For the longest time, I wanted a dog.
An avid Lassie fan, I knew I would love my dog. My poor Mom, dealing with determined dirt devils in my sis & me, was unyielding: “no dogs, when we’ve got 2 monkeys!”. My dog-dream was on hold.
Until a few weeks ago….
She’s a 9 month basset hound-daschund mix from the SF SPCA.
Her chocolate coat glistened; with a white patch across her chest, she looked like a knight in armor. She paced the room as if looking for the holy grail. But I saw sadness & exhaustion in her mesmerizing eyes. When I met her, she studied me with big, hazel eyes, then quickly looked away. I gave her a belly rub – she closed her eyes, placed a paw on my hand & sighed deeply…as if to say “okay, I can’t do this anymore, take me home, will ya?”.
That’s when I knew Indy was the one. It didn’t matter that I was looking for a male dog, a golden retriever mix. It just didn’t matter: she was my girl. And I wanted to bring the light back in her eyes.
We spoke at great length with the SPCA, as first-time dog owners eager to do our homework. They didn’t have any info on our girl; she’d come in as a stray from Stockton. Her profile was “delicate wallflower, who doesn’t dislike anything”. Sure, she was a little jumpy, but highly treat-motivated (which meant she would be easy to train). She’d be a terrific first-time dog given her mellow disposition: this was all music to our ears.
Here she is in her crate as I sat right next to her.
Following a walk, Indy sniffed her way to our front door without any direction. She pitter-pattered breezily, tail wagging & looked up at my shocked face, “Well, Watson, we goin’ in or what?!” Ok, Sherlock.
We named her Indigo Sherlock, Indy for short.
She slept the first few days: it’s how dogs deal with stress & change. A friendly soul, she greeted people & dogs alike, with a gentle lick. I felt so protective of this little, innocent being.
She fell horribly sick that first week: with an intense reaction to a vaccine & picked up fleas. While she underwent diarrhea, vomiting & itching from fleas, at a new place – I couldn’t bring myself to leave her. I worked from home, stayed by her side. At one point, we rushed her to the ER; I was worried out of my mind for my girl, who hadn’t eaten or drank water in days.
As she recovered physically, she recovered in spirit too. Days later, a completely different personality emerged. Every morning, Indy wagged her tail like she’d just won the doggie lottery. She’d look sideways with gleaming eyes, a beaming smile, paws upturned, ready for a ‘good morning’ belly rub. She blossomed at dog day care, made tons of friends and the owners heaped praises, “she’s such a sweetheart! she’s welcome back anytime!!”. Everytime I was out with Indy, strangers remarked, “She’s so pretty!!”. Like a proud parent, I would glow & gloat. She rarely barked, but when she did, girlfriend had a powerful bark that scared dogs three times her size. This secretly made me very proud of her. My dog was sweet, but wasn’t going to let nobody walk over her!
I discovered what an incredibly smart dog we had. She figured how to get out of her pen…time & time again. At first, she found if she pushed the front of the pen, the back opened.
We locked the pen.
Then she realized, by jumping on top of her crate, freedom was just another jump away.
We put suitcases atop her crate.
Indy figured by positioning her doggie bed jjjuuusstt right, she could reach the top of the pen, bend it & slip out.
She learnt her name, without us ever teaching her, within 2 days.
She refused to enter the house, if I wasn’t there.
She mastered tricks & training in 1-2 attempts; was an obedience class rockstar.
What this meant was she got bored very easy. She’d be done with puzzle toys, treat rewarding toys (including the famous Kong), chew toys (rope, plush & squeaky), bones, antlers, tennis balls – within minutes. Eventually, she engaged in Cirque du Soleil feats with our furniture: performing jumps from one chair to another, over table lamps. During Cirque down-time, she chewed on carpets, table legs, her favorite (and my favorite) sofa. She also started jumping on & nipping at people. Walks also became challenging, as she incessantly pulled and chased in every direction; rules once accepted, were challenged. I educated myself on training & channeling her energy: I actively played with her, started clicker training, “gave her a job”, took her on more walks, and on different paths. In addition to 3 daily walks, I took her on a 2.5 mile run, the exercise only served to fuel her. I was gunning for the combo of socialization, diet, over 3 hours of exercise, mental stimulation with training and interactive toys to manage the energy.
None of this was her fault, she was just an adolescent puppy! In human terms, she was an incredibly smart, tenacious, rebellious teenager. I was willing to work my pants off & invest the time, but….. was she happy? Several times, she grunted in frustration & clawed at the door to get out. Once outdoors, she was at peace, chasing butterflies and dogs. Was she really happy with an indoor life? Was I over-stimulating her? Under-stimulating her?
I called an SPCA certified behavior therapist to get an expert opinion. Our “delicate wallflower” of 2 weeks, was clearly a rambunctious rascal. Gone was the dog who gently greeted people, she was nipping, jumping at the new person who walked through the door. After observing Indy and my training, the therapist told me: “this is a very complex dog, she is not a wallflower and for her level of intelligence, she needs a lot, lot more – agility classes maybe, a bigger space maybe, constant change in activities & even another dog. She’s always looking to sit higher than you too, so she’s seeking dominance, you’ll have to work very, very hard to train her, she’s not a first time owner dog & requires a lot of skill to manage.”
I was spending nearly every waking hour with Indy, disciplining her with positive reinforcement, exercising her, engaging her with toys, socializing her, going to classes with her….. and I needed to take care of my family & had upcoming commitments as well. I had to ask myself the big question: will she be happy with what I can give her or get depressed with the routine I ascribe?
Certain questions are difficult to ask, because you already know the answer.
You’re just not ready to accept the answer.
I made the heartbreaking decision to re-home her. She deserved a busy home or farm with lots of activities, scuttling kids, dogs, where she could get more than 3 walks a day. I want Indy to be happy & never lose that sparkle in her eye.
We took her back to the SPCA, with a wealth of info, toys, food, games, treats. I didn’t say a word, but my sweet girl sensed something was amiss, put her paws on my chest and looked me in the eye, “you ok, mama?”. She proceeded to lick my face. Seeing tears trickle down my family’s face…she went on to lick their faces too…”Hold on, I’mma lick these faces here too and get back to you.” I bawled my heart out, even though the SPCA assured us this was the best for the dog. In 2 weeks, we were a foster home, cared for her post surgery & sickness, trained her, bathed her, gave them info they didn’t have before, to place her in the right home. They would keep us posted on her new placement. She wasn’t attached yet & would be just fine. But see, I grew attached. I didn’t just want to be her foster home. I wanted to be her forever home. I know she was a handful, rascal dog. But she was my heart dog. She was my rascal.
I miss her incredibly and wake up everyday thinking of how to bring her back. After dropping her, I couldn’t leave the SPCA; I couldn’t look at her pen after I got home. I worry if my baby girl ate ok, if she’s sleeping ok. I saw her listed on the SPCA site, under her old name “Sandy”…that hurt immensely, knowing her days of being our “Indy” were erased, just like that. I keep thinking of how she ran & peeked from behind my legs, when she met new dogs at the daycare, who’s sole response was persistent barking…. and how she ventured out to the one dog who wouldn’t stop barking and gave him a big lick. I can’t forget how she buried her face in my chest and whimpered, on her first crate-less car ride. I miss her warm cuddle by my side, with her chewed up & destroyed “Tuff” indestructible toy (my girl destroyed it in 1 day). I reminisce on her love of carrots & yogurt, hatred of mangoes. The memory of her eyes & smile haunt me. I dream about her. I miss her so much.
I let her go, because I love her. Because I want her happiness. I’m sure she’ll get snatched by a promising family this weekend, who now has the info we didn’t, and can provide for her the way I couldn’t. I fervidly hope our paths cross one day, and she recognizes me. I for one, can never forget her. I’m going to write what I’ve refused to say or acknowledge…
My precious, sweet baby, my princess. My friend. I will see you again. Mommy loves you very, very much!!
If interested in adopting Sandy/Indy, contact the SF SPCA. I’m happy to connect you as well.