Thanks to Melissa Alonso for this great photo she sent in. Way to be, Melissa.
It’s dawn. I hear the sweet sound of a Cardinal singing outside our window. My heart leaps before my eyes even open. A smile crosses my face as I remember. For a few seconds I work on going back to sleep – slow, deep breaths – I want the sleeeeep, neeeed the sleeeep. But I’m not going back to sleep. I’m way too excited. Every day is a gift but today is one of the special ones. That way-too-cool-to-be-true-pointer-mix I’ve been telling you about, she’s gonna become a member of our family today. The one who takes a treat from my child’s fingers as gently as a butterfly lands on a flower. Her name is Hazel.
Somehow the man who had her on hold, who had the first option to take her before me – his wife opted out when the decision was on the line. She brought the grandkids and everyone to meet the dog. And they liked her a lot, saw how sweet she was and were keen on her smallish size.
Then the resident cat came out from behind a desk. They saw our little pointer get a little too perky then. I’ll tell you what they saw. They saw a wild child kick in. They saw her chase that kitty around the room in sporting-dog style, zig-zagging with moves like Michael Jordan gliding through an entire defense. They must’ve imagined their own cats trying to stop Jordan. They could hear Marv Albert calling the game in their heads, “Oh! Slam dunk! Michael Jordan is on FIRE! OH! Look at the moves, slicing through defenders with ease! Oh! MJ’s TOO-TOUGH-to-STOP!”
The wife started to look worried, nibbled her fingers, talked about her cats, voiced doubts, looked at the pointer pouncing around the room, and then back at her husband, “So you definitely haven’t found anyone with a Shih Tzu?”
That’s when the shelter manager dropped the guillotine, “I don’t think this is the dog for you,” she said, and sent them on their way. I love that cat.
Let me tell you what I saw when I later watched Hazel interact with the cat. I saw a super-playful adolescent with a lot of self control. First she invited the cat to play, with lovely play-bows (butt in the air, front end down), with adorable side-shimmies, and with an excited bark that was low-pitched and not too loud (oh, so acceptable). When she did chase the cat she always stopped a foot or two away from it, she never touched it. I let Hazel keep going, wanted to see her get worked up. Then came the best part. As she was dancing around the cat, percolating in the predator game, I made myself heard. “Hazel STOP. Get over here.” I said firmly but not loud. She ran right over to me and sat at my side. Too good to be true. I tested it again. “Ok, go play with the cat,” I said. She got back into it quickly. Ran right to the spot she left off and started her predator play dance again. Then I called her. And again she came right away. Just lovely.
Here is a video of how I began bonding with Hazel when we got home. Play is the name of the game. Look at how respectful she is of my space.
The people who had the first shot at this dog saw a feisty hunter getting wild over a cat. I saw a playful 8-month-old with a lot of impulse control. To each their own. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder. And we all see differently. It’s what makes life interesting. I’m so grateful this dog lasted two weeks without anyone seeing what the shelter manager and I saw in her.
Now it seems kind of crazy for me to put it out there, to say I found a wonderful dog, a great fit, just by spending a couple of half-hour sessions with her over two days. Especially crazy to put it in writing here. I mean, I could be wrong. I could be eating my words right here on this blog in a few months if this dog turns out to reveal traits I’ve overlooked, or couldn’t see. It’s quite possible, I assure you. She’s certainly not going to be perfect. There will be issues, of course. For example she pulls on leash like a bat out of hell. And she’s REALLY distracted outside.
But I feel as good as you can feel about our decision to adopt Hazel because I defined exactly what I wanted before going into this. Then I did a thorough behavior evaluation. Comp – re – hensive. That’s how I roll (most of the time, anyway). Is it dorky or cool to show up at the shelter with a clipboard and a checklist? I say cool. There is no place for self-consciousness in big life decisions. I followed my behavior eval checklist with pride. In the next post I’ll tell you exactly what I did to evaluate Hazel. I know it will help you and many others to find a great match next time you are looking for a dog.