This past week, my husband and I decided to expand our family by adopting this little guy. Meet Jackson – his friends call him Jax. And he’s already made our lives an adventure.
Hank and I have wanted a dog for the past year since we first moved in together, but life postponed actually getting one. First it was getting used to living together. Then we got engaged and were wedding planning. We were season ticket holders to the Padres and Disneyland Annual Passholders and therefore, were always on the go. Then Hank was on mini-deployments. Then the holidays came… and then… and then… you get the idea.
Another roadblock we ran into is how remarkably tedious it is to adopt dogs in San Diego County. From extensive applications to interviews and home visits, it’s all a bit much. Don’t get me wrong – I understand why, but it doesn’t make it any less frustrating. Additionally, we weren’t able to find a potential dog that appeared to be good fit for our lifestyle and wants. As an alternative, we checked out Los Angeles County Animal Care Centers.
LA County worked out great for us. Their website contains comprehensive information across all their shelters and is incredibly easy to navigate. The shelters are clean and the animals are well cared for. We knew a number of people who had successful, positive adoption stories with LA County so we thought, “Why not?” We were able to explore dogs at a number of shelters, created a list of animals we were interested in meeting and made a weekend of visiting the different shelters. Our first choice dog was adopted the day she became available, which was not surprising (3 month old beagle mix) and our second choice was simply not going to work out due to a very obvious fear of men (I wanted to save her, I really did, but I didn’t want her to turn aggressive on Hank when he returns from deployment.) Jax (formerly Toby) was our third choice dog and it was very much love at first sight.
Jax was brought to the shelter on January 19th as a stray dog. He was microchipped so his owners were contacted. According to the shelter, his owners came in to get the paperwork but never came back to pay the fees. The shelters have to give the owners ten days to claim their dog and by this time, January 28th, they hadn’t returned. Jax had a few days added to his wait time in the shelter because they neutered him (CA State Law: any dog that enters a shelter cannot leave until they are spayed/neutered.) January 31st was Jax’s availability date so we put our name down to commit to adopt him. Then crossed our fingers and had major anxiety for the next two days waiting to hear if his owners came back. Such a weird experience wishing for a dog to stay in a shelter.
On Tuesday, January 31st, Hank brought home our little bundle of joy. The shelter gave him a passing grade on his exit health exam. His information stated he was a 10 month old terrier mix, had all his shots, was neutered and microchipped. Our first evening together was surprising – in both good and not-so good ways.
We took him to Petsmart to get all the proper dog supplies – a bed, food, tags, etc. He was remarkably well behaved, allowing kids and adults to pet him, responding well on the leash, not barking. He was an absolute prince. He cuddled with us sweetly, let us bathe him and was already house trained. He didn’t want to eat, which is normal under stress, and had a nasty little cough and sneeze, also normal coming out of shelter. At this point, our only major concern was if his age was accurate. He has a very mature look and with how much proper training he has been showing, we were just concerned from the perspective of nutrition and exercise about his age.
As you should with any new pet to your household, we made a vet appointment for Jax the next day. The vet confirmed that his age may be a little low. Based on dental, Jax is between 12-14 months. The vet told us to just pick a birthday for him (we picked January 1st.) His guess on Jax’s breed is a dachshund-terrier mix and told us about a DNA test that could test for his breed and associated genetic diseases. We’re seriously considering this – not that his breed is of utmost important to us – but his possible medical challenges are. Overall, Jax was in good health despite being very lean (read: malnutritioned) and having a respiratory infection that has settled into his nose. He addressed that Jax isn’t eating due to stress, but upon inspecting his dental, found one of his bottom canine teeth was driving into the roof of his mouth when eating, causing severe trauma. Ultimately, eating was painful for him. So in a nutshell, we have a beautifully well-trained, starving year old puppy with a cold. Ha – and we love him.
Rehabilitating Jax has been a challenge that we are fortunate to work through without potty accidents or behavioral issues. When a dog has spent the past three weeks being abandoned in a shelter (who knows how long he was alone before he was brought into a shelter!), only fed hard food in the shelter, had digestive issues in the shelter, then brought into a new home, it’s a lot of trauma.
Having to build trust around food took a lot of patience. Under vet advisement, we tried feeding him slightly warmed, wet ground dog food (pate-style) in a metal bowl (that’s important). He was very suspicious of the food so I actually had to scoop the food onto my finger and put it onto on his tongue. This peaked his interest and he ate a few more bites of food – a victory in our eyes.
The next morning, we put stew-style dog food out for him (vet advised) and he didn’t touch it. Okay, no stew – noted. For dinner, we prepped the ground dog food again, put it in his metal bowl and he refused to eat it. We had read somewhere that some dogs have an aversion to metal bowls, so we transferred the food to plastic container and he inhaled the food. Got it… no metal bowls either.
After he finished dinner, we dished up ours and noticed some peculiar behavior. He perked up, following our plates and positioning himself expectantly. Ah – ha! His former owners must have fed him people food. It only makes sense after eating out of my hands, the food having to be warmed, and reacting so strongly to a dinner plate.
The next morning, breakfast time, we applied our theory. We warmed up his pate-style food and placed it on a dinner plate. Gone! Absolutely inhaled! Mystery solved. Since then, we have had very few meal time issues. He’s having difficulty with full portion sizes but that’s normal recovering from malnutrition.
Aside from eating, we have to rehab him through his respiratory infection. It’s so sad! We can’t give him medicine until he’s eating regularly so the poor guy has to struggle through coughing, sneezing and lethargy. He did really well through his first full walk today but has been on the couch the rest of the day. Let’s just say, there’s a lot of snot. A lot. But better out than in.
I feel people often think that adopting a dog is all fun puppy pictures and cute behavior, but we need to keep in mind that you have to care for a living creature. I never envisioned having to hand-feed a puppy or wiping snot off his cute little nose, but you better believe it doesn’t bother me in the slightest. He’s such a little love and already a part of our little family. We’re very much looking forward to more adventures with this little guy.