Ever since we lost our beloved Scottish Fold, Mel, on Thanksgiving morning 2017, our house has felt a little off. For weighing in at around 7 pounds, Mel was an anchor in our home. He was a part of our family since 2001, was Lulu’s best friend, and was a constant companion to each of us.
We feel like we’ll never be able to find another cat that lives up to what we loved about him, but we’ve been considering adopting a second dog for a while now. The only problem with that idea is the fact that we had to find the right personality to fit in our home.
You see, Lulu is, well, how do I put this kindly, high maintenance? She doesn’t have a lot of friends, doesn’t get along well with others, and has been the only dog in our household for nearly nine years now. And to put it bluntly, she can be a bit of a territorial jerk when interacting with other dogs.
For this reason, we had to find just the right dog, with just the right personality, or we were at constant risk of a battle royal that would likely result in an escalation of tempers typical of a classic drunken barroom brawl, with about the same level of coordination. The only problem with this equation is the simple fact that Lulu is terrible at being a fighter. She’s all posture, no substance. You could say, she’s all bark, no bite (or at least only failed attempts at bites). She’s your stereotypical schoolyard bully, but she’s our bully and we love her. So when it came to finding the right dog, we had to find someone that was submissive and didn’t mind putting up with Lulu’s crap.
After many months of searching, Wendy stumbled across a cute pup on PetFinder named “Snowden.”
Snowden was at a local rescue and had been with them for a few months. Though his name may suggest he’s a well known leaker, rather than a. potty trained doggo, he was found wandering around in traffic during a snow storm, hence the name. Wendy felt an instant connection to his adorable photo, and the visible tooth in the next one, and filled out an application to adopt him.
While we waited for word we started the second guessing and what if game. Was he the right dog? What if Lulu hated him? What if he hated us? How much extra work is a second dog? Do we have the time? What the hell were we thinking? Well, that was all for naught when we received word that Snowden had many applications and the rescue was adopting him out to a family with children. We didn’t understand the logic, but shrugged our shoulders, felt it wasn’t meant to be, and went on living our three family member lives.
Over the next little while Wendy kept thinking about Snowden, and the rescue was on the lookout for another dog that might work for us. They called our references (Lulu’s vet, Lulu’s oncologist, our friends who can vouch for our ability to successfully raise and care for dog and place them on a pedestal unlike most people could experience in life), and we waited and kept looking.
A few weeks later we received a call that was very unexpected. Snowden’s new family wasn’t working out for him and we’d been moved to the top of the list if we wanted to meet him. It was shockingly similar to Lulu’s entrance into our lives, so much so that we couldn’t ignore the possibility that fate was bringing him into our lives. We decided, with Lulu accompanying, to drive up to the rescue on the Eastern Shore in order to meet this pup to see if he’d be a good fit for our family.
When we arrived the in-house trainer walked him out and we got to see his friendly face and snaggletooth, a result of his rather pronounced underbite, live and in person. We held Lulu, let them sniff each other, and then walked them around the yard on leashes for a few minutes. They seemed to get along without issue, so we let them off leash in fenced play area and they were romping and having a great time before we knew. It was more or less neutral territory, so no real concerns about territorial disputes. Both of them ran and played endlessly, only pausing long enough to check in with us and make sure everything was good. They were like old friends.
Upon our first meeting Wendy wasn’t so sure about him. He had a *lot* of energy on display that afternoon. Over the last six or so years we’d settled into a very comfortable life with Lulu and Mel, one where we all understood each other. Wendy worried that adding Snowden to our pack was going to be like welcoming the Tasmanian Devil into into our otherwise peaceful but already hectic lives, seriously upsetting the apple cart and rocking our wonderful balance.
On the other hand, I saw a young and very cute dog that was romping and getting along swimmingly with our typically difficult Lulu. Above all, I saw potential that we’d found a dog with a personality that would be a good fit and able to get along very well with our #1 daughter.
Wendy side eyed me at one point and said “if you want to leave, we can.” What she was really saying was “omg I’m not sure this is right and I’m sort of freaking out, so how about we forget we ever had this idea and call it a day?” I looked back at Wendy and said “I don’t know, I think we should do it.”
After about 45 minutes of watching them play in the yard, no fights, no disagreements, lots of compromise, and a whole lot of fun, we decided to take the plunge and take him home. Here’s our first family photo as our newly established family of four.
On the car ride home I let Wendy in on an important secret. Before meeting this pup at the rescue, before having our application accepted, Wendy told me “we have to agree on this, this isn’t a done deal just because we’re applying or meeting him, the decision isn’t mine, it’s ours, and we can walk away if it’s not right.” What Wendy didn’t realize is that I’m soft, and simply by meeting him at the rescue, by driving out to see him, and by having Lulu play with him, it was sort of a done deal for me. Pretty much, if we met him and he wasn’t a total jerk, and he and Lulu played and didn’t fight, I wanted it to work out. Decision made. I’m weak for dogs. Nothing can be done about this.
When we got home that night the fun continued. We went on a long walk around the neighborhood with both of them before going into the house, then made sure we introduced them to the house slowly, putting Lulu in charge, and letting him know that she was Queen. Lulu and the doggo formally known as Snowden kept romping and having fun. It seemed like everything was going to work out perfect. He was used to being crated at night so we put him in his crate where he’s most comfortable, and Lulu went up to sleep with us. It was our new routine.
As part of bringing this little pup previously known as Snowden into our home, we also started working on a good name that might fit a bit better for us. While he may have gotten used to Snowden, we didn’t feel it was necessarily the best name for him, aside from the inevitable “leaker” jokes that would never get old. “No” is an important command in a dog’s life, and we were worried that the name “Snowden” has too similar of a sound to “No,” which could cause some major confusion.
After talking it over on the phone, Wendy’s mom suggested Truman. We felt it adequately captured the “grumpy old man” look this little pup possessed, was a good two syllable name, and seemed a good fit. We agreed we’d start calling him Truman and started getting used to it as his name.
The next day we woke up, went downstairs, woke him up, and we all went for a long morning walk. It was a handful. Three or so miles of pulling craziness in dog form that obviously not used to walking on a leash. We started to see the work we’d have ahead of us in terms of training, consistency, and routine.
When we got home from the walk I caught Lulu silently staring across the room at him. She was glaring, fuming even. She started to puff out her chest and circle him, then she attacked. She’d had so much fun with him in her house just 12 hours earlier but now she realized this unwanted guest was apparently a more permanent fixture in her home than she’d preferred, and she wanted him to know this was not okay with her. With a glance and a flinch Lulu was instantly barking and trying to fight with the new little pup. He responded with timid barking and confusion, not knowing why this new friend of his was now out to kill him. We quickly separated them with no actual contact, but were confused as to what Lulu was thinking. Sadly, these were shades of what we’d worried about and even expected. We hated seeing it, but we also weren’t surprised.
Over the next 36 hours we watched these two pups like hawks, but we worried this might not work out. They seemed perfectly fine one second, then Lulu would start staring him down. Though he may have initially tried to show dominance on day one, after their first altercation, Truman was showing how submissive he was. He’d roll onto his back giving yo his belly, he’d check where she was before entering a room to make sure he wasn’t walking into a trap, and he’d only play with his own toys, no longer even attempting to play with Lulu.
It was sad to watch them, almost like watching defeat. Truman had thought he’d made a fast friend the day before, but now she was just being a jerk. A lot of people would say that Lulu was showing dominance and letting Truman know she was in charge, but it was more than that. Lulu was not backing off when Truman was accepting his role and asking for peace, she was just being a bit of a bully.
Truman, as a result of Lulu’s bullying, even started acting out. At one point he was walking through the family room with Lulu in the kitchen. Wendy glanced over to see Truman peeing on the floor right in front of Lulu’s dog bed. He didn’t have to pee, had his own bed, and knew Lulu wasn’t nearby, so he was letting his displeasure with the whole situation be known.
The altercations and stare downs continued, and midway through day three in the house one of our and Lulu’s favorite people, Amy, came to visit and meet Truman. Amy and Lulu have a true bond. We’re pretty sure Lulu likes her as much, if not more than she likes us. When Amy arrived, as usual, Lulu was completely excited. Amy met Truman but also gave Lulu the attention and love she wanted.
A few minutes after Amy left it was like a switch flipped and suddenly Lulu no longer hated or was threatened by Truman’s presence in the house. Within the hour Lulu was once again initiating play flighting with Truman like they’d had on day one. It was almost as if Amy’s visit reassured Lulu that her life was still intact, that her people were still her people, and she didn’t need to fear the addition of Truman to her pack.
We moved forward with cautious optimism. Truman started to lose some of his fear of Lulu, but still consistently let her know that she was in charge. They continued to play almost non stop and we started to settle into our new routines as a two dog child house. It was touch and go there for a few days, but Truman was able to cement his place as a new member for our family.
We have a lot of work to do with Truman. We need to leash train him, help him with commands like come and stay (though he’s mastered sit and shake/paw), and help get him used to encountering other dogs on our walks. But at the same time, his energy is great, he loves Lulu, and he’s a very sweet dog that really wants to be by us whenever possible.
And for those of you that have been around for a long time and might notice the resemblance that Truman bears to our first dog, Ollie, it’s a little bit crazy for us. We have a photo of Ollie from 2010 when he was in the middle of chemo for lymphoma and we were home cooking his food. This is one of those quintessential memories we have of Ollie, in spite of his too brief time with us.
In the first few days we had Truman I was making some lunch at the stove. I looked down and seeing him begging for food pretty much took my breath away. They look similar, certainly not the same, but close enough that it made me pause for a moment.
So like I said, let’s use the 8th anniversary of our blogging lives to welcome Truman as a new contributing member of Old Town Home. You’ll likely see him in many photos here and on Instagram, looking oh so snaggle-toothed.
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