By July 2, 2007

Pearl’s Harbor Day

Our beagle-hound mix Porter is turning three in August, while Rosie the Mystery Mutt is turning two. Given our penchant for pacing our children out a year at a time, we thought it was a good opportunity to go looking for another puppy. I know that three and two isn’t very old. However, we didn’t want to wait until Porter and Rosie were “real” adult dogs before we adopted a new family member. We wanted to make sure our two dogs would be able — and willing — to help us raise whomever we brought home. I remember how much easier it was to train Rosie about “inside” vs “outside,” “upstairs” vs “downstairs,” etc with Porter along to show her what was what.

On Saturday the 23rd, Lady Jaye and I drove up to the Washington DC Animal Rescue League, which has been in existence since 1914. WARL has a marvelous facility, which was recently renovated to the tune of four million dollars. The privately-funded shelter features classical music and climate controlled conditions for all of the animals. There is an on-site vet facility complete with operating room. The dog section of the shelter had a waterfall and soft lighting. WARL felt more like a meditation center than an animal shelter. The techniques seem to work; this was the only shelter I’ve ever been to where every dog wasn’t barking at the top of its lungs.

We had to take Porter and Rosie with us for an interaction interview, so we all piled in the Montero and took the two hour drive up to the heart of DC. We sat in the lobby for about an hour before someone could speak with us. In the meantime, Lady Jaye sat with both of our kids while I went in to talk to a border collie mix pup named Nicole.

Nicole was sleeping next to another puppy when I first saw her. The WARL entry on PetFinder indicated that she was about ten weeks old. That was a little on my high side for adopting animals, as puppies have learned enough behaviors to present potential socialization and training issues at that age. When I saw her in person, however, either Nicole would be a very large adult or the PetFinder entry was outdated/wrong. She was a lot bigger than I expected. One of the staff members picked Nicole up and I followed him into an observation room.

As the staffer shut the door, Nicole ran away from me and peed in the corner. Not a big deal, as it’s common knowledge that puppies need to whiz right after waking up. I called her name, and she loped towards me, wagging her tail. I put her through as much of the puppy test as I could — the observation room was too small to do the chase test, for example. I was able to pick Nicole up and dangle her feet above the floor, hold her, take a toy from her, and make three steps around the observation room to see if she’d follow me (which she did). She passed all the tests to my satisfaction, although I was a little worried that she was more mouthy than either Porter or Rosie at that age.

The next step was for Lady Jaye, Porter, Rosie and I to all get together with Nicole in a larger room. A WARL staff interviewer and another staffer were also present. We watched the three dogs play with each other while we answered questions. Normally WARL does a home inspection; due to our distance we had to field a ton of questions instead. We talked about crate training, our fenced yard, and feeding schedules while Nicole nipped at Porter’s ankle and then slid under a table. By the time we moved on to pack dynamics, all of the dogs were rolling around in a giant cloud of canine playtime. The interviewer mentioned that Nicole was probably a part-Akita mix and that she was actually about sixteen weeks old. This made me nervous, as neither of these facts were mentioned on Nicole’s PetFinder listing. I had read that the Akita was a protective, strong-willed breed that would take advantage in any variance in training. I have friends who owned an Akita. As an adult it attacked the wife while she attempted to retrieve one of her shoes from a pile of footwear the dog had assembled. It was also very territorial and aggressive with their other dogs.

I knew that we would have some interesting training days ahead of us if we adopted Nicole. If she were our first puppy, I would have said no right then and there. The attention that a single dog requires is much more than when you bring them into a pre-existing pack. Add in a socially-problematic breed such as the Akita and first-timers have a real challenge on their hands. In our case, it would be a lot easier to properly raise a well-adjusted puppy, Akita-mix or not. We had experience, schedule, and facilities on our side, with two great role models as back up. Our interviewer said that all applications go before the adoption committee. WARL would do a background checks with our vet, any previous adoption/rescue agencies, and local animal control. Any complaints to animal control or a record of dog fighting would be cause for denial. She said it took about a week to process the average application. We filled out the paperwork and headed back to Richmond.

I heard back from WARL on Tuesday — our application was approved! So much for taking a week, although I think the positive interaction interview had a lot to do with our app being processed so quickly. We made arrangements to pick up Nicole the following Saturday. She was spayed on Tuesday and was pretty healed up by the time we came to get her on the 30th. Nicole was almost sixteen pounds and had been at the shelter for almost two months before we adopted her. We couldn’t believe no one had snapped her up before then. Her two siblings had been adopted already. Maybe the Akita-mix scared some would-be parents off, it almost did so for us.

So far Nicole — rechristened Pearl — has fit right into our family. She is a lot more stand-offish than Porter or Rosie at her age, but then again they didn’t live in a shelter and were adopted at eight and ten weeks of age if I recall correctly. Porter and Rosie spent most of their time in my lap until they were too big to lie there any more; Pearl was too grownup to do so from the start. Regardless, all three dogs are clustered around my chair as I write this, and Pearl is learning how much fun it is to pile onto the couch and watch TV with the rest of the family. As you can see by these pictures, there is plenty of playtime outside as well.

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You can see more pictures of Pearl, Porter and Rosie here.

I’m going to wait awhile before I write up some of my initial thoughts on Pearl, but thus far I am pleased with how well she has adjusted and how smart she is. While I love Porter and Rosie to pieces, they’re not Einsteins by any measure.

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Ready for the MENSA test?

Please welcome Pearl into our house, and come pay us a visit before she gets Akita-huge and too big to sit in your lap!!

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Posted in: dogs

7 Comments on "Pearl’s Harbor Day"

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  1. Congrats on the new addition to your family! She doesn’t look like a border collie to me, but if she’s smart, maybe she got border collie brains, at least!

    Unrelated: at some point would you mind sharing a review of that Gallery software you appear to be using on your site? I’m not thrilled with the LJ interface and might like some photo software interface on my legal-name website.

  2. In case my border-collie remark comes off wrong, I wasn’t cracking on Pearl’s looks, just saying I can see “Akita” in her more than “border collie”. My sister has had two smooth collies and I see “collie” in them (faces, especially), so I don’t think it’s just the short hair that’s throwing me off.

  3. Ninja Mary says:

    OMG cutey puppy!

    I had a border collie when I was a kid. She was pretty cool, and wicked smart. She bonded very strongly with my mom, but she was nice–to me. She chased my sister and her friends into a corner of the yard and penned there.

  4. Stomper says:

    Welcome Pearl!! Yeah Rosie and Porter have a new sister and Rosie’s not the baby any more!! She may have more than 2 breeds in her lineage which can make it difficult to tell what she is. But if her puppyality is good and she’s cute you can’t go wrong. It’ll be interesting to see what she looks like when she grows up.

    It was fun to see the kids playing so well together.

    Hey, where do you think her spots (speckles) come from?

    Congrats on the new addition!

  5. Stomper says:

    Just curious, where do you think her spots and speckles come from? Not Akita?

  6. drfaulken says:

    Thanks for the comments and well-wishes so far! The spots could be from a working-breed dog, such as an Australian Shepherd, especially from the blue merle coat. The patterning is similar; it remains to be seen if the dogs assimilate into blotches ala Aussie, or if they turn into more spots/ticks like Porter and Rosie’s hound lineage.

    The problem with the Akita claim is that I really can’t see Pearl having the same build, especially in the face and chest area, as the famous Japanese breed. I guess a working dog/Akita mix is a strong possibility, or like Stomper said, a mix of a mix.

  7. Stomper says:

    I was thinking of the Australian shepherd when I asked. I’ve heard a lot of people refer to them as border collies – which made me wonder. The pattern also reminded me of the heeler (red, blue…) but her face doesn’t seem quite right. You might be able to tell better after she grows up some. Not that it realllllly matters. 🙂