I got the chance to go up to Peterborough and hang out with my good friend Katrina and our goofball of a dog, Poppy. We used to live together as a couple and we adopted Poppy from a Toronto Animal Services shelter. We went our separate ways almost two years ago, but we’ve remained good friends and one of the biggest reasons we’ve been able to do that is because of Poppy (who still loves her daddy very much. Haha).
We actually meant to adopt another dog when we visited that shelter. Online, we found a husky/GS mix named Millie who we were set on taking home. When we arrived, there four dogs ready for adoption: Millie, another GS pure bred puppy, a big, jolly (read: overweight) golden retriever, and this skinny-looking, extremely nervous dog that the shelter had named “Nellie” (as in Nervous Nellie).
We immediately took Millie out for a walk in the shelter’s mini-park, and she was very playful, definitely still in puppy-mode, but was ready to go to a new home and just play. We brought her back in and decided to take all the dogs outside, one at a time, to be fair to all of them. Next, we took the pure bred GS puppy out for a walk. He was very much like Millie, and even had some training as he would respond to sit commands (most of the time). An easily adoptable dog, to say the least. Next up was Nellie. Katrina’s immediate reaction was that this dog was clearly going to be too much work, and just looking at her gave me the same impression as well. But again, to be fair to them all, we took her out for a walk. Unlike the two other dogs, Nellie didn’t rush to the kennel door when we opened it. She sat in the corner, scared, and it took her a moment to slowly walk out of her kennel. When we got her out to the park, she simply sat wherever we stood. The other two dogs ran around and smelled everything, just happy to be outside. Nellie was different. As we walked around, she just followed at our side. She was very obedient and clearly had some training as she would sit at the sound of a finger snap. This wasn’t a dog that would get adopted easily just based on her looks, but her looks alone would probably have you ignore her compared to the bouncy dogs beside her. As we knelt down to pet her head, her eyes said it all: “what do I have to do to make you love me?” This was a broken dog, an abandoned dog, scared of being disobedient, trained but not with love. The other dogs would easily get anyone else’s attention and probably find a home just as easily. This one truly needed a home. This one needed that chance. There was still the golden retriever to take out, and we did so, and he was just like the other two, playful, energetic, bouncy, easily adoptable. But we knew who had stolen out hearts already.
We told the desk that we wanted to take the nervous one. They looked at us questioningly, wondering if we were sure or just crazy. But we told them that we were set on taking her home. I thought there would be a couple of weeks of clearance and checks to go through, but to our surprise, we got to take her home that day. But we didn’t want to keep the name. When we got home, we tried calling her by a few names, seeing if maybe we could guess we real name. Nothing worked, but something about “Poppy” seemed appropriate.
And from that point on, Poppy has only lived and trained with love. She was only about a year old when we got her (she’s 3 and a bit now) so we had to do training and re-training, but what we have is a dog transformed. What used to be a dog who thought I was going to beat her with a stick the first time we played fetch, is now one who runs around at full speed gathering sticks for fetch and her own games she makes up. What used to be a skinny, emaciated, and nervous wreck is a boisterous, goofy, strong and healthy companion. And while she may still have some hurdles to get over — I’m the only male she completely trusts, but she’s making progress — she is family, my big little girl. I may only get to see her once every few weeks, but I’m so glad to visit every time.
My advice: if you’re adopting a dog, look at a rescue. They can change your life and bring you so much love and reward. Remember, you’re adopting a new family member, not just a pet. Take care of them and you’ll have a grateful companion for as long as they live.