by Bryan McCarty

Bryan and Gabbie: “She was my once in a lifetime dog.”

Bryan McCarty and his wife Priscilla have been providing a loving Final Refuge home for Old Dog Haven dogs for ten years and they’ve pretty much seen it all. This week Bryan shares his thoughts about expectations … or rather setting them aside … as you welcome a new dog into your home and heart. This one’s for all of our new (and even experienced) dedicated Final Refuge parents!

Here you are … sitting in your car waiting. You have agreed to take on your first Final Refuge dog, and the ODH transport specialist has suggested this parking lot would be a good place to meet.  Your heart is filled with feelings of warmth and the anticipation of doing something really wonderful, while your head is wondering what they meant when they said, ‘We’re sure Proin will take care of the little leakage.’

Of course you were given the basics: ‘We are bringing you a 12 year-old, 35 pound lab mix with some skin issues. She is very underweight and may be a bit anemic from the flea infestation. We have taken care of the flea problem, but the skin issues will take longer to heal and we’re sure the hair will grow back. There are also some small lumps on the skin near her left shoulder and right hip. These will need to be looked at during her intake exam. She is also a bit stiff and we suspect she has some arthritis.’ While your brain may be very attentive to these details, in your heart you just want to meet this beautiful soul and look into her deep brown eyes!

On the way home with your new charge tucked safely in the back seat with a nice clean blanket to lie on, you begin to understand why the transporter had his windows rolled down when it really wasn’t that warm outside. Well, let’s put a bath and grooming at the top of the list. That is an easy fix.  Oh … and you need to schedule an intake exam with the vet. There is some information from the vet at the shelter but a more thorough exam is needed to see what may be lurking there. But what about now, this first day or week?

Bryan with Sonny and Roxie, the newest Final Refuge members of the family.

Maybe you will be blessed with a dog that will walk into her new home with tail wagging, and then just lie down and go to sleep. Or maybe the dog will be nervous, anxious, or frightened, and just want to withdraw. Try to look at what’s going on through the dog’s eyes. She may be thinking that this may just be another step in a long and possibly terrifying journey. So maybe a good meal will ease the transition. Some dogs will eat anything placed in front of them, while some dogs will refuse to eat at all. Some dogs will wait until you’re not looking and grab dinner from the counter!  Some will refuse to eat that perfectly balanced diet you spent weeks researching on the Internet and then go out into the back yard and eat rocks. You just never know!  And really, that is ok. Just set your expectations aside and watch your new dog.  Now is the time to really get to know your new partner. How about a tennis ball, a walk, a chew toy, or maybe a nice tummy rub?  All those little bits of information concerning health issues, past history and breed you were given on that first day may help you unravel the many layers to this new personality in your life. Give the dog the attention she wants and the space she needs to feel at home.

Time is your best friend. We have absolutely no control over the number of days, weeks, months, or years that we will have the honor of sharing life with our new friend. But it won’t be long until you will begin to notice that unconditional love dogs have for their people. Keep in mind that you have no way of really knowing what your new dog has experienced before coming into your life. Just know that the dog will respond to you in the best way she can. Your new companion will reveal her many, many layered personality as she is able. Again, time is your best friend!

It is also good to remember that this is FINAL REFUGE and the goal is the best possible end of life experience for whatever time you are given.  Each dog is a combination of physical, emotional, and medical issues that need to be explored and possibly solved to the best of your ability. But you are not alone in this quest.  Reach out to your new ODH family. This is a rich network of many dedicated dog lovers who have lots of experiences that may help you. When all is said and done and it seems you have accomplished all you can, you will realize that this little critter has wiggled deeply into your heart and given you so much more than you ever thought possible.

Enjoy every minute!!!

Bryan and Priscilla with Ruthie, Maude, Gabbie, Shy, Rucker and Abbie