GTPulse: It Takes Two

When I was growing up, most of our family pets came from the bold and determined actions of my sister. 

Erica had a knack for finding lost or displaced souls in need of a home, and she had the decent boldness to bring them home no matter the opinion of my Mother. 

Quite frankly, some of our puppies and kittens came from large, cardboard boxes marked “free” outside of the grocery store across from our house. My Mom may have displayed annoyance, but ultimately, she knew my sister was beyond capable of caring for the animals she brought home. In fact, her love of animals has blossomed as an adult, as she continues to open her heart and her home to many dogs, cows and now, goats. 

Although I have always loved pets, it wasn’t until my mid-thirties that I began to entertain the idea of adopting them. I had been a single mother for most of my sons’ lives and the reality of working two jobs and raising two kids always eclipsed any prospect of adding pets to our home. But, a few years ago, my son brought his German Shepherd, who had lived with his dad most of her life, into our home. Eva was a magnificent dog who made me realize how much I had missed my childhood spent around Erica’s multiple rescues. Eva passed away due to cancer when she was ten years old, and our family was devastated. We grieved for many months until we felt ready to consider adopting a new dog.

Just before the pandemic began, and a series of orders closed many of the shelters, we had finally felt ready to begin the search. But, like everyone else, my husband and I had to put our plans on hold. So, on May 4th when we had an opportunity to adopt JoJo Mario, a young and spunky rat terrier, we were absolutely thrilled. The following months, however, proved to be a challenge as we discovered that JoJo had some cognitive and behavioral issues to which we were unaware. With the help of a massive amount of advice and guidance from our dog trainer, Jennifer Loup of Loupine LLC, we were able to reset some of JoJo’s issues, and reestablish his trust in humans. Additionally, Jen taught us about the importance of creating and enforcing boundaries. It’s been nearly a year since JoJo Mario came into our lives. In addition to the ongoing work we do with JoJo, we had to come to terms with the fact that our sweet boy would not be able to do the things we may have dreamt about when we started our search. He is not a dog who enjoys public places. He is uncomfortable around strangers. He loves long walks, but it has taken months for him to feel confident walking with other dogs.  There have definitely been difficulties along the way, but like anything worth fighting for, the massive amount of love and joy we’ve experienced building our relationship with JoJo Mario has been worth it.

Early on in our consultations with Jen, it was suggested that one aspect of JoJo’s issues may have to do with a lack of both human-to-dog and dog-to-dog socialization. This may have occurred naturally due to a lack of overall socialization. It could have happened at birth since we suspect that JoJo was the runt of the litter, or, it may have been because he was taken from his litter too soon. These aspects were not revealed to us, and may not have been revealed to his previous owner. However, no matter the reason for JoJo’s condition, Jen suggested that if we were open to welcoming a second dog into our home, the canine companion might benefit him. Jen was adamant, though, that the second dog had to be the right dog for both JoJo and our family. So, for the past six months, our search to adopt another dog was on. That search led me to find many wonderful rescue options within our area. There’s AC Paw, The Great Lakes Humane Society and Cherryland Humane Society in the Grand Traverse Area, the Charlevoix Humane Society, Little Traverse Bay Humane Society and Cheboygan Humane Society in the north and Homeward Bound Humane Society, Wexford County Animal Shelter, and Missaukee Humane Society south of Traverse City. 

It felt almost like online dating as I spent months reading profiles of dogs and discussing whether our home would be a good fit for the prospective pooch and our family.

Ten days ago, I was sent a profile of a dog who seemed absolutely perfect. His brown eyes smiled, as his happiness seemed to shine through the screen. My heart skipped a beat as I started to realize he really might be the right dog for our family. For starters, he is the same age and around the same size as JoJo. Better ye, he was looking to be placed in a home with a second dog since he also needs canine companionship. Although I avidly tried not to get my hopes up, I sent an inquiry to H.A.N.N.D.S to the Rescue who forwarded my information to the dog’s Foster Mom, Patti. She called me within twenty minutes and we committed to meeting the very next day. 

H.A.N.N.D.S to the Rescue (Helping Abused, Neglected, Disabled, Displaced Souls) is a volunteer-based rescue for dogs that may be challenging to place. Most of the rescued dogs come from local animal control departments and shelters that may not have the manpower to properly care for the dogs. H.A.N.N.D.S does not have a physical shelter. Instead, each dog is placed in an experienced Foster home matching the needs of the particular dog. The dogs are individually assessed and are provided necessary medical care, vaccines, heart-worm prevention, and treated for fleas/worms if needed. All dogs are also spayed or neutered prior to adoption. Some dogs may require additional time to work with trainers and foster families to begin dealing with behavioral issues or fears. When a dog is deemed ready for adoption, his photo and detailed description are posted on the H.A.N.N.D.S Facebook page. Prospective adoptive families are given all available information about the dog, including any behavioral issues, making the decision to adopt as informed and transparent as possible. H.A.N.N.D.S wants to find the right home for every dog brought into their care, and they’re willing to take all the time necessary to make that happen. In addition to the background information, prospective families are asked to keep the dog for a one-week trial period to be sure that every member of the household is acclimating to the new addition.

With JoJo Mario in tow, we made our way to Patti’s home and took the two dogs for a walk around the neighborhood. At first, JoJo was uneasy about the situation, but we kept the dogs at a distance as we continued our walk. Because of the skills I learned from Jen, I was able to note several communication signs between the dogs—calming signals from JoJo Mario, like slightly raising one front paw, looking away, and periodically “shaking off” the stress. I noticed that the new dog was mirroring JoJo’s signals—a sign of reassurance meant to tell JoJo that he was not a threat. Within ten minutes, the two dogs were walking next to each other. JoJo’s tiny tail, once tucked, was now up and wagging as the two seemed to grow more comfortable with each other with every step. We continued walking for another thirty minutes, stopping periodically to allow for sniffing and greeting, before continuing along our way. By the time we came back, I felt confident that this dog may be perfect for our home.  I left Patti’s house to start our trial period feeling empowered with knowledge, and excited to see how our new boy would do with our family.

Throughout the week, we have employed strategies learned through ongoing training and research to ensure the comfort and happiness of both dogs. The friendship between the two has started to blossom, and we have bonded quickly to our new boy. 

Today is the day the official day of adoption for Milo Angelo, our patient, and loving boy. Thanks to the continued education and support we’ve learned from our dog trainer, Jennifer Loup, and the open and honest policies of the incredible H.A.N.N.D.S to the Rescue, our family has grown by four paws, and our hearts are growing bigger with every passing day. 

You can learn more about H.A.N.N.D.S to the Rescue here:

You can learn more about classes, behavioral consultations and one on one session with Loupine LLC here:


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Categories: GTPulse