I had a dog for many years. She was a pretty little Lhasa Apso adopted from an elderly lady who could no longer take care of her. I had Buffy long before I got married and had kids. She barked a lot, but it wasn't a big deal to me. In fact, I liked having a 'watchdog' when I lived alone. Her barking became a real problem when my son developed issues with sound sensitivity and later became terrified of all animals. We were very fortunate to have family nearby who gave Buffy a loving home for the rest of her life. It broke my heart to give her up, but it was clearly necessary at the time.
A few years have passed and we have gone without having a furry friend in the house. I often dreamed of having a dog again. I've read story after story about how beneficial dogs can be for children with autism and I desperately wanted to give my son the same experience. I worry a lot about my son being lonely and I loved the idea of him having a dog as a 'friend'.
Several months ago, we attended a circus that came through town. There was a small corral set up for pony rides. My daughter couldn't wait to ride one. My son, on the other hand, wanted to be as far from the ponies as possible. He watched from a distance as his younger sister enjoyed her ride. You can imagine my shock when he announced that he wanted to ride one too. We were beyond thrilled to watch him ride a pony. This was a huge improvement! He had overcome several fears recently and I couldn't help but wonder if he was ready to have a dog in the house again.
Sound sensitivity is still an issue. If we were going to have a dog, she would need to be very quiet and extremely mellow for my son to tolerate her. Since I'd be the one taking care of the dog, I had requirements too. I would only consider a short haired, low shedding breed. So, the search was on for a non-barking, super mellow, short-haired, low shedding dog. I know...this dog doesn't exist. But it didn't stop me from obsessively searching animal rescue websites and Craigslist looking for a match. You never know, there might just be an elderly toy poodle with a personality disorder in need of a good home.
Months went by and I never saw a dog that matched our requirements. My husband and I decided to visit the local animal shelter to see if there was one there that had not been advertised on the website. All of the dogs were barking so loud, I almost walked out immediately. Then I noticed a long-haired, medium sized black dog sitting quietly in his cage. He was the only dog in the shelter that wasn't barking. He was clearly scared. We offered to take him out for a walk, just to give him a break from the cage. He was happy for the break, but was still very quiet and calm. I silently wished he was smaller and had shorter hair. His long hair was terribly matted and he was shedding like crazy. Too bad he wasn't a good fit for us.
We returned him to his cage and the shelter worker readily volunteered information about him. His name was Buddy and he was 2 years old. He was a cocker spaniel and lab mix. I know she hoped we'd adopt him, but he just wouldn't work for us. We've got a lot of asthma in the house and I'd have to vacuum every single day to keep up with that hair! We left the shelter empty handed.
I had trouble sleeping that night. I kept thinking about poor Buddy, alone and scared in that cage. I couldn't help but wonder if he was the dog we were meant to have. After all, 'Buddy' is another word for 'friend'.
I was back at the shelter the next morning filling out the adoption papers. I figured we could give it a try and if it didn't work out, I'd bring him back. If nothing else, at least Buddy would have a break from the shelter. I took him home, cleaned him up and scheduled an appointment with a vet to make sure he was healthy. Then I went to school to pick up my son.
I prepared my son for Buddy while we drove home. Having a dog was something we had talked about quite a bit and he was agreeable to the idea. But I knew the reality of the situation would be different than merely talking about it.
My son was much more scared of Buddy than I could have imagined. Even though Buddy was completely calm, my son wouldn't go near him. In fact, he hid in is bedroom all afternoon. When my husband got home from work that night, I told him I'd take the dog back to the shelter the next day. There was no way I was going to let my son be terrified in his own home. My husband suggested I give it a few more days and I reluctantly agreed.
He made quick progress in accepting Buddy. As long as I kept Buddy on a leash, my son was comfortable with him in the house. The dog, who was delighted to follow me around all day, seemed perfectly happy with the arrangement. I slowly weaned off the leash and within a couple of weeks, Buddy roamed freely and my son had begun interacting with him.
I'm not sure what happened, but a few weeks after we adopted Buddy, his personality changed dramatically. He suddenly started barking when he was out in the yard and he developed a lot more energy. By the time this change in personality occurred, my son was already used to him and didn't seem bothered by it. I don't know why he was so mellow and quiet when we first got him. Perhaps he was sick or scared...or both. Whatever the reason, his quiet demeanor in the beginning made it possible for him to come live with us and we are happy to have him.
My son still has moments where he is anxious around the dog, but he is enjoying him for the most part. We like to take Buddy to the park with us. The first time we took him, my son walked right up to a little girl and invited her to meet Buddy. SUCCESS! That moment alone makes up for the insane amount of time I now spend vacuuming the house.
So, in the end, we wound up with a loud, hyper, long-haired, high shedding mutt...just like I wanted.