Thursday, October 20, 2022

Meet Domino!

It's been about a year and a half since our dog Chipper died. It's hard to lose a pet. It's also hard to want to replace it too soon, but we were finally ready, and I'd like to introduce our new little dog: Domino!

She's some sort of Chihuahua mix, about a year old. She loves everyone. She's unsure about other dogs.

The main thing I was hoping for in a new dog was one that could come with me to the violin shop. Chipper didn't like new people, and howled at violin playing, which made him not a good shop dog. So far Domino is doing really well. On nice days we walk to work, she wants about half an hour of time to play fetch when we get there, and she's pretty active before noon checking everything out and needing additional walks. But in the afternoon, she seems content to hang out in her dog bed at the end of my bench. She likes to sleep in the sun when she can. She greets new people and then lies back in her bed when they stop paying attention to her. After the first few days she decided she'd rather nap under my bench by the sandpaper closer to where I sit, which is very dear, so I moved her bed there.

Aden was feeling left out of the whole process, worried that the new family member would only think of her as a visitor since she's away at college. But that's sort of the new reality. Aden may be back for a few months at a time here and there, but as much as this will always be her home, it's not where she makes her life now. To help ease those feelings a bit, we took Domino up to campus for a night to give Aden a chance to get to know our new dog. Chipper was definitely her dog. Domino is definitely mine.

I've been wanting a new dog for a while now, but my husband understandably didn't want to be tied down like that right away. Having a dog means less freedom in a day to day schedule, and makes lots of travel plans complicated. I was willing to wait for a time when he was agreeable to adjusting our lives like that again, but apparently all it took was for our youngest daughter to say wistfully, "I want a dog." How do you deny the heartfelt request of a child as sweet as Quinn who generally asks for nothing? You don't. Ian agreed we could get a dog, so I started my online search.

My first concern was about allergies. Most members of our household are allergic to cats, and we made the assumption when we got our last dog (who didn't shed) that such a problem would be true with dogs as well. But both Quinn and Ian thought that a dog that sheds might not be an issue, so I widened my search from non-shedding dogs to simply dogs that looked friendly and weren't too big. 

I've always felt it was important to get rescue dogs when looking to adopt. There are so many dogs that need homes, many of whom will die if they don't find one. One of the things I learned during my dog search was that kill-shelters are the norm down South, so lots of dogs get rescued and driven to the Midwest to foster homes. One of the first dogs I was interested in was up here in Wisconsin, but the adoption paperwork was all through a shelter in Mississippi.

The hoops to jump through for shelter dogs is no joke! Pages of paperwork wanting detailed information about past pets, current occupants, and a few that wanted to know the "height, length, and weight" of our fence. I'm assuming they were interested in the material that our fence is made of, but "weight" was an odd question. We had to send one shelter photos of our house inside and out, along with pictures of all the people and the general neighborhood. We had to grant permission to our vet to answer questions about our last dog. We needed non-family references with phone numbers and email addresses. We needed to explain our plans for the dog if we died. All of this before we would be granted the opportunity to even meet the dog we were interested in! On one hand I appreciated the care people were taking, but it also seemed like a bit much.

This meant that the shelter with the fewest hoops was the first place we were able to get into to meet a dog. It was part of an animal hospital in Wheeling IL, and they didn't have any requirements to simply go down and meet Domino. So after school one day, Quinn and I drove down together and spent a little time with the dog.


SO CUTE. You already know that from the pictures, but this dog was so cute! And she greeted us like she'd missed us forever and was glad we were back. We played with her in the yard out back. She had an injury to her back right leg, but they said it was likely a sprain and would heal, and they were giving her anti-inflammatory pills for it. She'd been in the shelter for a few months, and said she liked everyone.

Domino is small (only about 11 pounds) and still kind of a puppy. I never expected to get an even smaller dog than our last one, and not a pup with so much energy, but as Quinn and I were driving home, we both felt that we'd left "our dog" behind. However, I struggled with the idea of adopting the first dog we met. We needed to make a choice that was a better fit for our family as a whole than we did the last time, and to do that it seemed prudent to meet more dogs. The other dog we'd been working on getting an appointment to see was a dog with a deformed front paw named Teddy. I asked Quinn if we should still be trying to meet Teddy, or should we tell the animal hospital we wanted Domino? Quinn simply said, "If you've met perfection, why would you keep looking?"

So there was that. Our application was approved the next day. We didn't hear back that weekend from the shelter that had Teddy. We went out Sunday to pick up a collar and a tag and a dog bed, etc., and then drove down as a family on Monday after school to pick up Domino.

It was a rocky first couple of days in terms of house training, but she's now sleeping through the night and giving us clear signals about when she needs to go out. Her leg is still a concern since our vet thinks she might need surgery, but we can deal with that. She gets around fine, we just don't want her to be limited because of any pain.

It's nice having a dog again.

One of the things I missed about having a dog was being forced to take walks every day. I like walking, but I don't like doing things with little purpose. I need a reason to walk. I think it's good to be out in all kinds of weather, but I won't choose to walk in the rain if I don't have to, even though it's not bad. Work is only a mile and a half away, but driving gets me there faster, so I budget my time differently if I can do that. Walking the dog to work, however, has a dual function, so I'm happy to do it. Plus at this time of year in particular, the walks are beautiful.

Walking the dog also makes me feel more connected to our neighborhood. I notice small changes to houses and gardens when I see them every day. Not to mention having a better connection to people. When you walk a dog you tend to come across the same people over and over who are walking theirs, or people on your route who wave from their porches. Everyone smiles when they see Domino. I'm reminded a bit of when I used to take walks with my babies. The world loves you when you have a baby, and everyone loves a cute dog.

The other thing I didn't realize I needed so much was how a dog fills in certain gaps. Dogs are in the moment, so when you stop to pet one, so are you. She forces me to take breaks, mentally and physically. It's very easy for me to work too much, because there is always more to do. But if I'm at the shop and Domino needs a walk, I have to take her out. And it's good. I'll get to the work in a timely manner, but I shouldn't just press forward relentlessly the way I'm prone to do. And in those breaks with the dog, I'm distracted from a lot of the worries of the world that otherwise weigh me down. I think she's good for my blood pressure because she makes me feel it's fine to just be. Plus it's hard to look at her and not be happy.

We've also reached a point where my children don't need me very often. That's a good thing, and it means I did my job well enough, but other than an occasional ride to school when the bus doesn't show, Quinn doesn't ask for much. She does her own laundry and a lot of the cooking and sometimes she wants to accompany me on errands and sometimes she doesn't. The oldest child is away at college and the middle kid is busy with projects of her own. I apparently missed having someone to care for, because I don't mind the work of being the person in charge of the dog. Plus I selfishly enjoy that she loves being around me. There's an old Erma Bombeck quote about how you need a dog when your kids become teenagers because you need someone to be happy when you come home. I feel that! The dog is just pleased I'm around, and I miss that about little children. And it doesn't hurt that I can scoop Domino up. I miss being able to lift my kids into my arms. A baby-sized dog fills that need just fine.

As I type this, Domino is nestled under the covers and pressed against my hip. She loves diving into a nice warm bed. She's really funny during her high energy moments when she wants to play, but I most love snuggle-puppy mode. She's fun to curl up with on the couch, and even though I lose track of her at night somewhere at the foot of the bed, I like knowing she's there.

Domino's a good dog. I love her.