First Week With Dally

Adopting a dog comes with its own set of challenges, different from getting a puppy or a cat.  While we anticipated them, until you do it, you don’t really know what you’re getting into.

This is Dally in our front yard filled with distractions of children and some other dogs, but content to hang with Kullervo

This is Dally in our front yard filled with distractions of children and some other dogs, but content to hang with Kullervo

When we adopted Dally, I cleared our schedule for a few days.  I wasn’t sure how skittish she would be, or how much constant attention she would need.  I didn’t want to overschedule and make her transition more stressful, and I wanted to make sure that she would fit in with us and the cats.

To our delight, Dally is almost completely housebroken.  She lets us know when she needs to go out, she makes it through the night without accidents, and has only peed inside twice—although what prompted that, I’m not sure.  She also has some bizarre behaviors that leave us wondering what her life was like before.

Dally is about nine pounds underweight.  It’s possible she wasn’t treated well before, or that she was missing for awhile before she was found.  She is terrified of her crate and will not go inside it at all.  She is also terrified of the bathtub—she won’t go near the bathroom when I’m bathing the kids.  She has absolutely no leash skills, and does not consistently sit on command.  We can’t tell her to lie down and have her respond at all.

That said, when she does sit down, she lifts a paw to shake hands.  She will more consistently sit for me if I tell her to in German.  She lets me walk through doorways first (most of the time).  She is gentle with the kids, curious but not overwhelming to the cats, and only mildly interested in other dogs.

So we’re a week into this thing now.  Kullervo takes Dally running every evening, and they both come home tired (Kullervo is tired because Dally makes him run faster than he would on his own; Dally is tired because Kullervo makes her sprint at the end!).  I have managed to navigate taking her out regularly with getting the kids to bed on time, and yelling less at everyone (more on that later).  She still barks when we leave the house, but not always.  And when we get home, she is still really excited to see us, but is doing better about letting us into the house first.

We did have a bit of a kink in our plans though, something new to both Kullervo and me.  I had noticed that there were occasionally droplets of blood on the floor.  It wasn’t much… but it was definitely blood.  I assumed that Dally was teething—she’s still young enough that she might not have all her adult teeth yet.  But I couldn’t see any bloody spots in her mouth.  I also wondered if it was from eating some of the treats I got—maybe she swallowed bites that were too big.

Then we saw a couple of drops of blood on our brand new couch.  (She has a bad habit of getting up there even though she knows she’s not allowed; as soon as I catch her, I growl at her to get back down and she does right away, but, apparently not before she bled on my couch.)  And Kullervo came home last night and saw that there was blood on our comforter (WTF Dally—she is definitely not allowed on my bed and hasn’t even tried that when I’m around).  Kullervo checked her over to see what was going on, and that’s when it became clear.  What I had hoped wouldn’t happen; what the vet said shouldn’t happen for a few more months… was here.

Dally is in heat.  Now, I have never been around an animal in heat before.  I am a strong believer in neutering and spaying my pets.  The only reason that that hasn’t happened yet was that the first appointment we could get her into the vet was on September 11—two weeks from now.  The vet had said that he thought she wouldn’t go into heat for another few months.  I guess he was wrong.  I called my little sister, who I know has dealt with dogs in heat before.  She gave me advice on what to do.  And I went to the pet store and bought dog diapers.  And dreaded the next month (month!) of dog period.  And the next month of needed to change two small creatures diapers, neither of whom really thinks I should be messing with their junk.

In terms of training, I have been slowly working on leash skills with Dally.  I was going to get a choke chain—what we had always used when I was growing up—but the woman at the store told me that studies have shown that dogs are less likely to suffer trachea damage with a pinch collar, both because of where it is positioned and the face that it bothers them sooner, so less pressure is needed.  I have no idea if that is accurate, but it convinced me and I bought a pinch collar.  It looks terrifying, but it makes a huge difference with her leash skills.

So, right now, when I take her out to use the bathroom, (after I take off her diaper), we walk over to the designated area in our backyard where we want her to use the bathroom, away from where the kids usually play.  We obviously clean up after her right away, but the kids run around barefoot, and let’s face it—sometimes dog dirt is too squishy to scoop everything.  After she goes to the bathroom, I praise her, and then we practice.  I stand still, and her job is to keep the leash loose.  If she pulls too hard, I give a quick jerk and release of the leash, to let her know she needs to come back.

Once she’s gotten the hang of that, we walk around the yard.  If she wanders too far, and pulls the leash, I jerk and release repeatedly to guide her back.  (Note: I am not hurting her at all by doing this; it makes her uncomfortable, but that’s sort of the point—if she wants to avoid discomfort, she needs to stay close to me.)  She’s getting a lot better.  I’m excited to take her on a hike this weekend with the family to see if she fares better this week than last week, where she basically yanked me around on her halter for two miles.

Dally wearing her halter as we took our first hike together. Or, rather, as she took me on a hike!

Dally wearing her halter as we took our first hike together. Or, rather, as she took me on a hike!

Dally Sunshine

We just adopted a dog!  Yep, that’s right–we realized that with three kids, two cats, and a baby on the way, we didn’t really have enough to do with our time.  Thus, we needed a dog!

Seriously, though, we have wanted to get a dog for probably our whole marriage.  Our lifestyles and living arrangements never really made that feasible though—in Chicago our landlord said no (and, to give him credit, we already had two cats), before that, we often lived in apartments with a two pet rule.

We spent a lot of time talking over what kind of dog to get.  Did we want a puppy?  A rescue?  A senior dog?  What breed?

I was heavily in favor of getting an English Setter.  My favorite childhood dog was a Setter, and he was just what you want from your childhood dog.  He was playful, he was snuggly, he was a good pillow when we watched TV.  And he was beautiful.  One of my saddest memories was the day that I drove him to the vet to have him put down.  If I think about it too much, it still makes me tear up.

Kullervo didn’t necessarily have a preference of breed, although he figured that a Labrador would be a good choice—everyone has labs!  They’re good dogs!  And I definitely wanted a big dog.  I know lots of people love their small dogs, but if I was going to get a small dog, I’d rather just get another cat.  We thought about getting a puppy—no ingrained bad habits, and let’s face it—puppies are freaking adorable.  But, at the same time, puppies also wake up at night and need to be taken out to go to the bathroom, and need to be housebroken (no ingrained good habits, either!).  And with a baby on the way, I figure that we should make the most of these last few months where we often get to sleep for 6 hours or so at a stretch (more if we’d just go to bed earlier).

That said, we also weren’t sure about getting a senior dog.  The death of a pet is one of the saddest events of anyone’s childhood, and we recently lost our evil cat, Loki, and the kids were devastated.  They still get sad when they think about him.  And while adopting a senior dog is wonderful, and something I imagine I’ll do later, with little kids in the house, we wanted them to grow up with a dog that would be there for most or all of their childhoods.

And I wanted to adopt a rescued dog.  There are so many dogs out there looking for a good home, who are great dogs, but who were given up or got lost for whatever reason.  I wanted to adopt our fourth baby, but got pregnant the month before we started the paperwork.  I’m one of those people who wants to save all the babies and all the cats and all the dogs, and wish that I had the time, space, and money to do that well!  Barring that, we decided to adopt a rescued English Setter.

We found a few English Setter rescue organizations on the web, and browsed their listings of dogs.  One of the organizations stood out to me because the people fostering the rescued dogs would write about the dogs, and try to expose them to cats and other dogs and children, to gauge how well they’d do.  The adoption policies and procedures were clear, and the support they offer post-adoption seemed useful.  We also found an adorable five month old dog named Sarge who we wanted to make our own.

We started the application procedure, and it felt like it took forever.  They asked for our vet references, personal references, and they did a phone interview.  Then they scheduled someone to come over and do a home visit to see what our home was like.  I think mostly they wanted to make sure we weren’t crazy people with dead dog bodies hanging on the walls, or people who obviously abuse small creatures.  As we haven’t yet decorated our house, we passed the inspection.  We were assigned a buddy to help us contact the people fostering dogs we were interested in, and to help us narrow our search.  By this point, Sarge had already been adopted.  There were a few other dogs we looked into, but none worked out.  One dog was deaf, and we ultimately decided that was too challenging for our first dog.  A couple were adopted quickly.

Then our buddy sent us an email about a dog named Dally.  Dally wandered out of the woods (and was named by the fosters after The Outsiders), and they found her and looked for her owner.  They couldn’t find anyone.  They also knew that they couldn’t keep her.  She was good with kids, okay with cats, and had a lot of energy.  She was somewhere between one and two years old, not yet spayed, and had already had a litter of puppies.  She was also beautiful.


I spoke to the foster mom a few times on the phone about her, and it seemed like she would be a good fit.  We decided to go through with the adoption.

Fast forward a couple of weeks, and on Thursday, August 22, Hazel’s half-birthday, Dally arrived.

dally1 Dally2 Dally3

Random Stuff the Kids Say

Hazel was singing a Ke$ha song this morning.  (Go ahead, judge me if you want to… but Ke$ha is awesomely fun dance pop, even if wildly inappropriate for children.)  She sang, “And now we lookin’ like pimps in my gold Trans Am”.  We all laughed.

So she said, “Pimps.  Pimps.  Pimps,” over and over again, the way that kids will do.

Oliver said, “You don’t even know what a pimp is.”

Hazel asked, “What is it?”

Oliver said, “it’s a kind of diapers, Hazel.”

… we did not correct him.


Then, later, the kids were playing the board game Life.  Hazel had purchased a car at some point, and unfortunately, her car got into an accident.

She called up to me, “Mom!  My car was in an accident!  But it’s okay, I had no injuries!”

Oliver said, “No, Hazel, you had no insurance.”


I was giving Henry a bath and Oliver was hanging out with us in the bathroom.  He asked me how people wind up on the cover of magazines.  I assumed he was talking about magazines like Parents and Parenting, which are often lying around the house, and said that usually they are models who are paid to be on the cover.  He then held up a copy of Us Weekly and asked why other people care about when people break up or start dating.  I said that those people are famous, and people are often interested in the celebrities that they like and what their lives are like.

Oliver then asked, “Well, Mom, why aren’t you on the cover of this magazine then?”

I responded, “Why would I be?”

He said, “You’re pregnant!  This other Kate just had a baby, then it’s your turn!”

I said, “Sweetie, I’m not famous.  That’s why I’m not in the magazines.”

He said, “Why aren’t you famous?  You really should be, you know.”

I (laughing), responded, “What would I be famous for?”

Oliver said, “I don’t know….  your cooking!  You make the best pizza.  And cookies.  And salads.  You should be famous for cooking…. and Daddy should be famous for pancakes.”

Having a seven year old is awesome.  I should be famous, y’all.  But, since I’m not, if you want to come over for dinner, let me know.  🙂