Longtime family friends recently contacted me, weeks after losing their beloved dog of 14 years. Though devastated, they were ready to open their home to another dog. And, in my opinion, they went about it the right way. First, they were not expecting the new dog to be a replacement. A new pet can definitely replace the feelings we have when we share our lives with a pet, but it’s not fair to expect one to replace another. Next, they decided to conduct their search together. Though it might take more time to find the ideal companion when two people are looking — my wife and I have trouble picking a Christmas tree — this very important, long-term decision is more successful when both members of a couple are involved. My friends also had an open schedule with no plans between now and Christmas, which meant they had nothing but time to bond with their new companion. They saw a photo of an adoptable shelter dog, and although it felt like an instant love connection, they reserved final judgment for after an in-person meeting. When that went well, Misha, a 1-year-old, long-haired, blond Chihuahua mix, went to her new forever home. Our staff explained how to introduce a new name in case they didn’t want to keep the name Misha. Basically, her owners say the new name and when their little girl makes eye contact, they give her a treat. With more reps, she begins to associate the new name with something positive: treats. Next, leash training. The leash was foreign to Misha so, as is the case with any unfamiliar object, introductions work best with baby steps. Put the leash on, but don’t go for a walk the first time. Then, put it on, but walk around the house. Later, once this is easy, take a short walk outside. In terms of her diet, they stuck with the dry food Misha was used to eating. Four-start adoption!
Scott oversees PHS/SPCA’s Adoption, Behavior and Training, Education, Outreach, Field Services, Cruelty Investigation, Volunteer and Media/PR program areas and staff from the new Tom and Annette Lantos Center for Compassion.