The Greenville Humane Society has asked me to submit a success story to use to promote adopting a dog. They've love the basics of it so much they are also sending a professional photographer over... See what you think of what I wrote and I'll let you know how the session goes. If nothing else, I'll learn a great deal about photographing Shadow!
“What do you want to foster?” Sue, the Foster Program Manager, asked as she flipped through my application form. It was Saturday afternoon. She was likely on her way home and probably put in more hours than she was being paid for, but she took the moment to come see me in the lobby at the Greenville Humane Society.
“A dog,” I answered, “I don’t have the time to give to a puppy.”
“What about a large, rambunctious dog? I’m talking about a 67 pound lab.”
“We had an 80 pound Shepherd once. I think that will be okay.”
“Where will he stay when you are not at home?”
“We have a back porch that should be safe and if he’s found trustworthy, he could have reign of the house.”
Sue laughed out loud. She paused and looked hard at me. “Let’s go meet him and see what you think. There’s no pressure here.”
I giggled to myself. I had not thought I could receive a dog the first day. This was moving rather fast. We had lost our shepherd 3 months earlier and were planning an extended trip later in the year. Adoption at this time was not in our plans, but we really missed having a dog in the house. Fostering seemed like a good compromise.
Sue opened the door to the isolation room for those with kennel cough. This beautiful black Labrador Retriever leapt as high as the kennel would let him. My heart leapt in return. I asked a few questions and then finally said, “I think we can do this.” Sue looked at me again. “Okay, but in a couple of days if you want to bring him back, that’s okay. Don’t suffer this week.” Armed with a crate, harness, collars, food, medicine and chew bone, we headed out to my car and started home. I called my husband, “Honey, I’m bringing home a 67 pound lab!”
Quickly, we began to learn a great deal about him. He was house trained. He knew a number of commands like "sit", "lie down", "no", and "come". He knew what to do on a leash after he was reminded he was expected to behave on one. He took his medicine gently from hand even though it was wrapped in deli meat. He was playful, energetic AND knew how to play gently. He could not be trusted in the kitchen if no one is in there. We lost two hamburgers Saturday night. He was a well pampered dog! The worst thing that had ever happened to him was the crate. He expects to sleep on the bed with us and to sit on the couch with us. He thinks it's completely natural for him to be everywhere doing everything you are doing. He will leave me in the backyard for A/C. He expected human food. He recognized a box of milkbones.
It was a fun first day learning all we could about each other, but then that evening we put in a movie and he laid down. There was no demanding that we pay attention to him. I watched him sleep, tallying the things I had learned about him, and could not fathom how someone could invest so much time and energy in training and let this lab go. I also mused that Sue would not recognize him.
Sunday the fun started all over again. He followed me everywhere. I told my husband, “If he was mine, his name would be Shadow.” All that was left on my list for that day was to practice playing my harp. I wondered how this was going to work. He had walked by the instrument a number of times, acknowledging it, but never touching it. My husband sat on the back porch and called the dog to him. They stayed out there while I played a number of pieces I had used in harp therapy. They both fell asleep. Even when I had finished it was a full 20 minutes until the lab woke up. There’s not a higher complement as far as I’m concerned.
Monday I went to work with pictures and a top 10 list of things to love about this dog. My goal was to find new parents that would head over with me on Friday to adopt him as I turned him back in. I emailed everyone I knew with lake houses touting him as an “instant dog - just add water”.
I ran home at lunch to check on him. I peeked through the window and found the back porch completely in tact with the dog sleeping on his back in the open crate. I knew right then this dog would eventually be trustworthy with free reign in the house. That fact is a deal maker or breaker with me.
Monday night, my husband and I talked and talked. With what we knew about him, and his friendly spirit, this dog would not remain on the adoption floor long. There was really little that he would need to be trained on. Then, we admitted how well he fit with us and our life and decided to accept the gift we had been given in him. I started at that moment calling him Shadow.
We became the new parents that would head over as I turned him in that Friday. The learning did not stop there. What has thrilled us immensely is that he loves children and must have been raised around them. Our neighbor has a 2 year old son. Shadow ignores all the neighbor's dogs, but will stop everything to see the boy. They run up and down the fence together. The boy one day reached his hand through the fence and had his hand all over Shadow's mouth before anyone could do anything. Shadow just stayed still. Then there was the 2 year old girl we met on one of our nightly walks. Talking with the grandparents, the girl and Shadow got bored. He laid down in the road and she proceeded to place Mardi Gras beads around his neck. We don’t have children and don’t feel we could have gained this by raising a puppy on our own.
I learn something new everyday about and from Shadow. I can only look back on that fateful Saturday with a grateful heart. What joy a dog can bring to the house!