Tuesday, April 12, 2011

First Day Home

adoption day--looking pretty skinny and scruffy

When I took my newly adopted dog home and introduced her to my wife, she (wife) was surprised (I hadn't told her) and delighted. Now we had to think of a name. Always a tough choice (well, sometimes a tough choice). She (dog) was clearly a Siberian mix, so that suggested a Russian name. We didn't agonize over it-- the name "Shauna,"  presented itself in my wife's mind, and though it doesn't sound Russian, she's good with names and it seemed to fit. And that was that. She was now Shauna, though she didn't know that yet.

Shauna showed her appreciation on that first day, by prying a board in the back fence loose and trotting happily away, down the drive. But we spotted her from the living room window, and recovered her before she reached the street. It was the first and last time she ever tried to take off on her own. Since then, in our present home, she has escaped from the back yard (she has a dog door leading from the kitchen to the back yard) a couple of times when we carelessly  left the rear gate unlatched; but she only went around to the front porch and waited for us to return, sometimes hours later. We're being more careful now, though. Funny, for a dog that was originally picked up by Animal Control as a stray. I think it's because she gets out for a long walk or, more often, a long run, every evening after it cools off. Maybe she doesn't feel like she has to wander off in order to check out the neighborhood and beyond.

In my humble opinion, all dogs need to get out for a walk or run every day. By nature, they are travelers, a characteristic inherited from their ancestor, the wolf. Northern Gray Wolves cover a lot of ground every day, except when they're anchored to a den-- up to forty or fifty miles. According to renowned wolf researcher David Mech (The Wolf: The Ecology and Behavior of an Endangered Species), their movements mainly reflect hunting activity, although writer/naturalist Rick Bass (The Ninemile Wolves) believes that, in addition, they just like to explore, cover their territory checking for incursions from other wolves, and leaving fresh scent marks.

I've heard a lot of people say that they'd like to adopt a dog, but don't have much of a yard, especially for a larger dog. My view is that it doesn't matter much if they do have a big yard, since a dog will not exercise by herself, running laps or doing push-ups. They just find a nice spot and snooze all day. And even if you have a big place and play ball with them, it's just not a substitute for a good long walk or run. Don't get me wrong-- playtime is good. It's fun for both you and the dog (until your arm wears out before your dog does). It's just not traveling, checking out scent posts, meeting new people and dogs, getting used to everything you encounter when on the move. Dogs need both play time and travel time.

At first, Shauna saw a lot of new things when we were out: a woman walking with an umbrella, for example. When we passed the woman up, Shauna kept looking back over her shoulder, no doubt wondering whether that thing hovering over her was part of her or some other object. Or maybe just being cautious: "Hey, you never know when something like that might turn on you. Let's just keep an eye on it." After the first experience, she never again paid any attention to umbrellas. Gradually, she became used to everything: motorcycles racing past,  kids on skateboards, a truck with a flapping tarp covering stuff in the bed, people on bicycles, and so on. She experienced all these things because at that time I had a manufacturing biz, and  took her to work with me.So we went out in the evenings, in that busy industrial/commercial area of a nearby city. She even came to pay no attention at all to pedestrians, just looking straight ahead: "I've got a busy schedule and no time for small talk." Unless, of course, she became aware that someone was talking about her-- then her demeanor completely changed: wagging tail, smiles, softened facial muscles.

Daily exercise seems to be a sedative for Shauna. After returning home, she has her supper and lies down to rest. From there, it's off to sleep. She has several favorite places to sleep: in the kitchen, by the doorway leading to our bedroom (she won't enter the bedroom, because our one remaining kitty sleeps there, and she knows the cat is terrified of her-- more on this dog-cat relationship later); the dining room, by the large window; the sunroom  (which is considered her room), and her favorite, the living room chair that we  kept just for her when we replaced the matching sofa with a new sectional.
Snoozing with her toy puppy, on her chair.

Warning to anyone thinking of adopting a dog with a thick two-layer coat: buy leather living room furniture. Otherwise, your chair or sofa will look like it's made of dog hair. Shauna's chair is in fact leather, but we have to cover the cushion with a large towel or bedsheet, because when she gets down, she likes to stretch her hind legs out behind her, and her nails scratch or even cut the leather.

   Compare this recent  picture to her adoption day picture!

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