Get a Puppy They Said...
Updated: Apr 28, 2020
Truth be told absolutely no one told me to get a puppy. In fact most would have advised me not to get a puppy. Those who know me best know that I don't stop; I am always doing something whether that is picking up a new hobby, side job, training or working around my house. However, those who know me also have said, if anyone can do it, it's me. My confidence in that statement wavered over the days, weeks and months following bringing home my devilish delight, Rey.
Why not another rescue?
I strongly believe in adopt don't shop, there are so many wonderful animals out there in need of a home and they deserve homes. However, I also believe not everyone is suitable for a rescue. They require a lot of training and have underlying issues you likely don't know about when bringing them home (the case with Reese) and that is why a lot of first time adoptions don't work out.
Having Reese makes our situation a bit trickier since he was not well socialized before and does not do well around other dogs. It would be so hard bringing a rescue into our home and would cause both dogs quite a bit of anxiety. I was not trained or equipped to handle a dog fight, which I feel would have been inevitable. This was the safest option for both the puppy and Reese.
Am I ready for a puppy?
Throughout my months of training Reese with Guy at Unleashed Potential K9 Halifax, I had asked him "Will I ever be able to get a puppy?" and to my surprise Guy responded quickly "Yes." This of course was followed up with "In time, with caution and with Reese further progressed so that the puppy doesn't pick up his bad habits". I didn't have a timeline but a year later it was happening.
I have spent countless hours researching dog psychology and training both with regards to rescues and puppies, I have sought expert advise from both trainers and our beloved vet, and I have also reached out to people in similar situations through Facebook on a private page called 'Emotional Support and Advise for Reactive Dog Owners'. A page commonly mistaken for EMS Dogs (reading is hard).
I knew the steps and precautions that were necessary for bringing a puppy home, introducing to Reese, and training for the years to follow. Working from home, I knew I could dedicate the time to proper training. My main goal was this: to have a happy, well-socialized puppy that did not develop fear based aggression, that was a great companion and perhaps by chance would teach Reese how to be a happy and care-free dog.
Once I have a thought/idea I go for it, full speed, no brakes, towards the end goal. In September of 2019 that thought was 'I'm ready for a puppy'. I had puppy fever BIG time and I knew now Reese and I were ready. Reese was doing so well! He had come so far in the last year with UPK9 and I was astonished at his growth. At the time I had two female roommates and I had previously asked them if they would ever be okay with me bringing home a second dog, just as a general thought, which they were.
I found Rey on Kijiji, she was from an accidental litter of puppies from a wonderful lady's female pure bred American Staffordshire Terrier and ten month old frisky male American Bulldog. Rey was a special girl, named Emily after her mom Emma, as she was her exact look-alike. I met Rey at 7 weeks old and absolutely fell in love. She was described as the 'quiet one' who would always sit back and watch her siblings fight and rarely got involved. She was so wrinkly and snuggly I just needed her.
Oops. My planning absolutely failed when I realized two things. 1. I was leaving in one week for a 3 day work trip, 2. This was followed up almost immediately by a one-week stay with my sister in Quebec with her newborn son! (A wonderful trip that I didn't regret for a second) I had to wait until Rey was exactly 10 weeks before being able to get her and the thought was absolutely painful! I managed one more visit when Rey was 8 weeks old and the changes in that one week were startling!
Luckily while I was away I was kept up to date with photos of sweet Rey who was thoroughly enjoying her time with her Mama, who I'm sure also enjoyed the extra time.
It completely broke my heart to hear that when I took Rey, mama Emma searched the entire house for her baby girl.
Bringing Her Home
When I picked up Rey on Oct 5th, 2019 she appeared to be 3 times larger, which likely wasn't the case but it was still shocking and sad. Her face was still so wrinkly and sweet I knew this was the best decision of 2019. I wrapped her up in the front seat of my car as the autumn air had her shivering and we started our 40 minute drive home.
Leaving the driveway she began whining and my heart was breaking. I gave her soft pets ensuring her everything is okay. The poor thing being taken away from her Mom after two weeks of being an only child, how scary is that?! She found comfort on my lap and we drove those thirty minutes with her bum in my right hand and her head resting on my chest. I'm crying as I write this because
I'm an over-emotional bimbo.
Introduction to Reese
When I pulled into the driveway I called my roommate and asked her to step outside. This is when I introduced her to our newest baby Rey (I think Hannah cried). I went inside quickly to prepare Reese. Inside I have a dog bed with a dual leash attached on one end to a stud in the wall, the other end I clipped to Reese's collar. I grabbed his muzzle and got him some treats. It was absolutely essential that this first meeting be a good one; you cannot redo a first impression.
Calm energy was the vibe that needed to fill my living room as I walked in with Rey. Reese's first reaction was to try to leave his bed. He tried to lunge forward to examine the small black item in my arms and when he was unsuccessful he began barking. I sternly told him 'no' and I placed Rey on the floor out of reach from him. He stretched as far as he could on the leash to try to get towards Rey and frustration grew and he continued barking and lunging.
Even with the muzzle I didn't trust Reese approaching Rey without even just accidentally hurting her. But this also wasn't working. I brought Rey downstairs and put her in one of two kennels that were side by side in the basement (also my bedroom). I then got Reese from upstairs and put him in his kennel. He sniffed and jumped at the kennel as I took Rey out and set her on the ground allowing her to explore. Reese whined but slowly began to calm down. I had to take many deep breaths to not get frustrated or upset because Reese is far too aware of my own emotions.
New Best Friends
I picked Rey up and let Reese free, who at first tried to jump on me and I corrected him. When he sat patiently at my feet I lowered to let him sniff Rey. His sniffs were a bit aggressive so I stood up. I repeated this process, limiting his access to Rey and allowing him short 'visits'. He was noticeably calmer and surprisingly accepting of this new blob. We all then sat on the floor together as the two new companions sniffed each other.
I took this outside with both on a leash and things were certainly not perfect. Rey jumped on Reese (who at this time was still in a muzzle) and I'm not sure if it was his attempt at play... but he growled and wrestled her to the ground but I was quickly able to separate them - Rey left unharmed and only wanting more.
With an hour of limited access to each other Reese became uninterested in Rey and I let her free and I took his muzzle off. She made a poor attempt at jumping on the couch to get to Reese so I gave her a boost. When Rey tried to cuddle Reese did not like the idea so he stood up. At this point he was standing overtop of Rey who fit perfectly underneath him and it was too darn cute not to photograph. This was the moment I knew things were going to be ok.
I was not going to let my guard down in the days or weeks that followed. Training for both dogs started (or increased) now. We've encountered many struggles along the way but also so many victories. You will be hearing about these too :)
May 2020 and these two are the best of friends. Friends still fight you know ;)