When I brought Rugby home on December 1, 2007, I knew that he would need some adjustment time as all dogs do when they come to a new home. Although he was my first rescue dog, I was a professional dog trainer, and had trained many rescues. I knew that Rugby would need at least thirty to sixty days to settle in and learn a new routine and new rules for our pack. At this point in time, I had no idea how many previous homes that he had had, so I really was unaware of his trust issues at this point in time.
He had met me at his foster home and seemed to be just fine with me. He was more interested in his foster mom, but she had been his world for the previous six to eight weeks, so that seemed pretty normal to me. He didn’t have any difficulty having me handle him, and was willing to come to me and play with me just fine. But unlike many rescue puppies that I train, he wasn’t all over me to get attention from me. He wanted attention from his foster mom, and made it clear to me that she was the one he cared about!
When I brought him home, I had a crate waiting for him in the living room where he would sleep at night. We had a good sized living room, with a fairly open floor plan, so the first floor of the house was perfect for him as he settled into a new home. The bedrooms were all upstairs, but so were our two kitties, and we wanted to keep the peace, so during the day, Rugby got the downstairs, and the kitties got the upstairs….until Rugby was crated for the night. Then, the kitties got to roam the entire house, which I’m very sure that they loved. They had staked out their places to sleep on the sofa and recliner before Rugby came to live with us, so despite having a new dog in the house, they still got to have their favorite places to sleep as much as we could arrange it for them.
To help Rugby settle in more easily and quickly, I knew I wanted to set up some simple, consistent patterns of fun and security for him. I knew I wanted him to understand that he would get fed consistently, have access to water, have toys that were his alone, daily walks, play time in the yard and house both, and times when I would train him and, of course, snuggle him.
Keep in mind that Rugby was an older puppy of eight to nine months when he came home with me on that mild December day in 2007. I have no idea of his background, and I honestly don’t think that he was ever abused, but was likely neglected….based upon the behavior that I was to see as he settled into our home. He truthfully made a pretty seamless transition into our home, and settled into the rhythm of my life so easily. Sadly, I think he had learned that skill in order to survive well in so many different homes prior to ours.
One of my very favorite early memories of Rugby when he was new in our home was our morning routine together. I always got up early, and came downstairs in my pjs and robe to get Rugby going for the day. I leashed him up, took him outside to potty, and then brought him in and fed him breakfast, which he inhaled in mere seconds!
Because it was still early, and not really being a morning person, I wasn’t ready to really wake up…hence the pjs and bathrobe! After Rugby’s breakfast, I would get a Nylabone for him, and he would lay on the sofa, his front half on my lap, his back half next to me, and he happily chewed and chewed. I petted him and loved on him while he gnawed away, and from time to time, he would look up at me with those gorgeous eyes of his, and I wondered if he was happy in his new home, and liked having me as his new mama. After a few minutes, we both got a bit sleepy, and I would lay on the sofa, and rather than sleep on the floor or at the far end of the sofa, Rugby always snuggled right behind my knees, chewing away for just a bit longer, or often propping his chin on my legs and taking a morning nap with me.
I remember those special moments like they were yesterday. It’s how we bonded together. I was already crazy in love with him, but I think that all of those early morning snuggles helped him to fall in love with me. I can’t honestly imagine just how scared he really had to feel with yet one more new home and new human to adjust to….all at such a tender age.
No one else in the house was awake, so there was no competition for either one of us. We simply had each other….a girl and her dog, and a dog and his girl. And for those moments in time….which seemed to last forever every morning….nothing else really mattered to either one of us.