Santa Fe Scoop

Off-leash blog: The simple joys of a three-dog night

Zach isn’t one to mince words. He’ll tell me if I’ve waited too long for a walk or have forgotten his lunch with either a gentle whine or a startling bark.

So when he started moping about the house the other day, I seriously worried about his emotional health. He’d hang his head off the side of the bed, looking forlorn while I tried to get his attention with a squeak toy or a worn sock.
It didn’t take long to realize Zach’s emotional blockage: It’s a 20-pound bundle of black fur that’s invaded his space and demands even more attention than a squeak toy.

Jimmy, a black Labrador-American Staffordshire terrier mix, landed on our doorstep two weeks ago and has filled our home with his big personality. Our lives — and Zach’s and Bear’s — will never be the same.

A rescue dog from Clovis, we weren’t really ready to add another pup to our household when Pam Hagan called us to ask if we could “foster” him for a few days. He was the only one left from an adoption event and had no place to go but back to the shelter. And he didn’t really do well at the shelter, she said.

Something about her voice had “set up” in it, but Ricky, my partner, was already out the door, wanting to meet this poor puppy.

At Hagan’s Zoe & Guido’s Pet Boutique, Alix Novack, one of the forces behind the Clovis rescues, was snuggling with James Bond. The black puppy with white “tuxedo” chest was easily charming all the women in the store. The only thing missing was a martini.

When I met him, I do what I usually do with dogs: I ordered him to sit. He complied. I let him sniff my hand. And then I picked him up so he could easily greet me with puppy kisses.

“I’ve already taught him how to kiss,” Novack laughed. “And I told him he has to be on his best behavior.”

I’m a soft touch, so it’s not hard to sell me on most things. Ricky, however, is the one who puts his foot down. But by the time I thought to ask him his opinion, Jimmy was already kissing his face and stealing his heart.

Later that night, I called Ricky to find out how Jimmy (too young for the James Bond moniker, I thought) was getting along with the rest of the canine gang. They were all zonked on the couch, he said, Jimmy resting his head on Ricky’s lap.

“Finally — a dog that actually likes me,” he said.

Ricky, of course, thinks I’m some sort of dog whisperer. The fact is I hide dog biscuits all over my body, but he doesn’t need to know that.

Our pack seems to be adjusting to the new life force. Novack, in one of her “just checking” e-mails, wrote to reassure us that she wasn’t just “dumping” Jimmy on us; that she’d send out e-mails and post bulletins about his adoptability when we were ready. When I mentioned that to Ricky, he responded: “Did you tell her she should consider him dumped?”

We’ve had a few rough patches in absorbing Jimmy into our two-dog household, but mostly it’s been a question of sharing treats, toys and bed space. The three of them generally take turns picking on each other, so it’s been fun to watch the interaction. Ever the polite puppy, Jimmy often sits and watches Zach and Bear go at it.

And we have a new puppy manual on our bookshelf, something to read when we’re not rescuing socks or trying to reassure Zach that he’s still top dog. Did you know, for example, that puppies should meet more than 100 strangers in their first few months of life? A tall order.

I love the mix of the three black dogs, each of them with distinct personalities and needs. The new addition has worked wonders for Bear, who has now decided that it’s fun to be out with the rest of the pack.

And now every day is officially a three-dog night — who could ask for anything more?

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Comment by Ben Swan on January 26, 2009 at 12:58pm
Puppy photos? I'd love to see them. And hear more of Jimmy's story. Glad it worked out with the homeless group. Keep up the good work.
Comment by Ben Swan on January 25, 2009 at 1:55pm
Thanks and Happy Sunday. Just got back from a long walk with the troupe. It's amazing how well they interact, although we still have to keep a close eye on them. Jimmy's puppy teeth are sharp and both he and Zach like to gang up on Bear, who seems to enjoy it to a point and then ... yelps end the discussion. It's hard to foster without falling in love with them, but I have great admiration for those who do. It's just a joy to see other families welcome great animals into their homes and hearts.
Comment by Lisa on January 25, 2009 at 9:02am
Wow, great post Ben! If I only had the space and the capability to love them all, I would if I could. For now though, we'll stick with our "3 cat" nights. :o)
Comment by Claudia Inoue on January 25, 2009 at 8:22am

Do 2 dogs and a cat count, Ben??? It adds up to 3!

Wonderful article, as usual! Now you know why I won't "foster" anymore...once they are in my heart, they are there to stay...That's why I had 14 cats at one time....HAPPY SUNDAY to you and yours! Sending hugs your way from all of us!

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