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March 2019

Lessons learned from dogs and my biggest mistake made I still feel guilty about

Have you ever done something to a dog, that years later, you still feel bad about? Maybe the biggest mistake I made when we adopted our first dog was six months after we first brought her home. I can still remember every detail and this moment happened over ten years ago. All I can say is, thank goodness dogs don’t hold grudges, and are predisposed to living in the moment. Sure, I can make excuses to let myself off the hook but I decided it was better to focus on learning from the experience and appreciate her ability to teach me such an important lesson.

The short version of this story is that I assumed (yep, big mistake right there) that because we’d only had adopted her six months ago, and because she was a dog, staying with another dog, in the home of a dog trainer, that she wouldn’t miss us. I was wrong. Very wrong. I didn’t know that she could, or would, bond that quickly with us.

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Why dogs are adoptable and why we embraced the word ‘surrender’

We fell so hard in love with our adopted dog that within months of bringing her home, it felt like she had been with us forever. I remember staring at her wishing I had known her as a puppy. I dreamed up scenarios of her life before us. We exhaled in her presence, as if we’d been holding our breaths expecting her to disappear, as if she was too good to be true. She was about five years old and perfect. It took no time before it was clear she was the missing piece to our family puzzle. She plugged herself into our life and home completely and seamlessly. I pinched myself every time she walked into a room, or I walked in the front door and saw her big fluffy face.

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Owner surrender

Adoptable dogs become adoptable for a bunch of reasons. They are often picked up as strays. Sometimes their person passes away, or their family is moving somewhere and can’t take them and the dog is taken to a shelter or rescue. Many of the Muttville Senior Dog Rescue dogs were strays or surrendered for some reason.

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Discover why senior dogs rule and caring about dogs matter: Meet Ginger Rogers

Is it true that like attracts like? I do find myself pulled towards certain older dogs when I enter the doggy loft each week at Muttville. Sure, some are just so outwardly engaging that most dog people would notice them and respond. I certainly greet all the dogs with happy good mornings, followed by questions about their night. I try not to wake any who want to sleep in, or generally disturb any of the dogs who just don’t do mornings. Not everyone is perky first thing, and that includes dogs.

Spice Girl or Spicy Dog

There is a dog that has been with Muttville longer than usual who I find relatable in a million ways. She is what is called “spicy” or rather, she can snap at you if you’re not watchful. What I love about her is that I get it. I can relate to the desire to react negatively or at least guardedly to others. She’s wary, but at the same time I can see her desire to engage. I can see her body language trying to communicate that she wants to be pet, but just in a certain way and for a certain length of time. If those planets don’t align, then forget it.

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She needs to call the shots and that’s okay

I have a strong feeling that Ginger Rogers is a wonderful little dog who just needs someone who gets her. Someone who maybe has their own particular set of rules, therefore appreciates and respects hers. She needs someone who respects her individual nature but also appreciates it and will accommodate it...maybe even enjoy it. She needs patience. I used to enjoy seeing my big dog tell other people when they were doing something wrong. She told them when they weren’t petting her properly, or when they were too loud near her.

Ginger Rogers is a sweet old lady. I know she will find her person. I’m glad she has Muttville in her corner.

From Muttville:

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Do you have a social contract with your dog?

Before we adopted our first dog, I told my husband that having a dog, especially an older dog we didn’t know meant we were taking out a social contract with the dog. For me, choosing to bring a dog into my home and family is something I take serious, because I believe loyalty goes both ways.

People talk about what loyal companions dogs are but they deserve loyalty too. So when my husband was ready to have a dog, I made sure he understood what intentions would be and what my part in the relationship would look like. I explained that any adoption meant that I was agreeing emotionally, financially and spiritually to commit to this dog forever. Til death us do part. 

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And when we finally adopted our dog from the San Francisco SPCA, that night, I literally looked her in the eye and shook her paw, saying I will do my best to set her up for success and give her the best dog life she could have in the big city. I promised her that I would try to never let her down, to not take her for granted, and to appreciate her dog qualities, for as long as she gave us. We had nine incredible years together that I believe were made indelible because of this social contract.

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