Bringing Home Bindi
Bringing Home Bindi
February 22, 2019
It was February of 2010, just a few days before my birthday, and I was checking in with the dog rescue group while they were setting up their kennels for an adoption event at Petco, my workplace at the time. The rescue owner smiles at me and says “Kelsey, I have your next puppy”. Now, I have seen her bring nearly 100 dogs into the store during the numerous adoption events they had held over the years, and she had never mentioned anything like this to me before, so I was intrigued. She pulled out a picture of 3 adorable, brindle (my favorite), 8 week old, female puppies, and proceeded to tell me that they were a mix of my favorite dog breeds at the time, pit x lab x border collie (later DNA tested as pug x border collie, Ha!).
At this time, I was all of 20 years old. I was in school, working during every spare moment as the Petco dog trainer, trying to make time for my horse that I insisted on boarding and financially supporting while struggling through the starving college student phase of my life, and I had no time or money for a new puppy. I held firm to my decision that it was not the right time for a dog and politely said no to that sweet puppy face. Two weeks later, I called to see if the puppies were still available…
…It was a sunny, beautiful drive to go pick out my new puppy. The rescue was on a ranch with ponies, puppies, piglets, and more. The three little girls that were dropped off in a box on the rescuer’s doorstep were out frolicking in a big outdoor play yard with plenty of novel smells, sights, and sounds, and they eagerly ran up to greet me the moment I walked in. I sat for about an hour, deciding which pup was best for me. One was jumping in my lap, play mouthing my fingers and romping with the other pups – too much energy, I thought. One was friendly and equally interested in her playful sister and the new person in her pen – nothing special, I thought. One was sniffing around the pen, checking me out, dodging her sister’s play, then going back to sniffing, then she fell asleep in my lap – that’s the one!
I thought, wow this puppy isn’t too energetic, thinks that the human is more interesting than the other dogs, so she’ll be a great companion, likes to explore the environment, and loves to snuggle! In reality, I picked the puppy that was overwhelmed with high energy play, was displacement sniffing to self soothe her stress, and was so exhausted from the stimuli in her environment that she passed out in the middle of a play session. Well, hindsight is 20/20.
Bringing home Bindi was so exciting. I had butterflies in my stomach the entire day and through the first night, to the point where I couldn’t even fall asleep. I had never had my own dog before. Previously, I had raised puppies for Guide Dogs for the Blind, but this one was mine! She was very cute, very needy, very shy, and very chompy – as many puppies can be. I assumed her “shy” behavior was just from being a new puppy in a new place but figured she would grow out of it quickly with more exposure to the world, once she was older and vaccinated.
Here’s another hindsight moment! I was told, as are many other owners and trainers, that it was crucial, for the safety of the puppy, that socializing needed to wait until she was fully vaccinated. The vet said not to take her off property until she had her last set of puppy shots at 16 weeks, otherwise, she could contract a deadly virus! Obviously, I am a good dog owner and would never put my puppy in a deadly situation, so I kept her home. Unfortunately, I did not know how important that Critical Socialization Period is for puppies, and I did not know that I could safely socialize her without putting her at a high disease risk.
Finally, my baby puppy was old enough for her last set of puppy shots. I took her to the Petco where I worked for the Vaccination Clinic that came in monthly to administer low cost vaccines (starving college student, remember). I waited in line with her, surrounded by dogs and their owners, then lifted her up onto the table for the vet to do a brief exam and administer shots. She was trembling, so I held her tightly to keep her from bailing out of there. The vet held her down on the table and administered the vaccine and she pooped, right on the table. I couldn’t believe she did that! She was potty trained, she had gone potty before we went to the store, she had been to the vet before, why would she do that on the table – how embarrassing.
Ok, time for a shake off! Just typing out that experience with baby Bindi gives me anxiety. I feel so bad for subjecting her to such an overwhelming experience, especially since she had minimal socializing before that point, especially since she was a “shy” puppy to begin with, especially since vaccinations are already scary for most dogs, especially because there were so many things I could have easily done differently, especially since this experience factored in to a lifetime of handling sensitivity for Bindi.
The first few weeks with Bindi were full of well-intended, uneducated decisions, but I feel like many dog owners are in the same boat. You don’t know what you don’t know. I had mentors and professionals telling me things that they thought to be true and it took many months for me to figure out that their methods and advice was not the best option for my dog (or for any dog). She wasn’t able to be successful in a crowd, she wasn’t able to be successful when dogs invaded her space, she wasn’t able to be successful when strangers handled her, she wasn’t able to be successful when I had to do invasive procedures, and no amount of correction was going to fix that – so I learned.