Today is the one year anniversary - or “adopt-iversary” if you will - of the day we brought home Winnie. In its honor, I thought it might be a fitting time to update you on our little 90% angel, 10% devil.
If you’re new around these parts (Welcome!) let me catch you up! Winnie is our rescue dog. She was born October 10, 2016 - one year to the day after we got married - and we met her and fell in love with her at a holiday adoption fair we went to that was put on by the Best Friends Animal Society in December of last year. You can read the whole story here, but in short, we went to the fair on a Friday night, met her, went home and thought about her nonstop for the next 36 hours. We went back on Sunday morning and we couldn’t believe she hadn’t been scooped up by anyone yet. We took it as a sign and immediately made her ours.
What’s interesting is that I've wanted a dog my whole life, but Ben really never did. A switch went off inside of him from the moment he saw her and pointed her out at that fair. He’s become a TOTAL dog person, and it’s been so fun to watch - and an awesome preview of what he’ll be like as a dad (sweet, silly and a sucker). If you follow me on Instagram and watch my stories, you know she’s kind of the center of our worlds!
We were told that Winnie was a lab/hound mix, but I was dying to know more, so I purchased a Wisdom Panel DNA test. It turns out she has NO lab in her. She’s a mix of Terrier, Whippet, Great Pyrenees and Catahoula Leopard. If you've met her, you know she's got an interesting physique - she's long and lean with the cutest little face. I get stopped a lot while walking her because people are curious to know more; at least several times a week, I get asked if she’s part Greyhound. (No one ever guesses Whippet!)
I guess the ONE downside of adopting is that you’re not always sure what you’re getting. When I heard “lab” I thought she’d be loyal and sweet and well-behaved and low-key. And she is all of those things…sometimes. But she’s also scary smart and a bit of a schemer. I do think we got a bit more of a nut than we’d originally bargained for.
I think Ben could’ve lived without doing the DNA test but I was pretty jazzed about it, and when we received the results we agreed it was pretty cool to read about these different breeds and see which character traits described Winnie. American Staffordshire Terriers are loyal, intelligent, good with kids, athletic and like to guard things. Great Pyrenees, in addition to loving exercise, have an independent spirit but respond well to a reward-based approach to training. Whippets are typically quiet, sensitive, smart and friendly. They also love to chase.
The only breed on the list I was unfamiliar with was Catahoula Leopard. It’s actually the state dog of Louisiana and all the behaviors associated with it - athletic, hard-working, territorial - absolutely describe our Winnie.
Ben’s initial concern in getting any dog was that we wouldn’t have enough room in our apartment for all three of us to live comfortably. However, we’d already purchased our house at that point in time and knew that living in a 600-square-foot apartment was temporary. For the ten months the three of us cohabited there, we kept telling ourselves that we would soon be giving her a better life out in the suburbs.
I knew that moving was going to be a big shock for her, but there were a few things I thought she’d take comfort in. I insisted on moving her crate into the house EXACTLY as it was in the apartment, so we didn’t take anything out of it before moving. My dad gave us some of his (amazing) furniture, including his couch that was Winnie’s favorite spot in his apartment. I knew she’d recognize it immediately and feel more at home.
What I didn't anticipate was how drastically different her day-to-day life would change. In Manhattan, Winnie had a better social life than I did! Every single walk we took her on, no matter how short or far, she was guaranteed to get greetings from our doormen, run into doggy friends in the building/neighborhood, and have a least one stranger stop to fawn over her. She was the center of attention and she loved it.
Life here in the suburbs is quite different. No doormen, no delivery guy at the gourmet market next door waiting to hug Winnie each morning, and not too many dogs in the neighborhood. The first two weeks here were TOUGH. She was annoyed, confused, disoriented and restless. She had a few too many accidents in the house. We hadn’t yet received our bed so the three of us were sleeping in the guest room, which is in the front of the house and faces the street. We don’t yet have window treatments, so Winnie would be up at all hours of the night, parked at the window, howling at every light that flickered and car that drove by. It was MISERABLE. Our bedroom faces the backyard and is much darker; it’s safe to say we were all relieved once our bed arrived and we felt like inhabiters of our house (rather than guests).
I cried a bunch those first few weeks. I was alone with Winnie a lot, and coupled with pregnancy hormones, I wondered if we’d been wrong about giving her a “better life” out here when the truth is she had it pretty damn sweet in the city. Plenty of pals, three blocks from her favorite day care/hangout and two blocks from her favorite babysitter (my dad). She seemed almost sullen out here and it broke my damn heart.
Our new vet here assured me that her behavior sounded pretty typical and that a move is a huge change not just for humans, but for pets too! I guess I just don’t feel like anyone gave me the heads up beforehand, and if this blog post helps even one of you, it was worth writing.
Here’s what I did to try to ease the transition period for Winnie:
We kept her crate exactly the same - every ratty blanket and old toy that was inside of it, stayed.
We also kept her food and water bowls the same for the first week or so. (I knew I wanted to get her new/nicer ones but decided to wait a bit.)
At my dad’s house, she sat/napped on a gray quilted blanket. He brought that to the house and we used it to cover one of the couch cushions and Winnie knows it's her area. It’s what you see her sitting/sleeping on in my Instastories every single day.
I tried to emulate her toy time as best as possible from the city to here. She loves her Starmark Groovy Ball and Busy Buddy, and I love them because they occupy her for awhile! But we didn’t have any rugs downstairs for our first couple of weeks or so here, and I remembered she only played with those toys on the rug in our apartment, so I’d bring those toys up in our bedroom (it’s carpeted) and she’d play while I showered/got dressed.
I got her this calming collar. She wore it for about a week, and while I don’t believe it’s the sole problem solver, she was more relaxed once it was on.
As you read above, she has a lot of energy and needs ample exercise. I take her on a two mile walk almost every day.
My dad visits a lot. They have a really special relationship and I know he feels like she's part his, too, which I love, and which I wanted from the get-go. (He travels way too much to care for a pet full-time.)
It’s been about a month and a half here, and it’s far from perfect. I still haven’t found the right daycare situation for her, and I’m honestly not sure how I’m going to handle her and a baby by myself. But it’s SO much better. She's perky and well-behaved and back to her unique mix of independent and needy. She keeps me on my toes and I am so grateful for her. (I keep this in mind when she’s driving me crazy.) She’s my little buddy and she’s a sweetheart. This past year has been a blast (for the most part) and I am excited to see the bond she’ll develop with our daughter. I did not grow up with a pet and I’m so glad this baby will. She’ll know how to treat and care for animals from a young age, and I think that’s really special.
Happy 1 year adopt-iversary, Winners. You will always be the first baby girl we brought home!