If you haven't yet read Part One, you can find it by scrolling down past this post or clicking on the title or April 30 in the left sidebar.
Then this happened:
Twice in the past three years, I've tried adopting a second dog so that Sgt. Thomas Tibbs could observe and learn from an older, calmer, more experienced dog. Both bitches I tried this with bided their time until the perfect moment to strike and then went after Purrl. (No, they weren't "just playing chase," and yes, I grabbed them in time to save Purrl from any harm other than the trauma. And no worries; both dogs are living the good life in forever homes. Just not mine.)
But lately I've felt brave enough to try again, so not long after the Irish Wolfhound experience (see below), I visited another local shelter to look at the dogs available there. I looped around all the kennels three times and was eventually drawn to a medium sized (maybe 30 pounds) female they were calling a "terrier" mix. (She was really a hound-pit bull mix, but she was the perfect size and who cares?) She (Dog A) was in a cage with another dog (Dog C). Both were black and white and similarly marked, as if they'd come from the same litter, except that one (Dog C) was considerably taller. Dog A was more calm, and had made curious but respectful eye contact with me. When I inquired about her, the employee at the reception desk called a kennel assistant who came to help me. As we walked back to fetch the dog to take her outside to a play yard, the assistant—we'll call her Bea—asked me which kennel. When I told her, she said, "Oh, she's the feisty one! When you get her out in the yard, she's very protective of the other dog. Yeah, she can be really feisty." Hmm. That was not the behavior I'd seen.
Then I understood why she'd said that. When she approached the kennel, she immediately bent over double and began talking in a high-pitched voice to both dogs, pulling down a leash from the door and waving it around. The excitement level of Dog C went from zero to ten in about half a second. She began yelping and jumping up on the assistant (which wasn't discouraged) as the woman tried to manage getting a leash on Dog A (who remained calmly and quietly at the back of the kennel) while Dog C barked and dodged and spun beside her. It took several long minutes to extract Dog A, and by then she was panting heavily, unsure and anxious.
As we left the building and made the trek to the play yard, long-legged Bea strode along quickly, pulling Dog A with her, oblivious to the fact that the dog, obviously house-broken, kept trying to pause at every tiny patch of grass because she desperately needed to poop. Alas, the poor dog was literally dragged in a half-squat through the gates of the play yard where she was immediately able to finish her business.
On our walk to the yard, Bea had kept up a steady stream of information about the dog—she was fearful, she said, wary of people, and she repeated that she was "feisty" around the other dog. But when Dog A finally relieved herself, she approached me right away, wagging her tail and lowering her head. I patted her and told her to sit. She did.
"Huh," said Bea. "Well, I tried to play with her yesterday out here, but she had no idea what to do with the ball."
I picked up a tennis ball, showed it to the dog, and rolled it. She bounded after it, picking it up and returning with it in her mouth. It only took five or six repetitions to teach her the command "Drop." She was extremely smart and very athletic, leaping into the air to catch the ball on a high bounce.
During this time, Bea kept up a steady stream of chatter. Each time I tried to explain my particular concerns about introducing this dog to Thomas, she cut me off in mid-sentence—not to respond to me but to talk to Dog A. It went something like this:
"Since Thomas has severe anxiety issues—"
"Oh! Who's a good girl! You like that ball, don't you?!?"
"Sometimes he'll shut down completely if—"
"Oh, look at you! Look at you! Good girl!"
"So it's important that—"
"Go get it! Go get it! Drop it! Drop it! Good girl!"
I finally gave up, told Bea I'd have to think about it, and left, again anxious to get home and just cuddle up with Thomas and the cats.
While the experience was somewhat frustrating, I felt consoled to know that at the very least, Bea gained more accurate information about what Dog A had to offer, and I have no doubt that young, sweet, tail-wagging dog went to a home with kids who would throw that ball over and over for her.
Part Three in this series will post on Wednesday (if I can find time to finish it in between dog walks and naps).