Once in awhile, a dog comes into your life and changes everything.
I’ve always been an animal lover, and I’d have to say my parents are animal lovers too, based on the number of animals we shared our home with while I was growing up. Dogs, cats, birds, rabbits, a chinchilla, a mouse, a hermit crab, and fish, and sometimes many at the same time! This is just a small sampling of the big personalities of some of our pets.
The first dog we had was Zack, a huge black Lab mix, and he didn't have a great life before we got him. He was troubled. He bit my mom, and my dad’s friends from time to time, and chewed on things like car bumpers, but I was very young and all I remember about him are good things. I remember, at probably three-years-old, I used to start at the entryway to the living room and run like hell to a chair across the room. Zack would chase after me the whole way, and I’d climb all the way to the top of the chair screaming, and he’d run and put his front paws on the seat of the chair, and then stop. But I wasn’t scared; it was just a game, and one that I enjoyed playing with my first dog. Unfortunately, due to the biting issue that my family was not equipped to deal with at the time, Zack was rehomed.
Soon after Zack, when I was four or five, my parents got Scruffy from a pet store. Scruffy was a good boy. He was pretty protective of me at times, and would refuse to go back inside if I was out on my swing set. Other times, he liked to wander around the neighborhood and visit the Lab up the street. He was not a quiet dog; I used to joke that if a leaf fell in the woods, Scruffy would bark at it. He also had some resource guarding tendencies. But overall, a pretty good dog to have around.
When I was ten-years-old, I began to really want a black Lab, I think because of Zack. After some pleading and promising to take care of a puppy, my parents agreed. We got Luke from an AKC registered breeder in Vermont in October of 2000. I remember that Luke’s grandfather won agility competitions, and his dad, Nosler, could do cool tricks like bring the owner his slippers and a beer. Luke was my dog, but of course I was only ten, so all of the responsibility fell mostly on my parents, though I did have to clean up his accidents in the house – puddles from one end of the house to the other. His name was almost Puddles.
Luke was a great dog, an awesome dog, and if I had more motivation I’d probably write a whole book on him. Don’t get me wrong, he had his moments - destroying items or trash in my room, eating my dad’s shoes, stealing pool towels and sandals and running off with them, separation anxiety, eating leashes, eating oil paints, pooping out collars, running through the neighbors’ houses, and rolling in nasty things. However, the good outweighed the bad by a mile.
He let me annoy him in all kinds of ways, dressing him up in countless costumes and never minding (or at least, he tolerated it). He was fairly quiet, unless he saw an out-of-place flowerpot, or himself in the mirror, or an odd-shaped snow bank, and then his loud bark would scare the pants off you. He slept on my bed with me most of his life, and he’s the reason I upgraded to a queen-size bed. Eventually, when he was much older, he earned his Canine Good Citizen title.
Luke was one of the best dogs there was.
When Luke was young, we got Tulah from a pet store. We later realized the problem with pet stores - she was from a puppy mill, and had been taken away from her mother way too young. But she was the cutest puppy and we all folded the first time we saw her. However, due to her puppy mill background, she had a lot of behavioral and medical problems.
Tulah was sort of the “problem child,” in some ways. She was dog-aggressive, leash-reactive, pretty dominant, loud and obnoxious around people, and she peed all over the floor when excited. I used to call her the “fun police.” In part, we were to blame for her behavior problems because she was not properly socialized as a puppy. But all that aside, she was very well behaved in the house with the people, cats, and dogs that she got to know. She could be a total nut, but that was just Tulah.
And now Jezzie’s story starts here…
In February of 2008, I went to a dog body language training seminar at a humane society. While there, I met a hound who was up for adoption. As I often do, I immediately fell in love, and I wanted to adopt her right then and there. At that point, my dad was not convinced about bringing a fourth dog into the house. But I continued talking about her. That was the start to my mission of adopting a dog, and I wanted the hound. From then on, I guess I wanted the hound. Everyone told me, “hounds are difficult.” They had no idea what that would end up meaning.
After the seminar, my mom and I got hooked on Petfinder.com, thanks to one of our favorite vet techs. It really opened our eyes to how many animals needed homes, and we were always on there looking at the thousands of adoptable dogs, even though my dad still said no. Still thinking about the hound at the shelter, I even baked my dad a cake and wrote her name in icing all over the top of the cake. Eventually, I won him over. My mom called the Humane Society, but it turned out the dog did not get along with cats, and for some crazy reason, we had five of them. But the quest for a new dog continued, with one new stipulation from my dad - I had to get a small dog.
After continuous searching and sending multiple applications with no response, I found a litter of puppies with a rescue based out of Hillsboro, New Hampshire. The mother of the puppies was a yellow Lab/Great Pyrenees mix, and the father was a Bluetick Coonhound. The puppies were Blue, Ringo, Fuzzy, Nash, China, Crosby, Porter, and Janis.
The puppies were actually in Alabama, but the rescue group transported dogs up from the South every two weeks. It was hard to decide which one I wanted because they were all so cute. In fact, at first, Janis wasn’t even at the top of my list. I originally wanted Porter, but somebody else had already picked him. So I ended up deciding on Janis. At some point before transport, the rescue called us to tell us Porter was available again if I would rather have him, but for whatever reason, I said I’d just stick with Janis. It didn’t seem fair to her to just toss her aside and pick Porter instead. Meanwhile, all the other puppies were adopted, except for Porter. I corresponded with the foster mom almost every day; she wrote to me about Janis, and sent pictures of her and Porter together. They had huge paws.
Oh, and what ever happened to that small dog stipulation? Who knows.
April 26, 2008 finally came - the day we got to pick up Janis. We had to drive to Brattleboro, Vermont to meet the truck full of dogs and the pick-up time kept moving later and later. We parked in a lot with a bunch of other excited people. We exchanged paperwork with the rescue, and then we waited. And waited. And waited some more. Finally, at 10:00 pm, the truck pulled in. Everyone jumped out of their cars and grouped together around the truck. Then, one by one, the guys who went on the trip would come to the end of the cargo area of the truck and shout the dog’s name. The family adopting the dog would run up to take their new family member, bursting with happiness.
Most of the dogs had already been brought out, and we were still waiting, when all of a sudden, we heard “Porter!” My mom and I gasped as someone ran up to grab him - we had no idea he was being adopted up North and would be on the same transport as Janis. And then, right after Porter, came “Janis!” I went up and grabbed her and held her in my arms; she was super awkward to hold because of her long gangly legs folding up. After meeting Janis, we went over to Porter’s new family. We chatted for a few minutes, their mom and my mom exchanged e-mails, and their mom took my picture holding Janis with her daughter holding Porter. And then the two were separated after their young lives together.
The drive home was quiet. Janis curled up in the crate we brought and didn’t make a sound. When we got home, we brought her into the downstairs bathroom, which over the years had somehow become the place where new pets landed before meeting the rest of the clan. I wanted to get her out of the crate and get to bed, since I had to work at 7:00 am the next morning (who’s idea was that?), but Janis wasn’t budging. My mom tended to the other three dogs, while my dad and I sat in the bathroom trying to coax Janis out. She was pretty nervous. By the time she finally came out of the crate, it was close to 1:00 am, so we went to bed.
The next morning wasn’t easy either. She again refused to leave her crate. I thought maybe I could just go get ready for work in the bathroom and she’d be okay in my room by herself. But she didn’t think so. The minute I was in the bathroom, she starting whining. I had to go back in my room and move the whole crate into the bathroom with me - something that would soon be a routine.
In the years since then, there is now so much more knowledge circulating about the best things to do after you adopt a dog – you’re encouraged to stay at home and relax and bond with your new dog while he or she gets acclimated to their new home. It can take weeks or even months for a new dog to feel comfortable.
I must have missed that memo somewhere in my reading back then, because I packed her right up and brought her to work with me (a dog daycare and boarding facility) just hours after her long trip North. I decided to bring Luke along too, to keep her company, and so he wouldn’t feel left out.
It was tricky trying to walk to the door holding my purse, a dog bag, Luke on a leash, and Janis in her crate. Once we finally got inside the building, I tried to push the proper keys to shut off the alarm, but didn’t get it in quickly enough, the alarm went off, and a loud beeping sound rang through the building. I dropped the crate and the leash and ran to the front desk and waited for the alarm company’s call. That’s when I first heard Janis’ hound bark, as she bellowed from her crate. It was kind of chaotic, but eventually, we made it downstairs and settled into a room. I think this was the first time I decided for sure what her name would be, as I wrote “Jezzie” on the chalkboard outside their room. I still really have no idea how that name came about, but one day it just popped into my head - Jezebelle, Jezzie for short.
After six hours of work and meeting a couple coworkers, we packed up and went home. That afternoon, my extended family, boyfriend, and a few friends came over for dinner. We ate on the deck, Jezzie met everyone, and then my friends and I proceeded to go to the basement and play music and laugh loudly. Jezzie laid on the floor at my feet, probably wondering what kind of crazy mess she’d been thrown into.
So definitely not the quietest first day in her new home, but she turned out all right.