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My name is Lesli Hyland. In my fifty one years on this earth, my home and my heart have been graced with the company of twenty four dogs. Many came to me as seniors. All of them taught me something and helped determine the course of my life. I became a dog trainer because of them. I met my friends because of them. My husband and I are are forever bonded by our mutual connection to them. Currently, as a Dog Walker I have access to other people's dogs and I am allowed to experience their unique personalities. The dogs make me a better person by forcing me to closely examine my motivation, my actions and my choices. Everything I do affects their behavior, safety and happiness. It is an awesome responsibility. The dogs keep me honest.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

When Uncle Brian turns into Papa

So Tucker is no longer a foster dog.  We have officially adopted him into our family.  It was not an easy decision, not a thoughtless decision, not a quick decision...he's been fostering with us since early December.  Actually I was quite proud of myself for keeping some emotional distance this time...sticking to behavioral observation, meeting his training and medical needs...sticking to the facts, rather than falling into the trap of looking into this needy dog's eyes and wondering what he must be feeling.

We have other dogs whom we have committed our souls and time to.  We have lives outside our dogs and human needs of our own.  We do not have an infinite cash flow!  So taking on a sixth dog was not an easy decision.  In fact I was against it on a cerebral level.

My husband also has the best interest of all our dogs in his heart, and he certainly is the more logical and practical of the two of us, but I have watched him rub Tucker's ears, gaze into his eager, goofy face and whisper sweet words in his ears.  I knew Brian was a goner a while ago. So, "Go see Uncle Brian", has changed to "Go see Papa" and referring to the other dogs as Tucker's new friends has changed to, "Tucker, leave your sister alone!"

I can feel myself open up when I rest my hand on the top of Tucker's head...there is a rush in my chest when his eyes meet mine.  We are calling him "Brian's Dog", but in fact he has firmly taken his place in my heart as well. He is my dog in the complete sense of the word. And that comes with responsibilities...to him and the other beings that share that status.

So what does adopting Tucker mean to our lives? To our other dogs' lives?
I will tell you what it will NOT mean.
It will NOT mean that the other dogs get fewer walks.
It will NOT mean that the other dogs get less attention.
It will NOT mean that the other dogs get less training.
It will NOT mean that Tucker's training, exercise or one on one time will be an after thought.

In fact it will mean the opposite.  Because Tucker is still recovering from ACL surgery, he needs to take short, frequent leash walks.  My dogs have a very large fenced yard and are not walked on leash much.  They go for off leash hikes a couple times a week, go to work with me, playing in the training room, and they enjoy the yard.  Street walks are infrequent.  Tucker's rehab needs mean daily walks and someone else gets to tag along!  So Pogo, my 14 year old Cattle dog cross, is now doing daily leash walks on our country road and in town.  The slower pace is good for his old bones and the change of scenery is good for his old brain.   At work in town, Tawnie or Belle do block walks with Tucker and I, getting more social exposure than before.  Eventually when Tucker can join our hikes we will need to rotate who comes, because I am not comfortable hiking with more than 3 dogs under my supervision or Brian will need to join us, so all 4 of the big dogs can come.  Taking an extra hike during the week so everyone gets out for their needed runs is not a hardship. I live in the most beautiful state in the country!  Brian works primarily from home and I am self employed.  We have the time.  We have the access.
Because Tucker has some separation anxiety issues we have been careful during foster, not to encourage him onto the bed or couch while we are on them.  We wanted him to learn to function on his own, so he has not usurped anyone's established resting places.   He hangs out on the futon, sleeps on a dog bed and does not try to be under my feet when I'm on the computer  There are no territory disputes in the house.  No one feels pushed out. No one gets less cuddle time.

Thankfully the wee dogs are not impacted by Tucker at all.  Our laps are always available to them! They go to work every Saturday for small dog playgroup and they are walked on flexis in place of off leash hikes.  That does not need to change in anyway.  Tucker is careful around them, never once bumping or stepping on either of them. 

Tucker needs recall training, continued independence training and toy training (currently he doesn't share very well!)  He will get the training he needs. His leash manners have gone from nonexistent to exceptional due to his rehab/ exercise needs.  He is a quick study.

So we are a family of 6 dogs now.  I would never attempt to have this many if Brian and I worked typical
9 to 5 jobs. I know we could never meet their needs then.  But it works well this way.  Our dogs are pretty lucky and we feel pretty lucky to be their people.
Welcome Tucker!

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