Please excuse the fact that the following
Our journey to adopting Sweet Olive has been a lengthy one, but we're not complaining. As I mentioned in this post, we've been wanting to adopt a dog for a while but have been trying to get settled in with new life/house/profession/etc. We tuned in to various rescue groups around town (like Austin Dog Rescue, Austin Pets Alive!, and Austin Humane Society) to get an idea of the process of adopting, only to learn that the process is very specific to the organization. Some places foster the pets, some don't. Some fees are high, some are low. Some know a lot about the dogs' personalities, others don't. Some do home visits, some let you take them home on the spot. We realized we'd need to narrow it down to an organization whose practices felt most comfortable to us, but we weren't quite sure what that was yet.
A little before Christmas, we started looking into smaller rescue organizations and came across the Austin Cocker Spaniel Rescue. Not knowing anything about Cockers, we went to one of their meet & greet events, mainly because playing with puppies of any sort is fun. They had lots of nice dogs, but none that stole our hearts. We decided that was a good thing because we didn't want to adopt a dog until after we got back from our honeymoon to avoid confusing the pooch.
One magical night (come on--I already asked for forgiveness about being sappy) John and I landed on a page dedicated to Lena, a Cocker Spaniel Rescue pooch.
Long story short (not really, I'll give you all the details), we fell in love. We emailed her foster mom and started learning more about her. It was at this point that we realized that adopting a dog that had been fostered was high on our list of priorities, because making sure that the pooch would be a good fit for us and that we'd be a good fit for the pooch wouldn't be as possible otherwise. We knew that tons of people adopt rescue dogs that end up fitting into their homes with no problem, but we were worried we would have the bad luck of falling into the category of a bad match. Call us paranoid, but the comfort of knowing exactly how the dog would act in a home setting felt like a fool-proof choice.
What we learned about our little lady is that she had a traumatic past. No one's sure exactly what happened, but it's clear it wasn't anything good. She was rescued in January of 2013 from a shelter in Brownsville that was going to put all of their rescues down due to widespread health issues. She had a lot of physical recovery to do, but even more psychological recovery. Sometimes I feel silly talking about a dog's psyche, but she really has some bad trust issues.
She is very fearful of new people and new places (read: us and our house), but something about her story tugged at our heartstrings. We learned from her foster mom that she was crate trained (actually, she wouldn't even come out of her crate for a month after she moved in with her foster family), house trained, never barks, and has a very gentle soul. Her foster parents worked very hard for a long time to get her to trust them, and she eventually came around, so we felt that if we wouldn't have to deal with typical training/behavioral issues and that she had a sweet heart, all we'd need to do was love her and she'd come around for us, too.
What this meant was slowly easing her into our lives to avoid making her terrified of us. First, a couple of days before Christmas, she came over with her foster parents to be with us in our house. After that, she came over every few days by herself for a couple of hours at a time. Because she was so afraid, each little milestone we hit felt like a big deal. With most dogs, eye contact, tail-wagging, licking, playing with toys, belly rubs, and eating treats are all things they'll usually do with strangers present, but not Sweet Olive. We'd give her a treat, and she clearly wanted to eat it, but she was too afraid to. Texting my friends to say "Olive let me PET HER TUMMY!!!" felt strange, because that's not typically something to call home about. But with our little lady, it was.
She had made really great progress with trusting us by the time it was time to leave for our honeymoon. I was worried that when we got back she would have somewhat forgotten us or at least lost some of her trust and we would have to start back at square one. To our surprise, while we were in Hawaii, Sweet Olive's foster mom texted me to say that she had been acting more affectionately than usual and that she thought it was because our poochy missed the attention she got from us. Our hearts sang!
When we got home, I was apprehensive to see her, worrying she wouldn't be interested in us anymore. By some miracle, she acted happier than ever :) We had our official "sleepover" to confirm that things will go alright with her here with us, and we're happy to report that she's doing great! Sweet Olive (who we are now calling Lena Olive to transition her from her old name) slept through the night in her crate and is currently snoozing next to me. She. is. so. cute. How do dog parents not post more pictures of their dogs?! I want to take a picture of everything she does.
We still have plenty of work to do with her, like getting her comfortable with using our stairs (for some reason they really scare her even though she's comfortable going down sets that only have 3 or 4 steps), being more playful, and being less fearful of new people. So, friends, we have one request of you: if you ever meet Sweet Olive, please remember that she is a very sweet, bright dog that likes to play fetch and run around being a happy, normal pup, but that when you see her, she will likely not move a muscle or even look at you. It's not because she's boring or antisocial, it's because she's terrified. Please love her the same and help her see that strangers are friends. We can't wait for the day that she feels comfortable walking up to a new person and giving them a sniff.
Meeting this little lady has really opened our eyes to rehabilitating dogs. We are certainly not the ones that rehabilitated her--the credit for that goes completely to her foster parents--but we do feel like we're helping her see that people can be kind. My favorite thing is to hear about how she acted when they first rescued her and all of the little steps she took to becoming the much braver dog that she is today. And, thinking about where we started just a month ago feels like lightyears ago!
Her foster mom explained to us that for Sweet Olive, if she wasn't ever adopted, their house and backyard were all she would probably ever see, and that they wanted her to see more. Moving cars scare her (possibly because someone dumped her from a car), so going on walks has been challenging with her foster family, which kept her world pretty small. Since we live in a gated community, we're able to go on lots of walks and not see a single moving car since there's just not that much activity going on around here. Our little dog gets to trot around (she has the cutest little trot, if I do say so myself) like she owns the place, without a scary car to be seen. She is also terrified of cats (which are harder to avoid...), as well as our neighbor's fake metal pig. The day she spotted that metal pig, you would have sworn it leapt at her.
Last night, her foster mom texted me to say that they rescued her exactly one year prior to us adopting her, just by coincidence. They knew she would be a longer-term rescue than was typical, and there had been families interested in her, but no one was the right match. We are thankful to have found her and to be her forever home, and that her foster family trusts us with her after she had been a part of their family for so long.
I ordered a really cute harness and leash from Etsy, so once they come I'll put the bow I made her on the back of the harness and she'll be the snazziest lady in town. And in case you're wondering, our best guess is that she's a Collie/Cocker Spaniel mix. It's sometimes hard to see the Collie in her, but when you look at the markings on her chest it's more evident, and she behaves very much like a herding dog. I think the Cocker Spaniel is most evident when you're looking up at her from underneath (like in the picture at the very top of this post). Sometimes, I think I see Dachshund in her, and that's the breed that most people assume she has in her when they first meet her. We're not totally sure, but we are totally sure that we're smitten. Smitten! She will turn 2 in the next couple of months, and since we don't know her official birthday, we've decided to make it May 1st. Who in Austin has a pooch that would like to come celebrate with us?
So, there you have it. Our little love.