Bonding with your shelter dog

Well it’s been just 9 months since I adopted Pippi and things have been pretty quiet on this blog during that time.  I’d like to say that it was intentional and that I wanted to take the time to get to know her before I just started posting the latest thing I noticed or that I was too busy having awesome fun with my new pup, but the truth is that I really haven’t had a clue what to write!  And now that I’m back at it, I’m faced with a different dilemma: where to begin?

Ultimately, I’m glad I waited to post anything because it freed my time and my mind to focus on Pippi and just live my life with her now in it.  They say it takes 6 months for a rescued dog to really bond with their new owner and start doing things out of love and not out of fear or because it was the last safe experience they can remember.  There are a lot of different blogs out there that help you understand your dog’s behavior and offer great advice on how to train/retrain a rescued pup.  But in my searches I’ve never seen anything about how long it takes a person to bond with a dog.

Perhaps this isn’t an issue that needs to be discussed because most people fall in love with their dogs at first sight – and in some cases a person is head over heels after seeing a picture and reading a short blurb online!  But that has not been my experience at all.  Maybe Pippi took 8-9 months to acclimate because it took me that long to get used to her.  Don’t get me wrong, I love my little nut and know that my life has been enriched simply by sharing it with her.  But the past 9 months have been a roller coaster of emotions!

#1: Getting a dog is freaking terrifying!  What if she gets lost?  What if she won’t eat the food I give her?  How will I make sure she’s getting enough time outside?  And then all these thoughts quickly spiral into questioning if I should even have a dog since I also have a job!  Because wouldn’t my dog prefer to be outside and playing all day rather than in the house gazing longingly at the squirrels just begging to be chased?!

#2: Weather is a serious pain in the butt.  Pippi seemed to like the snow but guess what… not me!  And this past winter seemed to last forever.  And after all the ice and snow finally melted, it turned cold and rainy for most of the spring and early summer.  I would end up starting the day angry because I had to walk around in the freezing cold, slipping on ice, bruising my knees, and cursing myself for getting a dog in the wintertime.  Plus, it would be dark again by the time I got home from work which doubled the number of walks I was taking in the dark and cold.  And then the rains came.  I took Pippi for a walk in the woods on the first bright, warm, sunny day we had in a long time.  Then I got kinda lost and instead of walking a loop, we ended up backtracking the entire route.  By the end of it the bottoms of my pants were soaked to my knees, my hands were cold and dirty, Pippi was a disgusting tangle of mud and pebbles, and I was basically in tears because I just wanted to not be cold and wet for just ONE DAY!  IS THAT TOO MUCH TO ASK?!

So yeah, I snapped.  And it wasn’t Pippi’s fault so I couldn’t even be mad at her.  Combine all this with the training difficulties I was having with this extremely willful dog and it got pretty tough to remember that having a dog was really rewarding.  Until…

…Until about 4 months in when something clicked.  Or a switch was flipped.  Or the days were getting longer and we were both feeling a little happier in general.  It was a very small and simple thing that happened.  And if I hadn’t been going through all the trials and tribulations with Pippi, I’m not sure I would have even noticed it.  Instead of lying on her bed across the room or in her crate or anywhere else in our little cottage, she laid down on the floor next to the couch while I watched TV.  And she looked at me.  And then she slept.  Some of you might be thinking ‘So what? My dog was sleeping with me from the first night?!’ but that was not the case with Pippi.  She’s very independent and the simple fact that she could fall asleep that close to me meant that she was starting to trust me.  And, dare I say it, maybe even love me.

Fast forward to today and she and I are more bonded than ever!  I’m really starting to reciprocate the love she gives me too.  And even though it’s been 9 months she has only recently started to actually fall asleep on the couch next to me.  I pet her head, listen to her snore, and just smile.  She’s my little nut and I couldn’t be happier with her!

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