Happy Tails

Happy Tails: Sadie FKA Buttons!

Ten years ago, I adopted Sadie from ACCT Philly and this is my favorite story to tell. 

 

I moved to Philadelphia in September 2013.  I had just finished my doctorate and moved here for my job. I told myself that if all went well with work for six months, that I could get a dog.  It would be my reward to myself for my life’s work to date.

I remembered having seen a billboard for ACCT Philly while driving in Manayunk.  I went to ACCT Philly on a whim, “just to look” (famous last words) at the dogs.  I was looking for a “mid-size” dog, something like a Beagle.  The shelter had plenty of large dogs and Chihuahuas.  Most dogs were a little bigger than what I was looking for, and I just didn’t think I was a Chihuahua type of person. I looked through all the kennels and then made one more pass around the kennels at the front of the adoption floor before heading home. Upon this second look, I noticed a dog named “Buttons.”  Her kennel card listed her as Dachshund and Chihuahua.  I was sold on the Dachshund part as my good friend had one named Simba who was always my pal.  She was sitting at the back of the kennel, seemingly disinterested in greeting any human who came by her kennel door.  I started talking to her and finally she came toward me.  Other potential adopters noticed that she was suddenly friendly and starting walking toward her kennel.  Sensing my competition, I took the kennel card from the door and put it on the desk of a woman with a bunch of tattoos in the adoptions office and told her, “I want to see this dog.”

“Oh Buttons!” she said in an exasperated manner.  “We’ll see if she will come out of the kennel.  She won’t come out for anyone.” 

I followed the adoptions counselor to the kennel and Buttons came out without a fight.  The adoptions lady seemed surprised.  I smiled inside.  Buttons liked me :). We went to small room where Buttons promptly peed on the floor and on me.  I was christened.  She sniffed around me and seemed interested in me, albeit nervous.  After a few minutes of sniffing, the adoptions lady said, “Do you want to make it official?”  To be completely honest, I wasn’t entirely sure that I was ready to take this dog home with me, but I said yes.

I came back to ACCT Philly the next day to pick up Sadie FKA Buttons after her spay.

Sadie came home with me and later that evening on her own, she went into her crate around 9pm to go to sleep.  She was a quiet dog who seemed not to know how to do normal dog things like bark.  She didn’t bark at all for the first two weeks I had her.

But with time things changed.  She got comfortable in her environment and started barking at just about every other little sound.  I lived in a 13-story apartment building built 100 years ago, so there were lots of sounds.

There were other issues, too.  Sadie got an infection of her spay tattoo and she had a fungal infection on her outer ears.  She was also under weight for some reason and it became evident that she was never socialized or potty-trained.  She was fearful and the aggressive around humans and other dogs.  I lived on the eighth floor of a building with one elevator, which posed a problem when there were other people with dogs in the elevator.  Sadie didn’t know how to play with toys or fetch, and it also seemed like she was fearful of people touching her head, including me.  Her nails were very long and she certainly wasn’t going to allow me to trim them  

I felt disappointed that this wasn’t going as expected – having the perfect dog that was friendly and social with humans and other dogs.  There would be no oaky dates or dog park visits.  I adopted an adult dog so I hadn’t expected to fully potty train a dog.  I also didn’t realize that some dogs really do bark at every little sound.  I grew up with a large dog (named Bogart) who rarely barked, but we had lived in a single-family home in quiet suburbs, not in a 150-unit apartment building in the city.

I felt like I had trouble bonding with Sadie because of these challenges.  I knew about attachment theory and was bent on employing it to cultivate a connection with her.  But things weren’t going well due to all of these unforeseen issues and after a night of her barking at every little sound, I felt like I didn’t know what to do.  I couldn’t return her to the shelter, but I was at my whit’s end  

Up to this point, Sadie had been sleeping in her crate at night.  And because of the barking, I had moved her crate to the bathroom which was further from the front door in a location where she would be less likely to hear people in the hallway.  But she was barking even in the bathroom relocation.  I was at the end of my rope and didn’t know what else to do. Typically firm in my resolve, I gave in and let her sleep in bed with me.  There was not one other peep or bark after this new sleeping arrangement had been established.

Our relationship improved thereafter.  In hindsight, I realize now that my attempts to use attachment theory to bond with Sadie had worked, and the fact that she was insisting on being with me was actually evidence of it.  She had attached.  She wanted to sleep in my bed with her human, just like feral dogs had learned the benefits of sleeping close to the human campfire for mutual benefit thousands of years ago.

Over time, her potty training improved.  She learned how to play with a stuffed turtle toy (she prefers turtle toys, perhaps because she lived with a turtle in her former home).  She came around to people very slowly and after years, to other dogs.  I credit my neighbors at the building where I lived for socializing her.  They were so patient and understanding, and I think of their kind and patient attitudes even today.  One neighbor once commented, “New Year, new Sadie!” when she noticed that Sadie had become more friendly with her.  A next door neighbor who was a medical student at the time said that Sadie used to bark when she would hear him come home at all hours of the day, but now he would only hear her “shake off” from inside my apartment door when he came home, as if she recognized that he was not actually a threat but that she had to do her due diligence as a dog to stand alert.  Eventually Sadie let him give her belly rubs.  I think of these experiences even now and how necessary they were in helping Sadie feel safe and confident in the world.

Sadie exceeded every expectation that I had for her over the years, and I love her more every year we have together.  There’s so much more I could say about her.  She is my best girl. 

I tell everyone that Sadie is from ACCT Philly with the hope that they too will consider adopting from ACCT Philly where the need for adopters is greatest.

I still have Sadie’s surrender sheet that her previous owner filled out when she surrendered her to ACCT Philly.  Her previous owner wrote that she is a “very kind dog.”  It seemed like they loved her but maybe didn’t know how to care for her.  I wonder how they got her in the first place, and if they have photos of her when she was a puppy.  I wonder if Sadie would remember her previous family, and I wonder if they ever think of her today.  

Sadie has been to the Jersey shore, Baltimore, and all over Pennsylvania.  She has twice  completed the Walk4Hearing 5K at the Navy Yard.  Despite that she is at least twelve years old, she is naturally athletic and still hikes all over the Wissahickon.  She is in great health and she lives for “eggies,” Greenies, peanut butter, bananas, and turkey, and is still as feisty as ever. 

Originally, I had wanted to have a pair of dogs, but I didn’t feel prepared to take that on at the time.  It took years before I thought Sadie could accept having another dog live in her home.  In 2019, I adopted a second dog from the EAC.  Formerly known as Jackie, now Pepper, she has a naturally sweet demeanor and is full of life.  She is an expressive Pomchi.  We named her Pepper because she has so much “pep” in her step.  Sadie and Pepper tolerate each other and will even sit next to each other, touching, from time to time. 

Here are some photos of Sadie and Pepper from over the years, as well as at her 10-year adoptiversary celebration this week. Happy Gotcha Day to my St. Patrick’s Day Chiweenie 💚