I distinctly remember telling my sister-in-law, “We are waiting until we buy a house to get a second dog,” as we chatted in the kitchen of our Christmas vacation home.
When Severus was about 12 months old, I started daydreaming about a second dog. I had fallen in love with dog training, and I wanted more dogs so I could do more dog training. Plus, I thought Severus would benefit from a canine companion. There was a lot of hemming and hawing though. I was paralyzed by indecision. Would I purchase another shiba inu from a breeder? Would I adopt a rescue dog? Would I pursue another breed, perhaps a more standard sport breed? As of December 2016, the decision was to wait until we purchased a house first. Given the housing market in the greater Boston area, that was at least five years out.
Over the new year, my family dog-sat for a friend, whose pup is a shiba from the same breeder as Severus. (Xena is Severus’s cousin.) We watched Xena for nine days. The longer she stayed, the more I got a feel for what a two-dog household would be like. And I really liked it! I loved that Severus and Xena wrestled together. I loved how they both slept on the bed with us at night. I loved cuddling two dogs at the same time. It was like a switch flipped inside of me, and I informed my husband that we needed a second dog asap. Waiting five years wasn’t going to work for me. He thought I was crazy (not the first time), but his response was apathetically, “If you can find a way to pay for the second dog and stick to the five year plan, whatever.”
Once I sorted out the books, I went online and scoured petfinder, aka soft-core porn for dog lovers. I bookmarked all the pups that seemed promising. I was looking for an adolescent or maybe young-adult dog that was healthy, athletic, confident, and friendly with dogs and people. I decided to look for a herding breed mix. I didn’t want a crazy, psycho performance bred border collie, but I thought maybe a border collie mix or aussie mix would be a good fit. There were a lot of options, but I knew that I wouldn’t hear back from many adoption coordinators. Two full-time twenty-somethings living in an apartment complex in the city is a hard sell. Even if one of them is a certified Karen Pryor Academy dog trainer. I didn’t take things too personally when I didn’t hear back.
Then I clicked on a listing for a 58-lb. shepherd x collie with sweet amber eyes and ears that are probably picking up signals from Jupiter. The rescue had named her Diamond Star. They estimated she was about four years old and the story was the rescue organization had pulled her from their sister shelter near Memphis and she was being fostered in Memphis, TN. Her adoption coordinator was responsive and sounded extremely excited that I was interested in her. I believe she had been in foster care since early December, and my guess is her large size and black coloring gave her a slight disadvantage. To me, she sounded awesome. I spoke to her foster mom on the phone and loved everything I heard. Mellow in the home, enjoyable to walk on leash, not skittish of the sounds of cars or traffic, no resource guarding, good with other dogs, enjoys cuddles, no separation anxiety (more on this later), overall an easy dog! So we went forward with the adoption process, which included more phone calls, reference checks, and a home visit with a volunteer.
Fast forward and Diamond Star (we definitely planned to change her name, but we wanted to get to know her better first) arrives in New England on Super Bowl Sunday. We attempted to watch Lady Gaga’s half-time show from my husband’s iPad despite the chaos of the first night with a new dog. For example, she peed three times and pooped once inside the apartment that night. We weren’t hot and bothered by that at all. Of all the potential behavior issues a dog could have, house training is literally my last concern! Plus, her foster had informed us that she was house trained so I chocked it up to just being anxious. Totally reasonable given all the change she was experiencing. Today, I’m happy to report Whizbee is definitely house trained. Yay!
Severus was kind of a jerk for the first 96 hours. I expected that. He had lived a very lavish only-dog life before and was used to having most things on his own terms. He ate where he wanted. He slept where he wanted. He came to us if he wanted affection and left us when he was over it. Whizbee showed up, took half of the living room and more importantly, a couple cups of kibble! How dare she! I’m a worrier so, of course, I worried. But I was comforted by the fact that even dog-aggressive dogs can usually live peacefully with their housemates so I decided to keep them separated, carefully manage things like food, and give it time. Time proved to do the trick because Severus and Whizbee get along fine now! He still gets pretty jealous about Whizbee’s pilling routine, which involves a blob of melted cheese, but I manage those situations by asking him to go in his crate and giving him a treat whenever she gets her cheesy pill.
I want to take a moment to acknowledge what I’m now calling The 48 Hour Meltdown. It’s that overwhelmed feeling that drowns you approximately 48 hours after bringing a new animal into the family. It leaves you hugging your knees in a corner and wondering what the hell you were thinking when you decided getting a second dog would be a good idea. Dark voices in your mind berate you and make you feel like you’re incompetent and a terrible dog owner.
I asked myself a lot of questions during the 48 Hour Meltdown.
- Why did I have to go ruin a perfectly good thing?
- What if the dogs never get along?
- Is this actually going to improve Severus’s quality of life?
- This separation anxiety is just temporary, right?
- Am I talented enough as a dog trainer to handle two dogs at once?
- Is she happy here?
- Why didn’t we stock up on alcohol?
Fortunately, I have awesome mentors and peers, in-person and online, who sympathized with my doubts and reassured me that all these concerns were normal and generally resolve themselves with time. I cried. More than once. Ok, more than twice. But then I got a grip and settled in with a big cup of hot tea and tried to focus on all the benefits of adopting Whizbee.
- She needed a home and now she has one.
- Separation anxiety can improve with training.
- Severus will love her eventually. It’s only been 48 hours.
- This experience will teach you so much and your dog training will improve.
- You will be more equipped to empathize with clients who have recently rescued a dog or are struggling with multi-dog household logistics.
- She is so well-behaved for a dog with practically no training.
- She has so much love to give.
We renamed our special girl Fizzing Whizbee after a lot of debate. I thought it was a fun name that reflected her youthful energy outdoors. For those who aren’t as well-versed in the Harry Potter universe, Fizzing Whizbees are a magical candy. They are large sherbet balls that cause a person who sucks on them to float a few inches off the ground. My husband wasn’t sold on the name at first, but the name has stuck and I feel it truly does represent our sweet girl.
Nine days into Whizbee’s life with us, it was pretty clear that the separation anxiety was not going to get better with just more time. At least not without thoughtful intervention. Severe separation anxiety is a deal-breaker for me. I said it before we adopted her, and it still stands true. The possibility of needing to rehome her (more specifically, return her to the rescue) was really stressful, but we were already in love with her so we took a proactive approach to treatment. We purchased an indoor security camera so we could monitor her behavior when we were not with her. Next, we visited the vet to get a prescription for Prozac. Then, we arranged for Whizbee to attend daycare with a colleague and friend of mine who works at a pet salon. Lastly, we started working on Malena DeMartini-Price’s separation anxiety treatment protocol. Whizbee’s separation anxiety treatment is still in progress so look forward to more updates!
As for this blog, you can expect ramblings of a crazy dog lady, training videos, celebrations of success, funny stories of fails, DIYs, product reviews, and pretty much anything else I feel like writing about. I’m not a great writer, and I don’t plan to take this little corner of cyber space too seriously. My main goal is to have fun and spend some time reflecting on the amazing journey of dog companionship. Follow along if you want to see more of my beloved dogs!
Also, please let me know if you experienced the 48 Hour Meltdown when you added pups (or any animal, for that matter) to your household!