The Dennis Chronicles

We have a new family member!  Bettina and I adopted Dennis (Hallo Prospect) from Fast Friends on March 9th.  Normally I would have posted such good news right away.  But this adoption was not like any of the other three I had already experienced.  I thought I would share our story so that any new (or experienced) adopters out there take heart if they find themselves in my situation.

I first met Dennis via a photograph on Facebook.  I had just started following the page for Fast
Dennis with bunny ears
Friends that very day.  Shortly thereafter Dennis’ photo popped up in my feed.  He was a stunning hound.  Just breathtaking.  He’s a super dark brindle and his face almost appears black.  The photo looked like they had photo shopped a black hounds head onto a brindle body.  It stopped me and I took a moment to read the blurb that was posted with the photo.  It said he was a “big” boy with a big heart who loved to play (especially with balls). 

I looked at him a moment longer and moved on.  But then I came back.  I posted a comment asking how big was big and how old was he?  I got a quick response and an invitation to call.  I found myself picking up the phone and calling.  From there Bettina and I drove to Fast Friends to meet Dennis.  I took a deep breath and said I would like to proceed forward with a home visit.

It took a few weeks before they could bring Dennis to Maine.  I waivered back and forth during that time as to whether or not now was the right time for me.  We were only 2 months out from Blue’s unexpected departure.  But as we got closer to the date of the visit, I found myself getting more and more excited and thinking of him as mine.  I decided that was a good sign.  The wonderful ladies from Fast Friends arrived on the appointed day with Dennis in tow.  They found us and our habitation suitable and soon I was waving goodbye to them with Dennis’ leash in my hands.

Dennis greyhound
Here is where things began to get tough for me.  Let me start by saying Dennis was the easiest of my greyhounds with respect to just coming out of a kennel and into a home.  He picked things up very quickly.  He wasn’t perfect of course.  None of them are.  But he did amazingly well.  That was likely our saving grace.  I found myself having a completely unexpected emotional reaction to Dennis’ arrival at our house.  I found myself comparing him to the perfect Blue I had just lost and finding him lacking because he didn’t come knowing all the stuff Blue knew.  I felt numb inside and couldn’t muster up one ounce of loving feeling towards this hound.

Let me say right here that I adopted Bettina 1 month after I had lost Girly Girl.  GG was my heart dog.  And I did not go through any of this with Bettina’s arrival.  I never once compared her to Girly Girl.  And I knew intellectually that it wasn’t something that you can do with any hound.  None of them will be the same and none is “better” than another, just different.  I expected the same situation with Dennis.  But my heart wasn’t cooperating with me and my brain couldn’t make it do so.

He arrived on a Wednesday and by the third day I found myself sitting on the couch and completely breaking down.  I was convinced that this had been a huge mistake and that it had been way too soon to bring another hound in.  I felt like I wasn’t ever going to connect with Dennis.  I am sad and somewhat ashamed to say that I was probably a few hours away from calling the rescue and asking to bring him back.  Instead I spoke with my mother.  She let me sob for awhile and then said, “You know, if you’re going to bring him back, you need to do it now before he forms a bond with you.”
Dennis naps on the couch

When she said that, I felt my chest tighten up and I realized that somewhere down under all the emotional crap I did indeed feel something for this dog.  But my unexpected emotional reaction was blocking me from realizing it.  I decided then and there that I was going to work my way through it.  I knew that Dennis was not the issue.  So I made a rule for myself.  Absolutely no judgments about Dennis, how he was doing, fitting in or learning until a minimum of 2 weeks out from his Gotcha Day.

I also sat down at my computer the next morning and wrote out a few other rules for myself.  Whenever I found myself panicking that I’d made the wrong decision adopting so soon, or felt like he was never going to be as smart, good, loving or funny as Blue, I would read the rules.  I posted them in my kitchen where I could see them all the time.  What are the rules?  Here is what I set down for myself:

1.  Make no judgments until 2 weeks in.

2.  Do not put pressure on yourself or on the dog to make some sort of instant love connection.  Relationships take time to build.

3.  Your job initially is to keep the dog safe, healthy and teach them how to live a retired life.

4.  Keep telling yourself-they know essentially nothing about life in a home.  Don’t expect it of them.

5.  Trust also takes time to build.  Do not expect it right away.

6.  Pare your animal husbandry down to a minimum.  Feed basic food, wait to bathe or clip nails or brush teeth until you have built some trust.

7.  If the dog does not like yogurt, or olive oil, or omega oils this is not the end of the world.

8.  You cannot compare this dog to any dog past or present.  None of the past or present dogs were perfect initially, even if they seem that way now in comparison.

I made sure they were in nice large type and also saved them to my computer desktop so I could look at them throughout the day.  Now, any of you with prior greyhound experience will be saying, these are no brainers.  We all know that.  And I agree.  I knew them also.  However, it is apparently possible to get so overwhelmed by your emotions that you lose sight of what is or should be common sense.

Dennis and Bettina greyhound at Grammy's
I’m happy to say that at some point between the 1 and 2 week mark, I got control of my bizarre emotions relating to this adoption (and the emotions were totally about me and adopting, nothing to do with Dennis himself).  I started looking at Dennis the same way I looked at all my new greyhounds prior to him. This is to say, I was able to do away with the rules because I already knew them and now my heart was on board to.  We have connected and trust is starting to build.  I’m using the same methods to teach Dennis about his new environment that I used with the others and it’s working out so well.  He’s super smart.  I love this dog.  He’s darn near perfect now and I can’t wait to see him in 6 months, a year, and 5 years down the road. 

I knew I loved him when I finally sat down and ordered a tag collar for him.  That involved committing money to the project (being a Yankee, I hate to waste money) and more importantly the fact that his name and my contact information were going to be engraved permanently on a piece of metal that he will wear.  His tag collar has been shipped and hopefully it will arrive next week some
Dennis gives Grammy a hairy eyeball

Making use of your network of greyhound friends and family can really help to.  Many times when I was emotionally overwhelmed I had a chat with someone I knew and trusted.  They were usually able to help talk me off the ledge.  Fast Friends has also been totally supportive and they have kept in contact with me.  It’s possible someone from Fast Friends may read this post and learn just how hard a time I had initially. Up to now I hadn’t shared any of my emotional struggles with them.  If they do read this I want them to know that Dennis was always well cared for and never put in any kind of danger, nor was he treated with anything but kindness.  Now that my heart has caught up with my brain, he’s very much loved.  I hope they don’t cross me off their list of potential adopters in the future! 

I also hope that sharing my story may help someone else dealing with a similar situation realize that sometimes there are bumps when you adopt.  Even someone who has experience with greyhounds can be taken totally by surprise by these feelings.  Sometimes the best and only thing you can accomplish on some days is just to breathe.  And that is OK.