year and two months), he wanted to play with the other dog on site, Rusky. Rusky didn’t share Dusty’s interest in play, though, so Dusty barked at him. And barked. And barked. And barked. (And he’s got one heck of a loud bark!) Meanwhile, we talked a little to his foster mom. She told us she’d had Dusty for four months. Like Cora, he’d come from Kentucky, but from what his foster mom knew of him, he’d been born in a pound there. She also told us he didn’t bark in the house. Sure, we thought. It was pretty hard to believe.

We left Petsmart a little disappointed yet absolutely certain that we hadn’t found Cora’s step-sibling-to-be. Dusty was playful, young, and friendlyall traits we were looking forbut my husband and I both work from home (and he’s often on conference calls), so we couldn’t have a noisy dog. Dusty also showed little interest in us. He had mesmerizing brown eyes, but those eyes were only for Rusky.

I phoned TAGS to let them know that Dusty wasn’t the one but that we wanted to arrange a home visit with Cora as soon as possible if our application was accepted. (We had already learned that the home visit was the next stage in the rescue adoption process.) Kathy at TAGS strongly suggested that we take Dusty for the home visit too. We wanted Cora, and we feared TAGS might not accept us as Cora’s adoptive parents if we didn’t give Dusty a second chance (an unfounded fear, I realize now), so we figured what the heck. We got a call the next day asking if that night (Monday) would work. We could hardly wait!

(Click here to read what happened next.)