Monday, January 11, 2010

Brutus finds his FURever home!

So last summer we decided to start our search for our dog. We thought it would be easy, after all, there are over 300,000 homeless dogs listed on, how hard could this be. We only had two requirements. 1) they had to be a little cat savvy, after all, we didn't want our new friend to come home and look at our three cats as lunch. 2) biting was something we couldn't accept. We knew we were going to have to deal with training and some behavioral issues since we were adopting an adult dog, but we are very patient and willing to go to doggy (human) school, so most everything else could be dealt with.

The first dog we fell in love with was a beautiful collie named Buffy. She was nine years old and had been through many shelters and foster homes, and needed her "furever home". We knew we were the ones. We started in on application number one. Part way through the application, I wondered if I was adopting a dog, or a new baby from a foreign country. This was a big deal, but complete the application I did. The wonderful lady from the Midwest Collie Rescue Organization emailed me to let me know that my application was being reviewed, and I would be contacted soon. My three references that I had listed contacted me first. Wow, I didn't think they would actually call all of them!! They called my veterinarian too. Well, that's a good sign. They are very protective of their dogs, and want to make sure they go to a good home. OK. On we go. Next up was the home visit. By now we were going on week number two. A very nice woman came to our home to do the inspection, and when she arrived, she informed us that Buffy's foster parents had decided to keep her. We were happy for Buffy, but crushed. We weren't just looking for "A" dog, we wanted "that" dog. We spent the next few weeks being a little bruised, and looking through the dog listings.

In October, on the same organizations website, but posted off to the side as a "friends of M.W.C.R" was a listing for a beautiful boy named Jackson. He was part collie, and part lab, and he had a face that you just couldn't help but love! I emailed Jackson's foster mom immediately to see if we could meet him. It was a few days before I heard anything, but when she did call, we hit it off right away. In my head, I'm thinking "great, not only will we have an awesome dog, but I can be friends with his foster mom too". Life will be GOOD! I had to have some surgery the first week of November, so it was two weeks later that we finally got to go meet Jackson. He was a very shy boy, but an absolute doll. He was the dog of her best friend, who had unfortunately passed away the year before from an unexpected medical condition, and it had been traumatic not only for the foster mom, but for Jackson too. He lost his mom and gained three canine sisters and a feline sister all in one night. He had had a tough time. His foster mom spent a lot of time and effort helping him through that time, and her heart was invested. I knew in my gut that we were in trouble right away, and told her that I had that feeling, but she insisted that if Jackson could have a good life, she would let him go. November turned into December, and she couldn't make a decision. She needed to come and see my home. Understandable. In the middle of December I had her and Jackson come to my home and spend a night (she lives four hours away). We had a wonderful time, and Jackson was a love. For being a shy dog, he did a good job of opening up. He let me brush him and rub his belly, and go for a good walk. He even gave me kisses goodbye. I was hooked. When they left the next day, I could tell his foster mom was upset (in a sad way) and I felt sad because I was hooked, and I also knew it wasn't going to happen. December turned into January, and no dog.

Now we're into New Year's Eve. We show up at our friends party, and everyone is wondering about Jackson. I'm actually embarrassed to say that we don't have him yet. They are all shocked, and no matter how I try to explain it, I have a very personal understanding of Jackson and his foster mom's history and it just can't easily be explained.

The next day I decide the time has come to ask for an answer. We have been through over nine weeks of waiting, and our hearts are starting to hurt. No answer. In the meantime, as if fate is stepping in, I receive an email from the Midwest Animal Rescue Services saying that they have a big guy named Brutus who was in a shelter in Missouri where they put the dogs into a small room and gas them, and his time had come. The people working at the shelter liked him so much that they had contacted M.A.R.S. to see if they could save him. Save him they did. They went and picked Brutus up from Missouri and placed him in a foster home the second week in December. Unfortunately, his foster mom broke her ankle, and Brutus is a 60 lb. golden retriever/lab mix who is around two-three years old with no training, and she could no longer care for him, so off to another foster home he went. This time he landed with a very nice woman named Joan who ran a daycare center with 14 children. 14 children?? How gentle did this dog have to be to be allowed with that many small children?? We made the decision to go forward and meet him.

I contacted M.A.R.S. to say that we would love to meet Brutus, two days later Joan brought Brutus and two of her children to our house. What a love! He didn't jump on us or bark. He gave kisses, rolled over so we could rub his belly and was all around a sweetheart. At one point he sat and rubbed noses with his foster boy Cody. We were warned that he chews anything laying around, check, and that he counter surfs, check. Those were things we could work on with training. We would absolutely welcome him into our family. Joan and I both agreed to contact M.A.R.S. to arrange the adoption.

The next afternoon I signed the adoption papers and then picked up my daughter Ashley and headed to Joan's to pick up Brutus. It was absolutely amazing. Brutus took one look at Ashley, ran to her and sat on her feet. He was ready. Joan tried to put him outside to go potty, and Brutus would have nothing to do with it. Did he remember us? Did he know that he was going home? We said our goodbyes to Joan and started to head up the stairs to the front door, and Brutus beat us to the door. He couldn't wait. He practically dragged Ash all the way to the car, jumped right in the back seat and that was that. On the way home he kept giving us kisses, and at one point he tried to climb into Ashley's lap. One happy dog. This was making me nervous. Nothing could be this good!!

And so, life with Brutus has begun.

The first night with Brutus was a little rough. We didn't get home until 6:30, so he didn't have that long to play and get to know us before bedtime. We had bought him a nice dog bed, but he decided he was going to chew it up, so we had to take it away. He jumped up in bed with us, but kept digging and chewing at our blankets. It finally occurred to me that he probably wanted a blanket of his own to make into a bed, so I got him an old blanket. He started to shred it. OK, this could be his nerves. Then he started to bite me. Not cool. The woman at M.A.R.S. said to use a water bottle for any bad behaviors and say "NO". I felt horrible, but I did it, and he stopped. He spent the rest of the night in my arms, snoring like a bear. I was sure I was creating a monster, but when I thought of everything that this poor guy had been through, how could I possibly ban him to the floor. It just isn't in my heart to do that.

Our first full day with Brutus was a day of trial and ERRORS. Do we feed him upstairs in the kitchen, or downstairs in private. How do we know when he has to go outside? He wasn't giving us any hints, so we just kept putting him out every couple hours. We knew he hadn't really been walked good for a few weeks, so we decided two good walks a day was in order. I don't know if his bowels were this active before, but boy did they start working now. Four big poops in one day. We were all a little jealous, and a little overwhelmed at the thought of scooping up those big boys. It made the five litter boxes look like a piece of cake!

And then there were the cats. They had all been under Ashley's bed since Brutus came into the house. It was time to get them out and see what happened. First there was Princess. She's the oldest and definitely the pack leader of the cats. She snarled and hissed at him, and Brutus sat down and looked so hurt and offended that we couldn't help but laugh. He has these eyebrows that literally speak for him. OK, that didn't go so well, but at least we don't think he'll eat them. Than came Sophie. Her reaction is visceral. Back under the bed for her. My little Bernice is a lost cause. She is very skiddish about everything anyway, so she is going to take some time.

By the end of the day, Brutus's very unexperienced parents had given him lots of "good boys" followed by little treats, two big walks, gone to the store twice for different kinds of chew toys that he "maybe" wouldn't destroy, and were definitely ready to drop into bed. I was all geared up for another night of having a sixty pound dog sleeping on me, but he wouldn't even get up on the bed. Did he remember the water in the face?? He went to his dog bed, laid down and started snoring. That was that until the next morning. Oh my gosh, could this be true? On to day two.

Day number two with Brutus was just Don and I because Ashley had to work her last full day before going back to Kansas to school. If we were a little scared to go from three people to two, just imagine how I am feeling today as I am writing this. Don decided that the cats needed some place other than under the beds to live, so he ran to Target to get a couple baby gates. We have litter boxes in the furnace room and laundry room, and food in the laundry room, so we put baby gates on both doors, and left just enough room under the gates for the cats to go flying under if need be. For some reason, Brutus won't cross that boundary. He could push them over with his nose, but he won't go up to them. At some point he must have had boundaries. He hasn't had any training as far as manners go, but it's obvious that he was shown love at some point. It makes it all the harder to understand how someone could get rid of this guy. Especially just dump him at the pound. I guess I will never fully understand that concept. I guess it's better than throwing them out in a ditch. By evening, Sophie is the only one who has figured out that Brutus can see her, but not get to her through the gate. She is a bit of a toddler herself, and is liking this concept.

The day goes along pretty unevenful until Ashley gets home from work. You would have thought that the meat market guy had just decided to make a visit. Brutus is in love with Ashley. He has never jumped on any of us, and I wouldn't really call what he did "jumping". I would call it more of a "hug". He put his paws around her very gently and nuzzled her. He was so excited. He followed her everywhere from the minute she got in the door until he was so tired that he was begging us to go to bed. If we didn't think he was smart, we were wrong. He has a knuckle bone that has peanut butter deep in the middle. Some of the pieces that he was breaking off were very sharp, and we were getting a lttle worried about his gums getting hurt, or even breaking a tooth the way he was chewing on that thing. A couple shards had broken off, and Don reached over and picked them up. Brutus gave him a bit of an annoyed look, picked up his bone, walked around the center island in the kitchen to avoid going any closer to Don and moved away and started chewing again. Don thought it was just a fluke, so when another piece snapped off, he reached over and picked it up. This time Brutus picked up his bone and walked about five feet further away. We couldn't believe it. He wasn't mean, but certainly made his point. About 9:00 he kept walking up to Don and kind of looking into his face, and then walking down the hall to our bedroom. We couldn't figure out what he wanted, but we finally realized he wanted to go to bed, and didn't want to be alone. He finally gave up and crawled into his bed. He hadn't really napped at all during the day, so I'm sure he was pooped.

And that brings us to today. I am alone with a sixty pound baby. I am actually nervous. He is a love, but this guy needs to be watched all of the time. We don't start doggy classes until tomorrow, so I feel like I need to not only watch him, but entertain him to keep him out of trouble. Don gets up at 6:00, so thankfully he lets him outside in the morning and feeds him, and bless his heart, he went back to bed until I woke up at 8:00. Woot woot!! I started typing this blog, and everything was going fine, bone chewing was going good, until I noticed pillows coming upstairs. Boredom had set in. It was time to go for a walk. Now what you have to keep in mind is that I haven't walked in about two months, and prior to this not walking phase, I had been walking on a treadmill, so when Brutus and I headed out for our jaunt this morning, the last thing I expected was to run into a bunch of dead ends that had snow banks that were too big to get over. My intended one mile walk turned into a good two and a half mile walk, the majority of which was up hill. I am aching already. I think I will name him Brutus the body builder. Oy Vey!! This might be a good way to take off the Christmas seven that I gained. I'll keep you posted.

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