Toy breeds were designed, by us, to be emotionally open and sensitive. Unlike working breeds (shepherds, retrievers, herding dogs, vermin killers), toy breeds didn’t evolve to work among lifestock, or guns, or even other dogs. Even Jake, who is confident and bouncy with Susan, had sort of shut down at the shelter where she got him. It will probably be a month before his new owners see him blossom into the playful, saucy dog he really is. I started to see a little bit of his clownish nature in the two days we’ve had him. He rubs against you like a cat and is prone to goofing around on blankets, rolling and giving us the side-eye while almost standing on his head. It’s good I can tell people that, because what they may see at first is this:
As for working breeds, a dog that seems mellow and only moderately energetic is damped down at the shelter as well. When you get it home, you may find you have an over-exuberant tyrant that demands two hours of hard exercise a day to keep it from eating your couch. So when shopping at the used-dog store, always ask to take a potential pet outside for a walk. This test drive will often show you some of what the dog can be, once it has a home.
In addition to keeping toy breeds out of the highly stressful shelter system, fostering provides a timeline of how long it takes a dog to get used to an unknown place. That’s useful, reassuring knowledge for new owners to have. For example, both Jake and Mojo were initially very distrustful of my husband. Jake would bark at him – a high-pitched, panicky bark. (Distrust of men isn’t bred into toy dogs, but it is common among pre-owned small dogs. They’re often the only solace of women in abusive relationships.) Luckily, toy breeds tend to be brainy, and by the second evening, Jake was sitting on Joe’s lap. The next morning, both dogs greeted him with wagging tails.
As for Mojo, he would like to be a one-person dog. A one-woman dog, to be more specific. In this time of upheavel, his ideal situation would be strapped to my chest in a box, with a chute to pour food down.
Susan had to walk a fine line when she got Mojo. At first she needed to baby him a little – rehabilitate him from the extreme trauma he’d suffered. But little by little, she began to refuse excessive demands for attention. He was forced to do more things on his own, and that built confidence. Mojo also had a tendency to be jealous of Jake. When he growled at Jake, Susan would scold him and put him down, then reassure Jake that he was still loved. She’s a superlative dog owner, and it’s sad that she’s being taken off the market due to health problems. I hope she’ll be able to do some pet sitting for other people, during her good periods.
Susan is out of the hospital for now. She’s picking up Jake & Mojo so Josie and Musette can have all my attention again. Susan cries when she thinks about how much she’s going to miss her dogs, but she (and I) are working hard to find them good new homes. Sometimes the most loving thing you can do for your pet is to lose them.
These dogs are in Boulder, Colorado. If you’re interested in adopting either or both, contact Susan Woodcock at (303) 253-4218 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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