The rest of the adoption process and finding Sydney
The rest of the adoption process
After verifying my references, the adoption coordinator from the Aussie rescue organization and I planned a phone interview so that they could pre-screen me prior to sending a volunteer to my house. At the time I thought the process seemed a tad intensive, but I can understand why they do it. If you tell them you want a fluffy house dog, they are not going to bother sending a volunteer (as in someone who is not getting paid to drive all over interviewing people) to your house for the house visit. Almost all of the questions were about Trooper and a few about my opinion on the breed.
A few days later I had the house visit. The visit was very friendly and informative. I briefly showed her a few rooms on the bottom story and described our invisible fence. Then we just chatted about what I was looking for and my motivations for seeking a second dog. The woman who interviewed me also does a lot of fostering, so I asked about introducing a second dog into the home and her recommendation for going about it. She suggested keeping them separated in different rooms by a barrier (they can see each other but not access each other) so the first dog learns to accept the second dog’s presence. Then, when it feels right, you let them be in the same room.
After the interview, she sent her assessment to the head coordinator who then made the final decision. I was informed two days later that I had been approved and that I could start contacting foster families on the website. Their website also hosts a subset of dogs, called “Dogs on Referral” who are dogs that reside with their original owners while waiting for a new home. There is no adoption fee for them and you get to talk with people who usually have had the dog forever, as opposed to a foster parent who might have only recently brought the dog in. I think it’s a great service and it ended up being the route that led us to Sydney.
The first visit with Sydney
Sydney smiling in the kitchen
Sydney is a 5.5 year old red merle, who
weighs about 35 pounds. After reading her description, I was pleased to discover that she had all of the characteristics we were seeking – female, right size, similar age to Trooper, smart and good disposition. The bonus was that she lived only 45 minutes north of us and was residing with her original family, so we could visit and chat with people who really knew her.
Her family really loved her but her needs were not being as well met since the addition of a human child to the family. And with another one on the way, they were worried that she would become further neglected. She had been loved and cared for by them since she was a puppy, but since the first child had been born, she had become a lower priority. We all know Aussies are smart and have a lot of needs. The family did a very difficult and honorable thing by deciding to give her to a family who could maintain a lifestyle conducive to having an Aussie.
My boyfriend and I drove up two Saturdays ago and introduced the two dogs in a neutral territory (a neighbor’s), fenced-in yard. There was a small confrontation in the beginning that scared the piss out of Trooper. He then did not want to go near her. There was only one shady part of the yard, spanning probably 10 feet. They both wanted to get out of the hot sun and ended up in the shade, at opposite ends, bodies pointing at the people, but faces pointing away from each other. They refused to look at each other; this is normal and means that neither of them are trying to be dominant or aggressive.
Alright, so fast forward several minutes: It was getting pretty darn boring for the people to watch such inactive dogs and we were not any closer to knowing if they would get along. What ended up doing the trick was riling them up and causing another mini-confrontation. Sydney would try to chase and play with Trooper and he would freak out and stop, usually hiding behind our legs. He likes playing but I think he was surprised that Sydney was so wicked fast. Eventually, he got fed up with feeling herded, harassed and chased, so he whipped around and snapped at her face. She immediately lowered her face and backed away. Then, as if by magic, it was all fine! They even engaged in a brief, but genuine, game of chase and then settled down, this time about 3 feet from each other, with heads in a more natural direction. It turns out that Trooper just needed to feel assertive and know that Sydney was not going to beat him up and Sydney needed to understand where the line was with him. Dog magic!
Sydney and Trooper, learning to be comfortable around each other
Visit number two
The second play date took place this past Saturday. Sydney and company came down to our place so we could see how Trooper responded to a dog in his territory. We have an invisible fence and because Sydney is not trained to it, we were a little hesitant about letting her off leash. Because her people were with her, however, it worked out fine. She did run off a few times but came back after a few minutes. When she was initially let off leash, she and Trooper took off, running in big circles. There was not very much interaction, but they were definitely okay being around each other. They eventually sat in the shade again, this time with apparently little concern about the proximity of the other.
After 20 minutes or so of letting Sydney play outside and become comfortable, her owners left her with us for an hour and a half. It was very hot outside, so we took the dogs inside and decided to be very calm and boring by watching a movie with both of them with us. It worked out beautifully until Trooper came to rub against my legs and Sydney jumped up from her post across the room and ran over to squeeze between him and myself. That caused a minor episode where they showed their teeth. The solution was to ask them to both ‘lay’ and ‘stay’ on separate beds, across the room from each, with equal distance from us. Any time one of them wanted to be the protector of the people, we had them go back to their beds and maintain the peace.
Even with the running away and the small amount of disagreement between the Aussies, it was a great visit and we knew she would make a great addition to the family. We offered to adopt her, discussed final details and made arrangements for me to pick her up the next day. Welcome to the family, Sydney!