On September 14th, 2019 I welcomed a new girl into my little family. This is Dahlia.
I have wanted a dog for years now, basically for as long as I have not had a dog in my life. Once you are used to having a dog, no house feels like a home without one. As of this fall, I finally found myself in a position where a dog was actually a viable option for me. I was getting settled (moving into a home with a yard and a permanent life partner) so the next step was to find the perfect dog.
I wasn’t looking for Dahlia when I found her. In fact we were just about to move into our new place, where the plan was to adopt a pup once we finished moving. I was just scoping out rescue centers and SPCA’s in Edmonton, seeing who had what kind of dogs. I had a hypothetical dog in mind: a young Shepard or Sheppard mix that I could work with to train as a SAR dog or something like that. I had been to a couple of rescues in the city by the time I went to check out CARES. At that point they were down on Gateway blvd in Edmonton (they have since moved to Leduc). I walked in and filled out the waivers to be able to see the dogs and chatted with the friendly lady at the counter about my lifestyle and what kind of dog I was looking for. She then handed me off to a lovely young volunteer who was incredibly knowledgeable about the dogs and was going to introduce me to a couple that seemed like they would be a good match for me.
I walked into the back area with her, and in the kennel closest to the door was a medium sized pokey looking pup. Something about her caught my eye. I honestly don’t know what it was about her: she had short pokey looking tan fur and kind of ridiculously floppy ears and she just looked sad. The volunteer asked me if I wanted to meet her, and I couldn’t say no. She brought me into the dog introduction area, a fenced in area with a chair and some toys where people could meet the dogs, and a couple minutes later brought in the pokey pup. While she had been looking sad in the kennel, her eyes lit up when she was led into the introduction area. She tackle cuddled me, pressing hard into my legs with her side while looking up at me with her big brown eyes. She was so affectionate and there was just something about her.
I met around 6 dogs that day, a couple of whom were exactly the type of dog I had always pictured me getting. But there was something about that first pokey pup. The volunteer had chatted with me while I was petting her and told me that her name was Dahlia and that she had been brought up to the rescue from a kill shelter in Texas, where she had been slated to be put down. She was about 18 months old and had already been adopted from the shelter once and had been returned a VERY short time later due to her separation anxiety. I really wasn’t planning on getting a dog that day, and now had a lot to think about, so I left the rescue and headed home.
I kept telling myself that the pokey pup with crippling separation anxiety was not the dog for me, that I should go for the younger Shepard pup that I would be able to train from scratch. But I couldn’t get Dahlia out of my head.
I called the shelter a couple of days later, curious to see if she was still there. She was in fact still there, still waiting for her person. As I hung up the phone, I knew in my heart that I was her person and that she was meant for me.
I was about to leave for work for week and really didn’t want to pick up a pup and then drive all over the province with her immediately, I owed it to her to get her settled into a home before I started dragging her on adventures, but I didn’t want to risk missing out on Dahlia. I called the rescue and with a little pleading and offering to pay her adoption fee up front, I convinced them to hang onto her for a week for me. I spent some of that week getting everything I would need for the dog: a bed and dog dishes, way too many toys, a collar with tags with her name on it. I was as ready as could be.
When the day finally came that I could pick her up, I was so anxious. Luckily my partner was home for the weekend so he could come meet her and be part of her new beginning too. We got to the shelter and let them know who we were, and who we were there to pick up. I filled out the paperwork while they went into the back to get her.
When the volunteer came out with Dahlia, there was instant recognition on the pups face. She tackle-cuddled me even harder than last time, throwing in lots of kisses for good measure. She seemed to recognize that it was a good sign that I was back. She met Zach and tackle cuddled him as well, and before we knew it, we were switching out the shelter collar for her brand new pretty pink one with her name on it and walking out the door.
Her first hour with us was spent driving home, where she then got to play outside, meet some of the family and start to settle into what it felt like to have people who loved her.
The first month with Dahlia has been a whirlwind. I had to go to work (I work out of town) for a couple of days the week after we brought Dahlia home, so a friend of mine who is a dog expert came to stay at the house with her while I was away. After only a couple of hours with Dahlia, my friend pointed out a couple of subtle signs (her pokey coat, licking of feet, gunk in her ears, etc) that Dahlia might have food allergies. I had just kind of assumed that Dahlias pokey fur was just how she was and was prepared to get used to the fact that cuddling her left red irritated skin on my arms. Upon the realization that she might have food allergies, we immediately switched her to a limited ingredient diet (blue buffalo if you’re interested) and within a week her pokey fur began to fall out, being replaced by a velvety smooth and beautifully white coat. All of the other symptomatic problems that come with food allergies in dogs have also disappeared and we have an incredibly healthy pup on our hands.
I knew from the get-go that Dahl had separation anxiety. It comes out in her in the form of barking and shredding whatever happens to be around her when she is left alone. But we knew that there were ways we could manage this and help her cope and get better. We kennel Dahlia when we absolutely have to, but are lucky that in our household of three adult humans, there is usually someone home with her. We eliminated things she could shred in her kennel and provide her with fun tough chew toys, or food stuffed kongs. We were also recommended to try CBD oil to help with the anxiety. All of these are tools in our tool box for working with her on her separation anxiety, and bit by bit it is getting better, even in just the month that we have had her. What has really helped as well, is having a room mate move in to our basement suite with a dog of her own. So now even when we are not home, the two dogs have eachother. Part of me can understand how the first family to adopt her couldn’t deal with her anxiety: the loud barking and shredding of everything around her, but in all honesty they also obviously did not want to. They kept her for such a short amount of time before returning her that they clearly put no effort into trying to work through it. Trust me, its not easy. But neither is having anxiety. That is something that I 100% understand, as I also have anxiety. So maybe I am a little more sympathetic towards a dog who goes through some of the same feelings as me.
Life with Dahlia has been a roller coaster. She is the most affectionate and loving dog. We have road tripped with her, camped with her, introduced her to the wonder that is the dog park and even introduced her to puppacinos at Starbucks. We have had to learn what its like living with a very food motivated dog (we now have to be super conscious about putting away all the food, all the time) and we have adapted our daily routines to include her needs. Despite all the change, and the money and the work put into life with a dog, there is absolutely no regrets on our part. Both Zach and I love our little family and it just wouldn’t be the same without Dahlia. I will be posting more regularly on our adventures and misadventures with Dahl on the regular post section of my blog, but I wanted to be able to write out her story as a page of its own for people to see where she came from and how she came to be a part of our lives.