Learn­ing love and trust with an adopted dog

We adopted our grey­hound the same day we met him. It was big ad­just­ment for us, and for him.

The Coast - Pets Halifax - - Testimonial - BY RE­BECCA DING­WELL

Ire­mem­ber these two pet food com­mer­cials from a few years ago: One fea­tured a man try­ing to get his new cat out from un­der his couch. In the other, a woman wanted her new dog to play fetch. By the end of each ad, the pet own­ers seem­ingly give up—but the cat hops onto the man’s lap and the dog drops the white ball by the woman’s side. A voiceover says some­thing like, “The best part about adopt­ing a pet is when the pet adopts you.”

Things aren’t so sim­ple. My grey­hound Tone, for in­stance, doesn’t know how to play fetch and he’s too big to fit un­der the couch. I can’t pin­point the mo­ment I re­al­ized Tone loved and trusted me back. I do know he sniffs and licks my cheeks if he no­tices me cry­ing. He wags his tail when I come home (if he isn’t nap­ping). But I’ve been told it takes a year for a re­tired rac­ing dog to to­tally ad­just to home life.

My part­ner Alex and I brought Tone home at the end of Novem­ber 2015. He’d been adopted be­fore, but they had sent him back. Like a shirt that was the wrong size. From there, he was put into a fos­ter home and even­tu­ally handed over to us. All 72 pounds of him.

We adopted Tone on the same day we met him. It seemed fast to me. I was ex­pect­ing for us to bond. Tone liked us, but noth­ing in­di­cated he would be keen on liv­ing with us.

“Peo­ple say the dog picks the owner,” said the woman who fos­tered him. “Frankly, I think that’s bull­crap.”

She ex­plained it was never “love at first sight” when adopt­ing a dog: “He doesn’t know you, he doesn’t trust you, he doesn’t love you.”

Still, I fan­cied my­self an an­i­mal whisperer. Pets I’d been told were shy or “doesn’t like most peo­ple” would end up curled up be­side me within an hour of meet­ing me. I was well-suited to have a dog, but I had never actu- ally owned one be­fore. And Tone (or Ul­thinkof­some­one, as he was known on the track) hadn’t spent much of his life in a house.

He growled at me on his first night with us. A quiet rum­ble from his throat as I at­tempted to lead him to­wards the bed in my room. I pulled my hand from his col­lar and stepped back. What? Dogs never growled at me.

“I just want him to love me,” I’d tell Alex.

We’ve since cre­ated some kind of bond, I think. At least, I like to be­lieve our re­la­tion­ship goes be­yond me pour­ing his kib­ble, tak­ing him out­side or clean­ing up puke from the time he thought eat­ing a sock was a good idea.

There’s at least some dif­fer­ence be­tween when we first started teach­ing Tone to “stay,” and how he re­sponds now. The idea is to in­crease the dis­tance be­tween the dog and the owner grad­u­ally, while be­ing able to walk a full cir­cle around with­out him turn­ing to face us.

Tone had trou­ble with the sec­ond part. He didn’t like it when I stood di­rectly be­hind him be­cause he couldn’t see me, so he would only stay put un­til I reached his tail. Re­cently, that changed.

On day, I de­cided to do some train­ing with Tone while Alex was at work.

“Tone,” I said. He looked at me. “Stay.”

I walked slowly. When I passed his tail, he didn’t move. In a mo­ment, I was in front of him again. It was no Hall­mark mo­ment of tri­umph, but it was some­thing.

I pushed the but­ton on my train­ing clicker and Tone’s ears perked up be­fore he ex­cit­edly took the treats from my palm.

“Good boy,” I said, a smile spread­ing across my face.


Ding­well and Tone, forg­ing a friend­ship.

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