I’d be remiss if I didn’t include a Philly story this week as this little pup joined our family just a few days before Thanksgiving in 2011.
4 years ago, Alex proposed in July and moved to Colorado in September. In October, I had the first of two knee surgeries – the second slated for December – and when I was back on my feet between surgeries, we did the most logical thing and started to think about growing our family…with a fur-child.
When a young bulldog named Petrie was added to the Denver Dumb Friend’s League website, we knew we’d found our dog. I mean, what are the odds?! I called to set up an appointment for us to meet Petrie that night but, when we showed up, we learned that Petrie would not be our dog – he was bigger than our apartment at the time would allow.
Instead, we looked at a few other dogs, the last of which was Philly. She was the right size, not a puppy, already house + crate trained and very, very timid but the staff assured us that she would warm up to us after a few weeks in her new home. We signed the paperwork and brought our pup home the weekend before Thanksgiving.
Unfortunately, it didn’t take a few weeks for her to warm up; it took nearly 3 years. The early days were frustrating because we wanted so much to connect with this dog, for her to love us as much as we wanted to love her. But whatever happened in her prior life had traumatized her so much that she rarely left her crate, refused to make eye contact with us and lived in an extremely nervous state of mind.
But through the years, we’ve learned what is especially scary to her (large items on the floor, wind blowing through the house, being clipped to her leash without a human on the other end) and have done our best to eliminate these aspects of life for her. We’ve also learned what she does love (being outside, running, car rides and chewing a rawhide) and have done our best to incorporate these as often as possible.
As she’s grown and slowly come out of her nervous shell, we’ve celebrated her progress and cheered her on. After 2.5 years of never making a peep – no barking, no whining – she recently began barking excitedly when we return home. It felt like such a ‘real dog’ milestone – she *does* care and *is* excited her humans are back!
We’ve taken her camping and hiking (her favorite), trail running, canoeing (not her favorite), on long road trips and into hotels. It may have taken her 3+ years to warm up to us but the journey has been so worth it when we compare who she was on the first days and weeks we adopted her to the pup she has grown into now. She is the sweetest, most loyal and obedient dog I’ve ever met and I’m thankful we brought her home and gave her the chance at a new life.
I share this story to not only introduce Philly to this blog but also to offer perspective on adopting a pet. It’s hard work, for sure, no matter what your pet’s prior life story is. Many times in the early days and first year we questioned if she’d ever be the dog we’d dreamed about. There’s only so much treat bribing one can do to encourage bonding with a dog and we’ve realized that, while the treats helped, this dog really just needed time. Time to learn that humans aren’t scary and that it’s okay to let her guard down. (But she still gets lots of treats.)
If you, too, are struggling to connect with an adopted pup, don’t give up hope! Keep showing her love and kindness, keep sneaking her treats and letting her jump up on the bed with you – even if she stays for just a second before hopping back off. It’s working and she’s learning. She’ll get there – she might just a bit more time.