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The First Week with Our Shelter Dog

The First Week with Our Shelter Dog

Allison February 4, 2018

The Dog Loves of My Life

As a child, all I wanted was a dog. Every Christmas, birthday, Easter, Hannukah, a dog would be #1 on my wish list. My parents were hesitant to get me one. They knew the responsibility of taking care of another living thing would fall mostly on them. When I was 13, I had finally worn them down enough. My dad took me to the shelter and we adopted the sweetest puppy in the world. Her name was Bingo. She was the best dog I could have ever asked for.


As I grew up and moved away for college, Bingo stayed with my parents. By the time I was 22, I was ready for another dog of my own. And so, a sweet Beagle puppy named Bodhi joined our family. For many years, Bodhi was my companion through life. There is nothing like having a dog to come home to after a long day of work instead of an empty apartment.

Bodhi was with me when I met my now husband, Colin. My new partner fell in love with that crazy Beagle just as I had. Shortly after Colin and I got engaged, Bodhi got sick. It took about a month for him to deteriorate¬†beyond medical help. We ended up putting him down at just 7 years old. This was one of the hardest moments of my life, and I wasn’t sure I would be able to ever have another dog.

Meeting Roxie

Three years later, I have a 16-month-old toddler, a house with a backyard, and a lifestyle that allows me to stay home and care for my daughter. Last weekend I was in a bit of a funk. I felt like something was missing from my life. While out shopping with Colin and Adeline I was hit with a sudden feeling that now was the right time to get a dog. I told Colin how I was feeling, and he said he was on the same page! The change of feeling was profound. I just knew this was the right time to add that furry companion to our family. When we got home from shopping, Colin and I both started researching the best shelter to adopt from.

That night I went into full nesting mode. I started clearing out my daughter’s massive toy stash from the living room. I rearranged the furniture so that we could make space for a dog bed. Colin went digging in the garage and pulled out all of Bodhi’s old accessories. I even called my parents to let them know of our plan and to see if they wanted to come along with us. They have been feeling the dog void for as long as we have. My dad even went through his garage to bring us everything we could need for our new pup.

Tony La Russa’s Animal Rescue Foundation

After researching several shelters and rescues, we decided to visit the Tony La Russa’s Animal Rescue Foundation (ARF) in Walnut Creek, CA. The shelter opens at noon on Sundays so we made sure to be there right when it opened. We had already been looking at the available dogs online. There was one named Kelly that we really wanted to see. A line was already formed when we arrived, and the shelter wasn’t even open yet. I got nervous that we wouldn’t have a chance to meet the sweet pup we had been excited to see.

As soon as we got inside, we ran to the little condo where Kelly was staying. We watched her play with another dog in her room. She seemed so happy and playful, but also very skinny from months of malnutrition. An ARF volunteer arranged for us to meet Kelly. We played with her in their outside lawn area. Right away we seemed to click. She was gentle with Addie, but still playful with us. She let us walk around with her on a leash, and even played fetch! After spending about an hour with her, Colin and I knew that it was kismet, this dog would be part of our family.

While we filled out the paperwork, my mom came up with the name Roxie. It seemed like the perfect fit. She had been given the name Kelly at the shelter, but didn’t have any connection to it, so changing her name would be easy. We finalized the adoption and even gave a small extra donation because we loved the ARF facility so much. Then we loaded Roxie into the car and headed home with our new family member.

Getting into a Routine

I am a stay at home mom, which has made it much easier to help Roxie adjust to her new life outside of the shelter. I decided not to do too many outings with Addie this first week and just make sure we were home with Roxie as much as possible. However, being home all day for a toddler means big-time cabin fever! There are only so many times she can play with the same toys before she starts to lose her mind. Luckily, this week has given us beautiful weather (70’s and sunny in February!), so we have been spending a ton of time outdoors.

Walking a Dog and a Toddler

Roxie is only a little over a year old so she has tons of energy, especially first thing in the morning. We live in a great walking neighborhood with lots of sidewalks, parks, and crosswalks, so I decided that we would take full advantage of it. Addie is pretty good about riding in the Tula soft-structured carrier on my back. I have been getting better at getting her onto my back without help too (I’ll post an instructional video on that soon!). So now, twice a day I throw Addie on my back, put the leash on Roxie and head out for a two-mile walk around the neighborhood.

When Bodhi was about 3 years old, we had a run-in with a not very nice pit bull who ended up biting Bodhi in the face. It was a traumatic experience for me, and ever since, I have been wary of dogs who run up to greet my dog. I was nervous about walking Roxie by myself, especially because I have Addie on my back.

I do my best to avoid other dogs, I don’t walk past the dog park, and I jump to the other side of the street if I see another dog coming our way. Despite doing my best to avoid other dogs, we have run into a few, and the great thing is that Roxie does awesome with them. She is friendly and just seems like she wants to play. As I get to know her better and trust her more, I think some doggie playdates will be in our future.

Managing Play With a Dog and a Toddler

Despite being the sweetest pup I have met in awhile, Roxie is still pretty much a stranger in our home. She is a very powerful pit bull mix with strong jaws, so it is vital that I never leave Roxie and Addie alone together. I can’t trust that Roxie won’t nip at Addie, and I can’t trust Addie to be gentle with Roxie. Not that I would ever leave a toddler alone anyway. Addie has only briefly been around dogs before we adopted Roxie. So while she absolutely adores Roxie, she has no idea the correct ways to play with her.

Any toddler is a sponge for information and is observing every little thing you do to mimic later. This goes for what the dog does too. Since getting Roxie, I have noticed Addie putting toys in her mouth, she also steals Roxie’s bed and lays on it quite a bit. It is important that I set up clear boundaries for both Roxie and Addie right away. They need to know what is expected of them to ensure both of their safety.

Safe Play Ground Rules

Here are some ground rules that I have come up with so far.

  1. Dogs are not allowed on the furniture. Humans are allowed.
  2. Dog toys are for dogs only. Human toys are for humans only.
  3. Dog food is for dogs only. Human food is for humans only.
  4. We keep our face and hands away from the dog’s mouth.
  5. Humans give gentle pets, we don’t pull or hit the dog.
  6. We don’t touch or hold the dog’s tail.

I am sure I will come up with more as I learn more about Roxie and encounter new issues. It is important that I reinforce these ground rules with visitors as well. I don’t want Roxie’s behavior to get worse when other people are around, in fact, this is when she should be on her best behavior.

Looking to the Future

As I get back into the groove of having a dog again, I start to get excited about all the adventures we will have together. I can’t wait to take Roxie camping, go hiking all over, and maybe even see if she will swim. Also, my daughter gets to grow up with a dog, which makes me so excited. I know she will fall deeply in love with this pup, and it will make her a dog person for life.

If you’re a dog person, or you are thinking about becoming a dog person, I encourage you to adopt a dog from a shelter. These shelter dogs need our love more than anyone, and trust me they will give it back tenfold if you invest your love in them. Please use the buttons on the left to share this post. Leave a comment about an important pooch in your life, I’d love to hear all about them!