Meet the new member of our family: Winston Churchill Powers.
He was at the Pasadena Humane Society, surrended by his owners because they lived in a condo and "he didn't get along with the daughter's ex-husband." Whatever the hell that means.
I first saw him on Thursday on my first trip to the shelter. His name was Axel, a five year old who was surrendered by his owners and I could tell, just by looking at him sitting down, that he was very overweight. They said he was a Smooth Collie. He was sweet, sitting next to the bars, sadly looking out and licking your fingers.
But I was bent on getting a German Shepherd. I wanted a guard dog, or at least a dog that would be a deterrent. At the shelter, I found one that I fell in love with - a gorgeous and big seven year old who had been a stray. I put a hold on him, and the shelter put him through his tests on Friday, all of which he passed. The only thing left was to have Annie, my nine year old shepherd lab mix, meet him.
So, very excited, I brought her to the shelter first thing Saturday.
But when he and Annie met, sparks flew, and they weren't good sparks. Annie is a dominant dog who is usually fearless and can hold her own. But this dude was just as dominant, and Annie ended up scooting back to me, tail between her legs. They spent the next 15 minutes in the yard ignoring each other. The damage was done.
This is why I think it's so important for people who are thinking of adopting a new dog to not assume that your dog, however sweet and friendly he or she may be, will get along with the new dog. When I was looking at other dogs at the city of Los Angeles shelter, I asked whether they had facilities where Annie could meet the prospects. I was told "we don't do that here." That made me so furious that I wrote a letter to the head of the city's animal services department. But people at rescue groups and places like the Pasadena Humane Society know how important it is, and they insist that your dogs meet with the prospect before any adoption can take place.
Anyway, I digress. Discouraged after Mr. Handsome's epic fail with Annie, I went around the shelter and started to look again. And one of the volunteers told me about Axel - again. Not really convinced but willing to keep an open mind, I said okay, let's have him meet Annie. So Kevin brought in Axel, who was so overweight, he literally waddled in. If you ask me, a five year old dog this overweight is inexcusable.
Axel, even though it was hard for him to get around, ran up to meet Annie. The two got along from the start, and Annie was much more relaxed. As they wandered around the yard, occasionally meeting each other face to face and sizing each other up, but the posture was totally different. I looked at him and there was something about him that was so kind, so earnest, and even though he was obviously struggling with his weight, he was still playful. Plus I loved the markings on his head. What can I say, I am a real sucker.
So Axel came home with us. He could barely get into my car, and in fact had to stand on the floor in front of the back seat because he couldn't get up on the seat. We had the drive home from hell, with traffic jammed twice on the 210 that made our trip home two hours instead of one. But Axel stood their patiently - he eventually was able to sit down and didn't whine once.
When I got him home, I discovered one major problem. Axel has no leash training whatsoever. Put him on a leash and he bolts ahead, determined to go where ever he wants and sniff whatever he wants. This is probably a 100-pound dog. I have a bad back. This is not a good combination. He is now on a crash course of how to walk on a leash. Watching the Dog Whisperer had paid off. Thank you, Cesar Millan. (His dog center is in my town by the way). Whether or not my back will survive this remains to be seen - it depends on how quickly Axel decides to do things my way.
I also realized that this is no Smooth Collie. Although he might have some collie in him, or even Australian Shepherd, he's more Saint Bernard than anything else.
He and Annie are still adjusting to one another. Annie, being the Queen of the Universe, is still in shock a little, and we're all trying to keep reminding her that she's still Queen.
He's on a strict diet now - Canidae Weight Management food twice a day, with just a few snacks during the day - carrots and green beans. He is definitely someone used to getting his way in the kitchen - he is a fixture in there, thinking he's going to get some goodie from me. Poor guy - between being put on a diet and being put on a short leash when walking, he's probably wondering, "if this is being rescued, I'd rather stay with my old owners!!"
The last thing I did yesterday was change his name. I couldn't stand the name Axel, which I suspect was given to him by the previous owners who had only had him for 3 months. And I found out that actually he wouldn't even answer to Axel. Being a smart dog, I think he chose to ignore being called such a ridiculous name.
So his name was changed to Winston, and guess what - he's already starting to respond to it.
Last night, my original wish was granted - the wish for a guard dog that started me on this path in the first place. A friend came by and knocked on the door. Winston immediately started barking, and there was no mistaking it - this bark belongs to a very big dog.