As many of you know, I lost my girl Sierra at the end of July. It was already a rough year with Bodhi passing in February, but Sierra’s death about did me in. That’s not an exaggeration; the deep pit of grief I was in was actually affecting my heart. My husband was worried about me to the point that he, who would have gladly lived without dog hair and all the rest that having a dog entails, kept encouraging me to get another dog. I would normally not start looking this soon after such a devastating loss, but I couldn’t go on the way things were.
I became addicted to scrolling through Petfinder and Adopt-a-Pet. I found a few dogs that seemed promising, and although none set off that special tingling that said this is the one, I dutifully followed up. Some had already been adopted, some were just not right, and some were at rescues where a volunteer or staff member condescendingly mansplained to me about dog behavior. (At a large breed rescue: “If you want the dogs to stop jumping on you, stop baby-talking them and be more aloof!” Seriously.) I was about ready to throw in the towel when I spotted her online. I called my husband in and shouted excitedly, “Look at this dog!” Admittedly, she looked a bit like Sierra, but beyond that, I just knew. After a phone call to make sure she was still available, and learning that she was somewhat shy and skittish (certainly not a deal-breaker), we jumped in the car and drove over an hour and a half to the Long Beach SPCA. After filling out an application, we got to meet the beautiful girl. A very nice volunteer named Sage brought her into the getting-to-know-you area. The dog was a bit shy, although she did warm up to me after a while and gave my husband’s beard a good inspection. The volunteer told us the dog had been impounded in April, adopted in June, and returned on September 2nd, my birthday. No one knew why she was returned, as the previous adopters wouldn’t respond. Still, I knew this was the right dog. We named her Sage.
All of the first afternoon and evening, Sage inspected the house and yard and paced non-stop. Of course, this was absolutely normal and understandable. More surprising was that she was now afraid of my husband, skittering away any time he walked by, although she was already soliciting tummy rubs from me. But the next day was better. I was able to get a leash attached to the collar the shelter had put on her, and we took her for a walk with me passing the leash to my husband partway through. Sage was fine with that. It was clear that she absolutely loved being outdoors, to the point that she didn’t mind who was at the end of the leash.
My husband goes running most days in the canyons behind our house, and later that second day, he took Sage with him. She loved it! They’ve gone running together now a few times and it’s been wonderful. Although my husband is in good shape, Sage is so fast and intense that it's clear he has a new personal trainer. Yesterday we took her to the park for the first time and she enjoyed exploring, and discovering all the new scents. Despite the shelter telling us she was “dog selective,” I was relieved to find out that so far, she doesn’t seem reactive with other dogs. She does, however, do just what Sierra used to do at first, which is to spy a dog, lay down to wait for them to approach, and then spring at them to play. You can imagine how this unsettles some dogs and owners, and we’ll be working on it, but she did play on leash for a few minutes with a goldendoodle.
I have a hard time understanding how anyone could return this dog, but I have my suspicions. Whenever she gets frustrated, nervous, or excited, Sage tends to clack her teeth. I don’t mean teeth chattering as when a dog is cold or nervous, but a repeated air-snap. Imagine five or six quick air snaps in a row while partially showing teeth. I understand the emotion behind it, but I can see how it could appear frightening or aggressive. She’s only been here four days, but we’re already making a bit of progress on that and other things. I can now get a body harness on her without using treats, and we’ve done some short training sessions. She’s beginning to warm up to my husband, and he’s now able to pet her on the chest. I’ve also ordered an Embark kit to find out what exactly that little girl is made of; the shelter listed her as husky/German shepherd, but who knows. It’s such a fascinating and joyful experience getting to know a new dog. It’s clear that Sage and I are on a journey together, healing each other and learning more about each other every day. I love this sweet, beautiful little girl already. ___________________________________________________ You can find my books, seminar recordings, blog, and more at www.nicolewilde.com and follow me on FB @NicoleWildeauthor. My dog trainer mentoring service can be found at Dog Trainer's Friend. And if wildlife photos are your thing, check out my Instagram at nicolewildeart.