My Adopted Mutt

Anyone who knows me knows that I talk a great deal about my dog, Lola. Rest assured that I am not one of those people who feels the need to dress up their dog in silly outfits, (she’d never stand for it), or push her around in one of those doggie strollers, (she definitely wouldn’t stand for that), however taking care of Lola is still a significant part of my day.

Also, telling Lola’s story gives me a chance to talk about something I feel pretty strongly about—pet adoption.

Lola’s beginning

Lola was born in Hazelton, BC, likely in January of 2010. I’ve never been to Hazelton myself, but I know it’s a very small town in the northern part of the province. Life for dogs up there can be pretty tough and the lack of access to veterinary services means that dogs frequently aren’t spayed or neutered, giving rise to many strays. According to the rescue that I got Lola from, the way they deal with these strays is to tell residents to take their own dogs indoors and any others left outside are shot. Even after the rescue told me this, it never truly sank in until after the story broke about the Whistler sled dog cull. I didn’t get a good night’s sleep for days because I kept closing my eyes and seeing sweet, little Lola in the place of all those sled dogs.

In any case, in around late August or early September of 2010, Lola was left on the doorstep of a rescue organization in Hazelton. She didn’t have the name “Lola” yet or any history, all the rescue knew was that she was a very young dog in early pregnancy who needed a new home.

She was flown from Hazelton to Vancouver and taken in by volunteers at Carried Through Animal Rescue who were the ones who gave her the name Lola. As she was barely more than a puppy herself, Lola underwent a spay-abort operation before being put up for adoption.

Lola’s adoption

Lola's Petfinder listing

If you’ve never heard of Petfinder, let me just say this—Petfinder is fabulous. It is a website where SPCAs and private rescue organizations from all across North America list dogs that are available for adoption. Then all you have to do is punch in your postal code and any preferences you might have in terms of age, size and so on, then run your search. Most of the dogs listed are mixed breeds, but if you decide that you want a particular breed of dog there are many breed-specific rescue organizations willing to work with families many, many miles away in order to help them get exactly what they are looking for.

I’d been browsing Petfinder for some time at that point, but didn’t get really serious about applying for dogs until that month. Those unfamiliar with the pet adoption might find the process a bit daunting. Many rescues require that you fill out multi-page application forms and consent to a home visit before even letting you meet the animal you are looking to adopt. It is a lot of hoops to jump through, but they are doing what they feel they have to in order to ensure that this dog, who has already lost their home once, isn’t going to have to go through that again.

Lola claims her spot on the couch during her first visit to my apartment

Lola isn’t the sort of dog that I had planned on adopting when I first set out. I had thought I wanted a mellow, medium-sized dog who would lumber around the apartment and crash on the couch to watch TV. I hadn’t looked at small dogs because most of the small dogs I knew were afraid of my wheelchair. Still, there was something about that Petfinder ad that made me stop and submit my application. As it turned out, I was the first of eight applicants who would apply for Lola and it was sheer luck—or maybe fate—that made the rescue decide to look no further than my application.

From the moment I first met Lola, I knew she was the right choice for me. She came charging through my apartment door, tail wagging furiously and completely undaunted by the chair. She was this fearless little firecracker who simply made herself at home.

Lola comes home

On September 25th, Lola officially became my dog. We’ve learned a great deal about each other since then, but overall she’s settled in quite well. For one thing, thanks to DNAMyDog, I found out that Lola isn’t a Chihuahua/Pomeranian mix as the rescue thought she might be. She is in fact a Pomeranian/Jack Russell Terrier mix, which was both a surprise to me and explained a lot of her quirks as well.

What impresses most people about Lola, particularly after they find out she’s a rescue dog, is her friendly, outgoing disposition. She quickly became a favourite with my neighbours in my apartment building, all of whom she now recognizes and greets with an excited tail wag. I expect one of the reasons she’s endeared herself with them is that she’s very quiet for a small dog and very rarely barks at people in the hall outside my door. Out on the street, she’s happy to greet anyone who simply makes eye-contact with her. I would say the only residual of her “rescued” status is that she’s a bit more timid with men as opposed to women, although she warms up quickly with just about anyone. In fact, one of her favourite people is my father and, whenever he’s over, she’s not content until she’s had a chance to plant herself on his lap.

While she’s a great little ambassador for rescue dogs, I always remind people who admire her that raising a well-balanced dog is a lot of work—even when they have a lot going for them personality-wise as Lola does. It surprises people to find out that a little dog like Lola gets about two hours worth of walks every day. As a Jack Russell mix though she has a lot of stamina and energy to burn and that means that a five minute bathroom break outside the building would just never cut it. She also goes on an excursion once a week while I’m at work—either to doggie daycare or on 7km off-leash hikes in the woods with a small group of other dogs. It’s an expense for sure, but well worth it when we meet other dogs on our walks and I see how comfortable she is with them, even with dogs ten times her weight.

If anything, my biggest challenge with Lola is keeping that keen mind of hers occupied. I’ve found it helpful to think of her as a border collie in a 10lb body as she has a similar desire to learn and be active. We’ve done two rounds of obedience training—a beginner class to pick up all the basics and then clicker training for shaping more advanced behaviours. Her more advanced tricks include things like bow, spin in a circle, crawl on her belly, rollover, stand on her hind legs and go to a mark on the floor.

But without all those walks and extra activity, bored Lola will quickly become whiny Lola. Ever tried writing web code with a sound like nails on a chalkboard going in the background? Yea, not so fun…

Still, it’s something we’re working through and the other times… the times when she makes a stranger on the street smile with her spastic wagging tail or the times when she curls up in a little ball against me while I watch TV… those are the times that make it all worth it.

Those are the times when I know that I not only rescued her, but she rescued me too.

If you are considering getting a pet of your own…

As you can probably tell, I am a huge advocate of pet adoption. My sister’s dog Gizmo came from a private rescue in Yakima, WA and the dog I had when I was a teenager came from the Coquitlam SPCA. I’m always happy to share my experiences so if you have any questions about dog adoption or Petfinder, please don’t hesitate to leave a comment below.

Also, if you just want to comment about Lola, I promise you she’s a big love suck and will just lap it all up.