Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Introducing: Gomez!

"Hey, I'm Gomez. I'm a little rough around the edges, but I'm a nice guy."
The wait is finally over: Gomez is home!

Why did we choose Gomez? That's a tough one, but boils down to the fact Jamie turns out to have a soft spot for gruff n' tender boys with scars on their faces. Essentially Jamie likes dogs that, if they were people, would be banged up, banjo-touting former punk rockers who now sing about how much they've learned from all the shit they've been through. Guys who say things to their fans in between songs like, "Take care of each other. That's your fucking purpose, man. That's motherfuckin' punk rock!" I'm in no way implying that I wasn't beguiled by his block headed charms, but it was Jamie who honed in on his Petfinder listing immediately.

Talking to his foster mom Stacey for the first time, I was keenly aware that this was a pit bull competent person who was very much going to make sure that Gomez didn't just go to "any home," but the right home. She herself had pulled him from the Taylor shelter a year ago. He was severely underweight and had advance stage heart worm disease. She's invested an awful lot into rehabilitating this guy, and it's clear she and her kids really love him. And her kids are two of the kindest, most dog savvy youngsters I've ever met. Both of them are full-blown, knowledgeable pit bull advocates. If only more kids grew up with such a sense of purpose and compassion!
And then there were two.

When we decided we'd take the plunge into dual dog ownership, our biggest consideration was, of course, Asha. It was imperative that any new dog would have to pass her scrutiny. She's come a long way, but she's still very selective with other dogs. On top of that, it's highly unlikely she had any real early socialization, so her canine social skills are subsequently a bit clunky. From our socialization efforts, we've gleamed valuable information about what Asha would put in her profile should she ever find herself on Canine Cupid. It would go something like this:
"Hi i'm Asha and I like to have friends but not friends that are too excited all the time! That scares me and i want to be the one that is excited so you have to be calm and let me make my moves! can you handle my moves and not get freaked out by my enthusiasm? ok we are friends let's play super hard right away forever!"

Not surprisingly, Asha's insistence on skipping the canine small talk and going right to play time can be too overwhelming for some dogs.* This is particularly true for the types of dogs she usually finds herself making social advances toward - calm, sweet dogs. So we needed somebody relatively calm and sweet, but also resilient enough to forgive Asha her transgressions and put up with her missteps without developing a complex.

When Gomez and Asha met for the first time, it was outside a PetSmart at an adoption event. It was quickly clear that she approved of him, because she immediately started doing enthusiastic play bows and spinning in the occasional circle. These "circle spins" are her go-to "show off" move. After taking our time with the initial intro (no nose-to-nose until they were both over that initial "AHHH! WHO IS THAT DOG??! LET'S MEET!!" excitement), we let them sniff each other and watched how they reacted closer together. Asha was still being a little pushy, but Gomez didn't seem to mind at all. Eventually we went into the store, and the two of them just calmly interacted and stood/laid near each other without incident. It just felt right. 

The deal was totally sealed the next weekend when Gomez came to our house the first time. While Asha was being sweet but a little spastic, Gomez responded by licking the side of her face and her ear. These signs of acceptance, affection and appeasement seemed to say, "There, there, little mama. Let's me and you take care of each other. That's our fucking purpose, man."

And that is pretty motherfuckin' punk rock.

*To clarify Asha's boorish behavior: We are by no means letting her run roughshod over other pups like a bully. We are not the people who stand with their arms crossed at the dog park grinning as their dog runs full speed at the other dogs, knocking into them with all his might, gleeful at the havoc he's creating. In fact, we'd never dream of taking Asha to a dog park at this point. We've worked really hard to up her social skills and decided that adopting a second dog, particularly a very dog-friendly, tolerant one, would be a huge benefit to Asha's continued social growth. Her play and interactions with Gomez will be treated as learning opportunities and will have appropriate boundaries and supervision. Ok? Ok!

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

One Year Later: Asha's wonderful (but not mysterious) transformation from sweet-but-timid to sweet-and-confident pup

“Not that I didn’t love Asha pretty much as soon as we got her, but she’s even more lovable now for some reason.”

My girlfriend said this as we were discussing the past year with Asha. Yup. It’s been a year since we let this little pit bull mix into our lives. That sweet-but-timid (roughly) two year old pup is now a sweet-and-confident (roughly) three year old pup. But this transition from timid to confident didn’t just happen with the passing of time. We worked diligently to teach Asha what was expected of her and what she could expect from us, and as she became more comfortable with both of those things, she started to fulfill her pup potential at an alarming rate.

Teaching Asha what was expected of her essentially meant working with her on the basics and using those basics in her day-to-day life. Though some things were trickier than others, she was overall a breeze to train: Very food motivated and very eager to please. It was obvious from the start that Asha truly wanted to be a sweet, cuddly, obedient pup. “Bad behavior” was never a real issue with her. No accidents to speak of, very little in the way of inappropriate chewing, she didn’t pull much on the leash, didn't jump on visitors, has never tried to dart out the door… You know, all those things that most dog owners gripe about.

It was the other side of things – teaching her what she could expect from us that really made the difference. Can she depend on us? Yes. Do we provide structure for her? Yes. Can she/does she look to us for guidance if she’s unsure of something? Yes. Asha’s biggest challenge seemed to be of the “waiting for the other shoe to drop” variety. Like, “You guys seem really nice and give me food, but one of you might eventually hit me or toss me back on the streets, so I’m not gonna get 100% comfortable.” Though we will never know exactly what her life was like before we adopted her, it’s pretty safe to say that there was no structure, no dependability. And adding structure and dependability into her life were key to teaching her to trust us and building a bond with her. It's why she really is "even more lovable now for some reason." It's confidence, and it looks good on everybody - even dogs!

Happy Gotcha Day/Well, We'll Just Call This Your Birthday Too, lil' pup. You're awesome. 

Oh. What did we get Asha for her birthday, you ask? 
Why, a brother! Stay tuned: Things are about to get interesting!