She’s a man’s dog.
Not that she didn’t bond with me. She did. And not that her reaction to men in our shelter was vastly different than to women as she didn’t demonstrate any preference in the short time she was there. Yet within a day or two of arrival at my home, that would be the beginning of several months of cohabitation, Izzy again and again told me that she was a man’s dog at heart.
Izzy came to our shelter after her elderly owners, who purchased her from a local Doberman breeder five years earlier, passed away. While she’d lived with relatives that included children for some time, for whatever reason it was not a good long term solution so she came to us. Intensely nervous and standoffish, she did not handle the shelter environment well and so my Dobie loving friend and foster, Kara would offer to foster her until I had space in my home.
Not surprisingly, Izzy responded well to Kara and also with her dogs too….at least initially. Yet within a day or two, as she settled into a routine and took ownership of her space, Izzy unexpectedly showed some pretty forceful possessiveness in and around her kennel. Out of the blue she would erupt with teeth bared and assertive barking at the other dogs who dared approach her kennel even though minutes earlier they had been friends and playmates. And while less threatening with people, she was guarded with strangers approaching “her space” too.
And I would see the same behavior at my house when she began to try and establish herself as queen. Since I was unwilling to abdicate my throne, I established some new rules for Miss Izzy, one of which included wearing a soft, rubber (super light) basket muzzle when loose in the yard with cats present or in the house with my dogs. This protected the cats from her pushiness and allowed for a safe environment in situations where Izzy might try to exert herself. It also helped to reduce my stress which helped the entire pack relax.
Over the weeks Izzy learned that she in fact did not own the world and evolved into an amicable pack member. Well she still tended to chase the cats she could spook outside and was absolutely squirrel crazy. She would still occasionally become possessive of some things and gather up her toys and dash to her bed with them but the ugliness had vanished. But being the safety girl I tend to be, I felt that a home without cats and small children in particular would be best. And one without other dogs…especially small ones would be preferable. Although I was confident with a strong assertive leader, Izzy could assimilate into any home. Thus again, I thought she needed a strong man in her life. (My apologies to the strong pack-leading women out there but my instincts still told me that Izzy was meant for a man.)
Izzy stayed with me for several months as I continued to look for that perfect home for her. She was showing great progress and while still a bit timid with strangers our weekly visits to the local pet store for public and retail therapy were paying off with steady improvement. Now you might get a different story from the poor guy who wandered down my lane to discuss alternative sources of natural gas one afternoon who was caught off guard by the galloping gray ghost of a Dobie wearing a muzzle and running full bore in his direction. The look on his face was priceless. And when she’d soon turn around, back up into him and look over her shoulder in her “don’t you know you’re supposed to scratch my butt” look, I about peed my pants.
After a few casual inquiries that went nowhere, one evening I received a Facebook message from a gentleman asking me to tell him about Izzy. My rambling response with her life story was met with an equally lengthy rambling response from the prospective adopter, Joe McMurray, with more questions and a sharing of some of his own dog history. Especially protective of my fosters, I wasn’t going to be an easy sell but there was something in his response that made me like him immediately. Was this Izzy’s man?
The fact that he asked more questions…thoughtful probing questions… impressed me. I want people to ask questions. I want them to get nosy. I want them to want to know everything they can before making any decision. Not only was Joe asking really great questions, he shared much about himself that helped me to decipher whether or not he might be Izzy’s man. While hesitant to let myself get too excited, something felt really good about the possibilities. When I saw that we shared a friend in common, I reached out to her (a well-respected animal advocate) and her glowing endorsement of him made me giddy.
After a few back and forths and an approved application through the Humane Society, Joe and I made a date for he and Izzy to meet. We’d meet on neutral territory at the Shelter.
I may have over-warned him about Izzy being shy with strangers but didn’t want him to be put off by her aloofness. Some people are disappointed when the dog that has lived with me for months doesn’t leap into their arms like a long lost friend and continues to focus all their attention on me. And while Izzy did not make any such leap upon their initial introduction she did surprise me a little when she walked right up to Joe, gave him a good healthy sniff and then looked him square in the eye as if to say “So, where the hell have YOU been?”
The activity around the shelter that evening was a little distracting to this highly alert dog and she failed to focus 100% on Joe, but she was up for a game of tug and some galloping around the play yard. Worried that she hadn’t shared enough of what made me adore her, I was a bit concerned when Joe headed home to stew on the idea of adding a dog into his life (and his golf game) again. And while my own angst could have been diminished by a quick “I want her” I so appreciated his thoughtfulness and need for careful consideration before making such a decision.
Undeniably I was on pins and needles for a few days awaiting his decision…as I’d come to the conclusion (even if he hadn’t yet) that Joe was just what Izzy needed but didn’t want to get my hopes up. So I was over the moon when he contacted me a few days later to say that he wanted to bring Izzy home.
Of course I roller-coastered from thrilled to sad in about two seconds flat as in finding her home also meant saying good-bye to this dog who I had come to love and appreciate so much. Not only her heart and loyalty but for her independence, agility, intelligence and of course for the funny way she would wiggle her way into a position where you would have no other choice but to rub her butt! I warned Joe, his lap would never be his own again and butt scratching was a requirement.
Over the next few days as Joe prepared himself and his home for Izzy’s arrival, he continued to ask questions to ensure that the transition from my home to his would go as smoothly as possible for Izzy. What did she eat? Where did she sleep? Where did she stay while I was at work? Did I mention I adore this man? While often people are so anxious to bring their new pet home they rush into it ill- prepared and don’t maximize the probability of that smooth transition. And while Izzy was an easy-keeper, if you haven’t lived with a dog for a while it can take a little forethought and preparation no matter how well behaved they are.
Of course as I often do, I overthought and overplanned the handoff as we arranged to meet at a Park and Ride that was convenient to us both. My mental planning involved me loading her into Joe’s SUV to avoid her getting anxious or resistant to getting into a car with a stranger. Silly, silly over-analyzing me. Izzy hopped out of my car, walked straight to Joe and as he grabbed the leash and opened his driver door, she leapt in the front passenger seat like she’d done it every day of her life. Without a glance back in my direction either. I might have been sad or disappointed that she seemed so willing to begin her new life without a backward glance, except as I watched her licking Joe’s face as he attempted to start his car, I swear I heard Izzy say “Well, it’s about time. Now take me home.”
It wouldn’t be long before updates arrived from Joe and pictures too! So much for that brand new dog bed…she sleeps in his bed, under the blankets, which she pulls up over herself. She’d have nothing to do with the dog door initially, preferring that her “man” open and close the door for her. (I like her style, that girl!) She’s adjusted to that. While Joe had created a “safe place” in the house for her during the day, after the first 24 hours he concluded leaving her alone was very viable and she proved him right. Not a thing out of place. And oh was she happy to see him when he came home after work the first day he left her. And apparently every day since. As per Joe “It’s been a long time since I was missed so much when I’m away. It’s kinda nice.”
Who knows for sure whether or not Izzy was meant to be a man’s dog. I know this…she was meant to be THIS man’s dog and I assure you she’s stolen THIS man’s heart.
Along with the covers on the bed!