When the Wrong Dog is the Right Fit…Part 1

i Mar 30th No Comments by

Anyone who follows our blog or listens to our podcast series, knows that I LOVE a good story.  This week’s story started unfolding and I just knew it was going to be a good one, so I invited the ARL’s new Shelter Manager, Sarah McKillip to be a guest blogger for the next few weeks to tell her story as it unravels.  I hope you enjoy it as much as I do! Send us your comments below. – Beth


Picture it Monday morning, 9:00 am, I’m in my daily meeting with Jamie our Kennel Team Leader, and she’s giving me the daily scoop on intakes, strays, and surrenders that came in on Sunday. After her normal report she follows up with, “and Brooke bought a blind pit bull puppy off of Craigslist for $50, she’s the sweetest thing and she’s back in kennel 3 her name is Lady.” (Before I continue I have to give a huge shout out to Kennel Tech Brooke for responding to the ad and saving this dog. I hate to think about what could have happened to her. That’s  a story for another time).

Being nosey, I had to go take a peek. She was two kennels down and she was “looking” straight up at the ceiling (sniffing). She had the most beautiful blue eyes I’ve ever seen and it was love at first sight. I asked Brooke to carry Lady to my10516858_10203988344971364_5993175141960909095_n office as she was familiar with Brooke and I didn’t want to scare her. Within a short time she had mastered the layout of my office and only bumped into things a few times. Lady and I immediately became the best of friends.

To foster or not to foster…that is the question

After that first day with Lady I was so in love with her.  Every day that week I brought her into my office.  By Wednesday I was seriously entertaining the idea of taking her home, but I couldn’t help but acknowledge that this was exactly the wrong dog for my lifestyle.  Three things kept running through my head …

  1. “Girl you have no business with a puppy. You haven’t had a puppy since 1997.”
  2. “You have 3 small senior dogs in your home and they are going to hate her.”
  3. “She’s blind. You’ve only had deaf dogs. Can you do this?”

I decided to acknowledge that I had made a special bond with Lady, and stop making excuses.  Sometimes the wrong dog IS the right dog.  Not always, but sometimes and there was only one way to tell and that was to go ahead and foster her.

Thursday I had my boyfriend Chad come meet her and he brought Priscilla (Cilla), my little Chihuahua/Jack Russell mix. In all honesty, Cilla is a diva and she lets every person and animal know she’s a princess.  The meet and greet went well – I never expected it to be love at first sight with Cilla. When Lady sniffed Cilla a little too much, Cilla corrected her and Lady backed off, which is exactly the behavior we wanted to see.

Chad and I decided we had to try to give this sweet young dog a home. So a new life deserves a new name right? Lady became Peggy Sue.

Peggy Sue Goes Home

Now in addition to Cilla, two other dogs call my house home.  There’s  Elvis, a 25lb beagle/cocker mix and Gladys a 16-pound wiener dog.  Peggy already weighs 46 pounds. Luckily, after many years in animal rescue I have learned from others well meaning mistakes. I was well aware that Peggy might not be the right fit for my household, but I could work the odds in her favor with some pre-planning.

Cilla checking out Peggy's condo

Cilla checking out Peggy’s condo

We developed a plan, 7 simple steps:

  1. Puppy & blind-dog proof the home.  Peggy would inevitably run into things in the house, that’s how she would learn the lay of the land, but we could make every effort to help her avoid injury.
  2. Gate off a nice size piece of the house just for Peggy while she and the other dogs acclimate to each other.
  3. The three small dogs with never be left alone with Peggy. When Peggy is out and about she’s on leash with one of us holding the other end. We want all introductions to go smoothly. No need to rush anything. Peggy is still a puppy and my other three don’t enjoy a ton of puppy antics.
  4. Give Peggy a large and comfy crate (we refer to them as condos in my house) with a nice bed inside, toys, pillow and water. A place that is just for her where she can sleep and be safe when we’re not home.  Like a human child, she will need time outs and this will give her the necessary space.
  5. Feeding area-totally separate from my other three.
  6. Stimulation: We’re enrolling her in training classes and we found lots of fun toys a blind dog can play with. Exercise is also imperative!
  7. Peggy Sue doesn’t know she’s blind so don’t baby her or be over protective. Let her have fun, let her be a dog, but keep her safe.

Peggy’s freedom run on her first afternoon at home.

So, on Saturday at 1:30pm Chad and I picked Peggy up.  We had a plan for her arrival home: we’d let her potty in the yard first then let her run around and play. Then we would take her in to decompress in her condo.  All went as planned. Throughout the rest of the day, we took her outside to play, brought out Elvis and Gladys (while Peggy was on the leash) let everyone sniff and then gave them breaks from each other. I believe in “baby step” introductions in cases like this. Saturday night, Peggy slept like an angel in her condo and never made so much as peep. Our morning potty ritual is Gladys, Cilla and Elvis go out first and while they are in the yard Peggy comes out on the leash. Peggy sticks with Elvis as he’s become a guide dog for her in the yard, and she respects the boundaries he has laid down for her (basically he sometimes likes his personal space, and she respects it.) Sunday all day we practiced the same routine and I am happy to report so far so good!

This weekend Peggy Sue learned how to go up and down stairs, she’s still a little unsure but she’s getting it. She’s also learned how to walk on leash. A HUGE accomplishment for a puppy that was so afraid to do these things just a little over a week ago.

Unexpected “2 Cents”

Social media-gotta love it. Since Peggy came into my life I’ve been posting pictures of her on Facebook. When I took her home I received tons, and I mean tons, of support via Facebook. However there are always a few nay-sayers that have to have their two cents heard. I chose to not be defensive as I understand their concern.

Pit Bull+3 small dogs = disaster, at least in the minds of those that don’t understand the breed .

I decided to educate and fill everyone in on the steps we are taking. Sure we need to be cognizant, not because Peggy is a pit, but because she is a puppy in a house with 3 small seniors. Below is my post:


Peggy doing what she does best…giving kisses!

A few people have privately made their concerns known regarding a pit in my home with 3 small dogs (nothing bad). I want to put everyone’s concerns to rest…so let’s talk about Peggy like she’s not in the room shall we? 1. Yes Peggy is a pit. Being a pit bull doesn’t mean it is a life’s mission to make sandwiches out of small dogs…I have met more vicious “family” type dogs than vicious pits. And being aggressive -is learned, not born. That being said, #2: Chad and I will never let the three musketeers alone around Peggy or ANY breed of dog that is 5x their size. We’ve set up the house to be conducive and productive for all four. #3: Priscilla is more of a danger to Peggy-there I said it. I adore my Cilla but she knows how to irritate other dogs and loves to do it. Therefore for a while Cilla’s contact with Peggy will be minimal. #4: Peggy will be going into training soon, so we can sharpen her skills and help her to be the best dog she can be. #5: Peggy is a foster and the reason we are doing foster to adopt is to make sure everyone “clicks”..not because Peggy is a pit, but because she’s a puppy. If it doesn’t work Chad and I and at the ARL will work our tails off to find her the perfect home and we will settle for no less ( but I’m optimistic!) #6:. I have lost two dogs in less than a year. I love my seniors and if another needs a temporary place to land we will gladly foster, but it is nice to have a youngster again Thank you all for your concern, and I mean that. But if you’re afraid of her I just ask that you come meet her. She gives the best hugs and kisses. You can meet her at my work most days-and for a $5 donation to the ARL , you can cuddle with Peggy…and then I encourage you go scope out some of our other pits that are just as awesome and waiting for a foster or forever home. Talk to our fabulous staff about them and take one for a walk. You may just find your own “Peggy”

The First 48

Peggy Sue is sleeping in my office as I type this. I’m not going to lie, she’s perfect and our short term goal is to adopt her. She’s amazing and Chad and I have learned so much from her in the short time she’s been in our lives. We’ve learned that it’s ok to run into things, shake it off and move on. And above all else, who cares if you’re different? Have fun anyway! Being different makes you special.

Update: Sarah & Chad officially adopted Peggy Sue on March 29th! Part 2 of her story is coming next week!






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