Dog’s Eye View: ‘Getting To Know You’
February 9, 2017
If you don't know this sweet song or the musical from which it came, "The King and I," by Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein, do yourself a favor and check it out. The lyrics are, in my mind, a perfect description of how a new friendship might be formed. My husband and I adopted a lovely little 2-year-old terrier mix about three weeks ago, and I've found myself humming and singing this song nearly every day since.
Though we didn't think we were ready for another dog after losing our bull terrier, Stuart, in December, friends and fate played a part in bringing this little guy to us. He weighs 22 pounds, has short legs, wears the most beautiful brindle wire coat and sports a white jabot at his neck. He's spunky and stands on his hind legs to greet us in the most endearing way. He's just plain cheerful.
For a fresh start, we renamed him Lawrence. It sounds like his "birth" name, and we kept that name as his middle name. Yes, we do that too.
It's been a while since we've had a new dog in our house, so I got out a favorite book, "Love Has No Age Limit, Welcoming an Adopted Dog into Your Home," by Patricia B. McConnell, Ph.D. and Karen B. London, Ph.D. It is true that many dogs inhibit their behavior when we first bring them into our home, and it's tempting to think we have adopted the perfect dog.
McConnell comments that there is a fairly predictable time line for behavior to unfold and for a dog to acclimate to his new surroundings. She describes this as, "three days, three weeks and three months." Keeping a journal of Lawrence's daily life with us has helped me note what behaviors fell into the first two categories.
We have three wonderful kitties that share our home, and it's important that Lawrence fit into our feline family. He was immediately met by our 14-year-old cat, Albert, who calmly walked right up to Lawrence and looked him squarely in the eyes. No problem. The younger, previously feral, cats tended to spook and run. This would provoke a lively chase scenario.
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On day three, my husband reported that the two young cats raced down the stairs to the basement, jumped over him as he was kneeling down to clean the cat litter boxes and hid behind a door. Lawrence was in hot pursuit, followed by Albert, in hot pursuit of him. My husband heard a loud "yelp." Lawrence retreated back up the stairs, followed by Albert. There have been fewer cat chases since.
During week three, our confident, cheerful newcomer awoke from a sound sleep on the couch by my side where I sat eating from a TV tray. I had dropped a fork onto a plate, and the sound startled him. He dove from the couch in a blind panic. It was as though he was sleeping soundly, perhaps dreaming, and awoke in an unfamiliar place. Fortunately, I was able to comfort him and help him relax again by my side. He had one more episode like this several hours later and has not had one since.
I've been thinking a lot about both sides of an adoption. We understand the meaning of our love and good intentions, but our little wards can only understand this and trust us as our lives unfold together each day. These things take time.
"Haven't you noticed, suddenly I'm bright and breezy? Because of all the beautiful and new things I'm learning about you, day by day.”
— Rodgers and Hammerstein)
Sandra Kruczek is a certified professional dog trainer at Total Teamwork Training, LLC with more than 30 years of experience.