We all have a dream dog, that dog we envision in our lives. Maybe it is based on a dog we had growing up, or a dog we saw in the movies. Or a dog we once met and loved – but it is there in your mind and you hope someday you will meet and you will have that amazing bond and everything will just be perfect.
I grew up with a German Shepherd, my first dog as an adult was a German Shepherd mix, and until Shadow the Ultimate Elkhound all my dogs were part German Shepherd. While I admit to having a few dream dogs when it comes to different breeds, I have always wanted to have another German Shepherd in my life. But more importantly I dream of a dog that can work with me, and compete with me, and snuggle with me, and join us in the Adirondacks, and help evaluate other dogs, and welcome foster dogs in the home, and just be, well, perfect. So when I met a 3 year old German Shepherd named Savannah, who liked to swim, who lived with kids, who liked other dogs, and was sweet and smart and beautiful, I had hopes my perfect dog arrived.
So we brought her home. In anticipation I stocked up on treats, I got some new toys, I brought out the biggest dog bed we had, and I dreamed. I saw us winning ribbons, I saw us walking in the woods, I saw us running errands and meeting dogs and working together every day. And she arrived and she was wonderful, she was smart, she walked like a dream, she learned so fast, and she was so, so sweet. But things were not easy.
The cats rebelled, Tabby was overwhelmed, and Savannah was frustrated that Tabby would not play. Savannah had gotten used to a canine playmate, and in our house no one would join in her games, so she started looking for things to do. I was happy to offer scent games, puzzle toys, walks and rounds of fetch, but, what Savannah wanted to do most was find the demon that haunted our home. You see, there was a demon that lived under the coffee table and would come out and hiss at her, sometimes it would even swat at her, and oh, how awesome it was when it ran. We tried to convince her that it was in fact one of the cats, the cat she had even sat next to and interacted with even, but, no, she did not believe us, we were wrong, there was a demon in the home and we needed to be protected. And the demon was not just under the coffee table, sometimes it was under the chair, or the dining room table, once it was near the dryer – Savannah was bound and determined to find it. She would pace and circle and sniff and search and when she found it she would bark until it made fun noises and ran, and that was so much more fun then anything I could offer her to do.
Still we tried, we redirected, we rewarded her for calm behavior around the cats, we gave her a lot to do, we managed the cats and we managed the dogs and we had ups and we had downs. It was not hopeless, but it also was not easy, and I started to get tired. Five nights in I came home, sat down and started at this gorgeous girl who could do oh so much, and I re-examined my dream. While Savannah was a perfect dog, we were not a perfect fit, and I asked myself if it was fair to her to keep trying to make it work?
Savannah was not at risk, Savannah was not a hard dog to find a home for. She was young, pretty, sweet and healthy, and she also had been perfectly happy in her foster home with a young active male dog to play with, and most importantly, no cats! I could work to make her happy, but was it fair to her when there was a home where she just was happy without the work? I could force the fit, or I could graciously accept she was not the dog we were meant to have.
And so we parted, I said good-bye to my perfect dog, and her foster home said hello once again to theirs. Because they have realized that while they thought she wanted more, it seemed like what she really wanted was them, and so she is staying with them.
Meanwhile I have opened my home to another foster dog. And do not think I do not recognize the irony in the fact that a min pin with neurological issues, shaky house training skills and fear of the leash walked in and was a perfect fit with my crew. Sigh. I fear we are not destined for normal, and I would not have it any other way.