A Stranger No More . . .

Last time, I introduced you to our new dog, Willow, and I promised I would update you on her progress.  I am happy to announce that Willow is a stranger no more.  She has become an integral part of our family.  On second thought, maybe I should say she has accepted us as permanent members of her family.  

When we first acquired Willow from the Humane Society of York County, we were very reluctant to disturb our little girl’s world.  We kind of let her do her own thing, and stood back and observed.  Slowly but surely, we have begun to establish some ground rules.  For instance, our girl came outfitted in a blue harness.  At first, if we tried to adjust it, she would “air nip” and growl.  So, we left it alone.  But Becky and I both agreed that the harness was too tight, and made of a material that was too coarse to be really comfortable. So, we began offering her a treat as one of us would adjust the tension on the harness.  After about four days, we managed to remove the harness and replace it with one that we were more comfortable with.  We also put her name tag and license on a collar that we were able to place around her neck.  One of the things I like about that is that the metal license and name tag clink against one another when Willow walks, and serve as an audio alert as to where she is at all times.  Now, we remove the harness every night before bed, and, in the morning, she lays on her back and lets us put it back on.

Willow in her harness

Next up was diet.  Our dog came to us with half a bag of generic, dry dog food and a half dozen cans of wet as well.  The dry food was not particularly nutritious, but the wet food was top quality.  For the first week or so, we kept her on the feeding schedule we’d been given by her foster mother.  We fed her early in the morning, after her first walk of the day, and then again around two o’clock as we’d been instructed.  However, we noticed that Willow always hung around the dinner table begging for food when we ate our own dinner.  That had to change.  So, we gradually moved back the time when we gave her her second feeding.  Now, she gets fed around 5:30, just before we eat our own dinner. As to the food she eats, I did some research and found a top quality dry food called Taste of the Wild with Ancient Grains.  I ordered a large bag and, following a prescribed formula, gradually began switching over to the new kibble.  Willow loves it!  (I suspect that had we replaced the old food with Cheerios, she would have liked it just as much.  “Feed me” seems to be the overriding concern.)

“Mommy” and Willow

Lucky for us, Willow is crate-trained.  We keep a good-sized wire crate in our bedroom, and every night when we retire, I just tap the top of the crate and Willow climbs right in.  She has a nice soft doggie bed inside the crate, and she apparently feels very safe and secure within its confines.  In the morning, we open the door, and she shoots out  like she’s jet propelled and joins us on the bed for some loving.  After she has calmed down, I slip on her harness, attach her leash, and it’s off to the races.  Slowly but surely I have been training her to heel, and whenever we’re walking, and her pace gets too aggressive, I just randomly say “heel,” and she immediately stops walking and stands stock still, not moving a muscle until I say “okay,” at which point she begins walking again, only  more slowly.  She is a very smart dog!

Are you seeing a pattern here?

Like any responsible dog owners, we pick up after our dog when she does her business.  I purchased a box of 1,000 plastic bags online that came with a little plastic dog bone that contains a roll of 25.  It clips right onto the handle of the leash, and I have the pleasure of scooping Willow’s poop with one of the bags and disposing of it in a bin placed strategically in our neighborhood just for that purpose.  It sounds gross, but one gets used to the process very quickly.  I never thought I could do it, but it has become a total non-issue.

Becky and I could not be happier with our decision to rescue Willow, and, given the opportunity, we would make the same choice in a heartbeat.  We both are a bit more tired than we used to be before we got her, but the joy and love she has imparted in our lives is well worth the extra effort involved in walking her, playing with her, and caring for her.  We know our lives will never be the same, and one of the things we have accepted is that traveling is no longer an option, or at least not an easy one.  But she’s worth it.  Our life is better for having her in it.

One last thing: We have yet to have Willow’s nails trimmed.  Consequently, her nails resemble those of Peter Sellers’ in the movie The Fiendish Plot of Dr. Fu Manchu.  That has to change.  We tried taking her to a commercial veterinary establishment, but when she “air nipped” the personnel, they chickened out and said, “We weren’t able to clip her nails.”  Really?  Anyway, our girl is scheduled to meet with a private vet next week, and they have promised to trim Willow’s nails with the least amount of trauma possible.  The vet we have chosen permits the owner to be present, and we think that may well make the difference in accomplishing our goal.  We’ll see.

So, now you have the complete story of one Willow Mae Perrone, a rescued Jack Russell terrier who has changed the lives of two old folks in a way that they never imagined possible.  If you are thinking about rescuing a dog, take it from us: don’t hesitate.  Just do it.  It kind of reminds me of a line Robert Redford spoke in the movie Jeremiah Johnson.  After being a mountain man for many, many years, he was asked by a fellow mountain man (played by Will Geer) if being a mountain man were worth the trouble.  His reply: “What trouble?”  That pretty much sums it all up.

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