When we lost Henry, I knew I couldn’t replace him, but I really missed having a little buddy by my side. If I did get another pup he would be small like Henry, because that’s what I was accustomed to, and it was more practical. But the universe had something else in store for me.
Weeks before Henry’s death, my friend Amanda started the process of rescuing a dog from a shelter with the hope of finding him a forever home. The dog, a young, 23-pound Sharpei/Shepherd/Husky/Cattle dog/Chihuahua(?) mix, had been removed by Animal Control from a home where he was living with more than a dozen dogs, many of whom were malnourished and ill. He was taken to the animal shelter in Lancaster, CA, where he stayed for one month.
Amanda saw his photo on the shelter’s website and was smitten with his unusual face. I can see why. Look at this punim!!
After meeting him at the shelter and seeing what a joyful little character he was, Amanda adopted him. She wasn’t given much information, except that his name was Reine, he had kennel cough and demodectic mange. This non-contagious, parasitic skin disease left numerous bald spots all over his body, but he was still super cute.
See what I mean?
When my dear friend and neighbor, Melanie, who is a big-hearted dog and cat rescuer, and also a friend of Amanda’s, learned that Henry had passed away, she sent photos of Reine to distract me from my grief. He looked lovable but was double Henry’s size, so I didn’t think he’d be right for me. There was a time when I’d take in any stray dog, (they were usually large), and give them a loving home. These days I don’t have the strength for that, but I can still help the smaller ones.
When I told Melanie that Reine might be too big for me she sent half a dozen photos of little dogs that looked like Henry, and websites for the rescue organizations where I could find them. I took one look at the photos of the Henry look-a-likes and started crying. I’d have to find one that looked nothing like him.
After a few more days of grieving, I started searching the internet for a small, light-colored dog. I even submitted some applications to rescue organizations for Chihuahua mixes. Thankfully, Don was supportive of my adopting another dog, and shared my excitement. Two days passed, and I heard nothing. Two more days passed, still nothing. Melanie sent me more photos of Reine, and I found myself wanting to meet him. My efforts to find a little dog were not producing any candidates, but Reine was ready and willing, so I went to Amanda’s. From the moment I saw Reine’s face, I too was smitten. He was smaller than he looked in the photographs, which was a nice surprise, and I thought maybe I could handle him.
In addition to his charming face, Reine had a joyful exuberance. In a bigger dog it would have been overwhelming, but in him it was charming. He was sprite like. Amanda and I took him for a walk and he tugged a bit but didn’t pull me off my feet. The next day Melanie put a special walking harness on him and his pulling subsided. Problem solved. When I saw I could handle a “medium sized” dog, I felt empowered. Maybe I wasn’t as weak and limited as I thought.
Every day Amanda sent me reports of his good behavior, and every couple of days I went to visit him. She started calling him Mingo, because his jazzy behavior made her think of the musicians Charles Mingus, and Teddy Charles. I wasn’t familiar with either one, but liked the name Teddy, and since he had a teddy bear head, I suggested that be his name. Amanda agreed, and said if I adopted him I could call him anything I liked. Oh yeah, that’s right, he’d be my dog.
I wanted Cassie, our big dog, to meet him. If she didn’t like him, I wouldn’t adopt him. But before that could happen he had to recover from his kennel cough, continue his mange baths and get neutered. He also needed time to adjust to home life after being in a shelter for so long. So, I had to wait. Hmph!
At least I could visit him at Amanda’s and take him for walks. Every time I saw him I wanted to take him straight home. I yearned to fill the gaping hole Henry left in our lives. I wanted a furry buddy to lift my spirits and keep me company. I wanted Henry back.
Having to wait for Teddy was good for Don and me because it gave us time to prepare for his presence in our lives. It gave us time to imagine him running, playing, eating and sleeping in our home. He’d already taken up residence in my heart.
Teddy was supposed to have been neutered on Monday, but the vet said he needed to heal more from the mange, since the stress from surgery could exacerbate his condition. Since his healing would take time, I asked Amanda if it made sense for him to do his healing in our home. He was doing well adjusting at Amanda’s and she agreed to give it a try. The next step was to have a ‘meet and greet’ with Cassie. If she accepted him, we’d keep him.
Melanie and Amanda know a lot about introducing new dogs because they’ve fostered many and have witnessed bloody fights when things didn’t go well. Eek! Melanie suggested we walk Cassie and Teddy on the same street, about 12 feet apart for 30 minutes, before letting them get close enough to sniff each other. I was game. Amanda walked Teddy and Melanie walked Cassie. I was thrilled when there was no growling or aggression when they first saw each other, just a desire to play from Teddy, and a little trepidation from Cassie. Overall the walk was peaceful. Next, we took them to our back yard, so they could sniff each other. That went well too. No growling or fighting.
Then we all went into the house. Teddy bounced around, sniffed every corner and discovered Cassie’s treasure trove of soft toys. She graciously allowed him to sample a few. Melanie recommended that we wait one more day for Teddy to move in, so we could do a second introduction. I didn’t think it was necessary since they were getting along so well, but she worried about me being alone if the dogs got into a nasty fight. She said she’d seen too many situations, where two dogs seemed to be getting along, then bam! they turned on each other, got into a bloody tangle and the owner had to separate them. She preferred that Don be there with me for the dogs’ first afternoon together. He was at work and wouldn’t be home until 8 pm. Her warning scared me, but when I looked at Teddy’s goofy face I insisted on giving it a try.
“Alright,” she said, “but keep Teddy on the leash in the house for the next day so you have control if they fight.” I nodded, but knew I wasn’t going to do that because I could see already that they were going to be fine.
Right after Amanda and Melanie left, Teddy excitedly ran onto the front porch to the quail cages and started jumping up and whimpering, scaring the poor little birds. At that moment I had a pang of regret. Maybe I couldn’t do this on my own. If he was going to go berserk on the quails every time I let him outside, I’d lose my mind and my quails. Amanda had told me he gets overexcited sometimes, and I was now seeing that. What could I do? Then I realized that I hadn’t yet told him that what he was doing was wrong. As he continued to traumatize the birds, I grabbed the spray water bottle, squirted him and shouted, “NO! TEDDY!” He stopped immediately and scampered away. The next time he passed the cages he kept his distance. Smart boy.
For the rest of the afternoon Teddy spent some time exploring the house and yard, then settled down next to me on the couch as I sewed. His closeness reminded me of the many afternoons Henry sat next to me on the couch. At one point he got down and went to the toy box, and one by one, brought them all into the living room. Cassie is generous with her toys so there was no friction. I choked up when Teddy brought me Henry’s favorite toy, Big Dog, a tri-colored plush toy pup.
The only other moment of tension between Cassie and Teddy was when he cautiously approached her and sniffed her feet while she was napping on our bed. She sensed his nearness, bared her teeth and let out a little growl. He very wisely walked away.
When Don got home in the evening Teddy barked along with Cassie, to protect me from the intruder. Cassie does this every night. For some reason she never thinks I’m an intruder when I come home, but until Don gets into the house, she barks like she’s going to attack him. Once she sees his face, she grabs a toy and takes it to him. I guess Teddy was following her lead.
I shared with Don how lovely the afternoon had been with Teddy, and that Cassie had been cordial, only growling once, letting him know she was the boss.
Don wanted to take them for a walk together before bed. I was a little worried that Cassie wouldn’t like Teddy so close, but Don came back with a glowing report. He said they walked as if they’d been walking together for years. Cool! Don said he couldn’t believe how easy this seemed. I’d spent the afternoon watching Teddy adjust and had faith in his ability to learn and settle in with us.
We weren’t sure where Teddy would end up sleeping because Cassie sleeps in her bed in our bedroom, and she’d not been very welcoming to him when he wanted to explore in there. I went to bed before Don and was delighted when Teddy followed me in a minute later. He jumped up on the bed and nestled in as close as he possibly could. I laughed because he was so close I could barely move. He just wanted to be loved, and I was happy I could give him what he wanted.
Teddy’s arrival into our lives has unfolded so organically, it’s almost too good to be true. I found it curious that Henry’s ashes were delivered on the same day that Teddy moved in. Henry’s spirit is in him, I can feel it. He doesn’t look anything like Henry, which is good because that would be weird and sad. He reminds me of Henry when he prances around, jumps up on the couch, and nestles in close for affection. But he also reminds me of Dixie, who passed away in July, in the way he stretches out on the bed next to Don for a nap, or attentively watches him prepare meals. He has a little of each of our former dogs: Gus’ widow’s peak; Peeper’s ears; Arty’s mange; Dixie’s Sharpei face and Henry’s affection.
His face and body are such a goofy mix, I had to do a doggy DNA test to find out what breeds his parents and grandparents were. Now I’m just waiting for the results. Don lovingly said, “He looks like the delightful results of a failed science experiment.” When I look at him I see Sharpei and Husky, so he must be a Sharpusky. One thing is for sure, he’s full of love and joy, and I couldn’t have asked for anything more.