The leaves outside my window are starting to change. They slowly morph from green to gold and then drift down to the ground. The air is finally crisp and I am comfortable in hats and gloves outside. The apple orchards are open and the pumpkin patches are full of the large round squash. As I scroll through Instagram vibrant pictures of fall foliage greet me. And when I stumbled upon the hashtag #FallForARescue, a hashtag developed for an online contest created for National Adopt a Shelter Pet Month (October), I was inspired to devote a blog post to the energetic rescue I fell for not so long ago. So here is a blog post all about falling for a rescue.
Love at First Sight
During the fall of 2011, I was entering my second year of veterinary school. In hindsight, adding a puppy to my life during veterinary school may not have been ideal timing. However, I had just purchased my first house, complete with a backyard, and couldn’t wait to adopt another companion. So I started watching the local rescues for a pup to call my own.
Why adopt from a local rescue or shelter? For me, there were several reasons. But the largest was this: It is hard to obtain accurate statistics, but the ASPCA estimates that approximately 6.5 million dogs and cats enter U.S. animal shelters each year. This is a large number and means that there are many healthy cats and dogs looking for homes. By adopting from a shelter, I was able to support the effort to find homes for as many of these pets as possible. Both financially and by opening up more space in that rescue.
Once I started seriously looking, it was only a few weeks before Glia (then Tweetie) entered my life. I was looking for a younger large breed female dog. So when I entered the Animal Humane Society (AHS) in Golden Valley, MN and saw an adorable 3 month old black lab mix, it was love at first sight.
I remember sitting in a visitation room at AHS and watching this athletic pup (who had been on cage rest the last 3 days following her spay) bounce across the room. Her friendliness, zest for life and adorable features were irresistible. So I finished the adoption paperwork and brought her home.
The Early Days
We spent that first fall adjusting to each other. Some of my earliest memories of Glia include raking leaves in the front yard and hiking in the crisp autumn air. Glia and I attended puppy training classes and basic obedience courses together. We worked on her impulsiveness and reducing her desire to chase every small rodent she saw outside. Our walks were devoted to efforts to reduce leash pulling. She was a smart pup who caught on to training quickly.
As the snow started to fall, I quickly discovered that my dog was not made for Minnesota winters. After carrying her back from a couple of walks when her feet became uncomfortably cold, she acquired her own set of dog boots and a plethora of dog coats. But we survived our first winter together and have even created our own Cold Weather Safety Guide.
The Start of Our Hiking Career
That first winter, when Glia was still under a year of age, we frequented many of the amazing dog parks that the Twin Cities area had to offer. However, by the time Glia turned 2 years old, she had some reactive tendencies towards other dogs and had fallen decidedly on the dog-selective side of sociability. Check out this article by Paws Abilities for a brief overview of how dogs social structures change as they reach social maturity.
What this meant for us is that dog parks had become a source of stress for both Glia and I. So we left the off-leash areas and hit the trails. Glia could hike all day and never slow down. She is fearless, traversing rivers, narrow ledges, and leaping over logs and boulders. Her intensity is contagious. And I fell deep in love with hiking. When we moved to La Crosse in 2014, our love of the outdoors only intensified. All of those beautiful bluffs to explore! Before Glia entered my life, I enjoyed camping and hiking. But after a few years of hiking 1-2x/week and discovering how dog-friendly camping was, I was hooked.
It is interesting how life can use a negative, to create something so positive. At the time, I was so disappointed that my pup had become so dog-selective. Even today, there are activities that we avoid participating in since Glia becomes stressed, anxious, and reactive around too many strange dogs. But we never would have started spending as much time in the woods if not for Glia. And the time Glia and I have spent working through her reactivity has given me a much greater understanding of prevention and how to deal with behavioral concerns in dogs. Understanding that helps me relate to many other dog owners and is a great benefit at my day job.
Glia was my inspiration for this blog and she continues to be a wonderful hiking partner. And this last fall, we both shared our love of all things hiking with the new pup, Sasha.
And now that the leaves are changing colors again, I am reminded of how much has changed since this little black dog entered my life. She has taught me so much about dog ownership. Her love of exploration and hiking has inspired in me a love of the outdoors that will influence my adventures for many years to come. I am so happy that I fell for this rescue dog. Life would be so different without her. And someday, I won’t hesitate to begin falling for a rescue all over again.
I want to encourage all of my readers to consider adopting a shelter pet this month. Fall is a great time to add a new companion to your life. And you never know what new passion your own rescue pup might help you discover.
Oh, and if you are curious about what breeds make up my “lab mix”, check out Glia’s DNA results.