“Happiness is a warm puppy.” – Charles Schultz
This is Si – a 48 pound, 11 month old Lab mix, and the newest member of our family. A lot went into our decision to add a third dog to the household. This past Summer, due to some health issues, we found ourselves unable to keep up with all that the care of having three horses involved and, with the heaviest of hearts, we made the call to give them up. We told ourselves, and we still believe, that we made the right call – for them and for us. That doesn’t mean we don’t miss them each and every day, because we do, but they deserved so much more than we were able to give them. Thanks to the good folks at the Aiken Equine Rescue, we know that they are happy and healthy, and in the loving hearts and hands of their new owners.
As time went on, we found that the house was just a little too peaceful, and I began a campaign to convince my husband that we needed to find a new fur friend. While we may not have the strength and stamina we needed to care for the horses, our hearts are still working pretty well, and have plenty of room to love another pet. I began looking at every rescue group and shelter within a 50 mile radius in the hopes of finding the right dog. Breed wasn’t as important as temperament, age and size. Both my husband and I prefer medium to large dogs – anything under 50 pounds is considered small to us, and we wanted a youngster. In October, I came across a picture of Si, posted on the Aiken County Animal Shelter’s website and, even though I kept looking elsewhere, I found myself going back to look at his photo and bio. Finally, last Tuesday, I sent an email to the shelter, asking them if Si was still available, and they replied the next morning, telling me he was and that he was on his way to the local NBC-TV affiliate to appear on the noon time news in their Adopt-a-Pet Wednesday segment. I panicked, figuring that as soon as the television viewing public saw him he’d be gone. I called the shelter and made arrangements to see him as soon as he returned. Just to be sure that no one else would snatch him up before we arrived, I asked them to take my credit card number so that they would hold him for us. I then set our DVR to record Si’s TV appearance, hollered to my husband to get in the car and off we went to the shelter.
When we arrived, Si had just gotten back and one of the volunteers brought him out to us. We took him outside on a leash and put him through his paces. Needless to say, he passed with flying colors. Right then and there, I gave the shelter the go ahead to use the charge card, and I filled out the necessary paperwork. We were told that we could pick him up on Friday – he was going to undergo a little nip-tuck for family planning purposes and have a microchip put in on Thursday.
I don’t remember much of Thursday – we were busy getting the house ready for a puppy and trying to explain to Danny and Nicky that they were getting a little brother. I don’t think they were very impressed by the news. Friday morning came along and, since I hadn’t really slept because of my excitement, we left the house early and went to pick up the new kid. The only time he showed any hesitance was when he confronted by the hatch on the back of our SUV. I doubt that he’d been in many cars before and we ended up lifting him inside. On the way home, after a few glances out the window, Si slept the rest of the way home.
Our next hurdle was the meet and greet between Danny, our 11-year-old Dingo, and Si. If things went well between them, then everything else would be a walk in the park. Nicky, our 7-year-old, wasn’t going to be a problem. He lives in his own world – orbiting planet Nick – and usually does whatever Danny tells him to do. I took Si on his leash into our backyard and closed the gate while my husband brought Danny out on his. Danny sniffed Si from head to toe while Si stood as still as a puppy can under the circumstances and allowed the inspection. So far, so good. As neither of them showed even a snarl or gave out a growl, we let them both off their leashes and allowed them be dogs. There was chasing and jumping and a bit of barking, but neither of them looked to be in any distress, which meant it was time to introduce Nicky to the mix. He came out, and, after a few seconds, finally saw Si, which led to some mutual sniffing, with Nicky eventually retreating to his favorite perch on the deck, satisfied that the new guy was not some fire-breathing dragon, hell-bent on devouring him.
It’s been a little over a week now and things are going better than we could have hoped. I don’t know how it came to be, but Si came already housebroken – one less problem for us to conquer. I’ve started obedience training and Si has learned “sit” and “down” with relative ease. “Come” is a 50-50 proposition so far but I know that Rome wasn’t built in a day when it comes to dog training. He’ll maintain a “sit-stay” until I’m about 6 feet away and then he, of course, wants to follow me. There’s only so long you’re going to keep an energetic, tail-wagging puppy in one position.
It’s been as peaceful as could be expected, given a new addition to an already established pack. Danny has found it necessary to issue a couple of corrections with a bark or a nose grab, but no one’s drawn blood. When I mentioned that there were reasons other than the loss of our horses, for getting another dog, Danny and his presence is one of them. He helped us so much when we were training Nicky that I knew I’d need him again with Si. I’m not sure that he knows he’s helping, but when I’m working on commands with Si, Danny does each and every one of them right on cue – probably because he’s so accustomed to them by now. What I am sure of is that having Danny demonstrate “sit” and “down” and “stay” seem to work as a sort of visual aid for the kid.
Another thing I’m sure of is that we won’t have Danny forever. As I said, he’s over 11 years old now and that’s pretty advanced in doggie years. If Si is going to become any kind of good dog due to what we give him, he’ll be even better having had the benefit of watching and following Danny’s lead. Although he’s younger, we know all too well that Nicky, with his boatload of issues, will never be up to the task of showing another puppy how to become a well-adjusted adult dog.
I know that many of you are dog lovers and so I’ve decided to give Si his own regular spot here at The Farm. As he and the rest of us make progress, I’ll share it with you. As for right now, I’m going to kiss three fur babies and thank them for what they’ve contributed to making us better people.