There is something about going from having one pet to having two, something hard, something that makes you question your sanity and your decision-making skills.
Since Moose passed in May, Luna’s life had become pretty quiet. Despite regular walks and outdoor adventures, she spent most of her time sleeping or curling up in her chair, gazing longingly out the window.
Interpreting Luna’s malaise and apparent boredom as a cry for canine companionship, we reached out to the local shelter. There, we were introduced to a young Australian shepherd/lab/something-else mix named Mocha.
We knew Mocha had been at the shelter for three months. The shelter indicated that Mocha was not house-trained and had been living freely on a reservation for most of his life (read: wild and unsocialized), chasing cars and anything else – not exactly drawing in the potential adopters. However, it was immediately apparent that Mocha did have some manners and would literally do anything for a treat. I confess; after living with a Husky for two years, the idea of an easily trainable dog was completely irresistible. So, once we did a meet and greet with Luna to ensure the dogs would not kill each other, we coaxed Mocha into the car and took the dogs home.
That was the easy part.
Once home, we began to learn more about Mocha.
ON THE UP SIDE:
- Mocha had at some point been house trained. That deserves both a “hooray” and a huge sigh of relief.
- He had also been socialized, allowing me to touch his feet and mouth without fear of getting snapped at. Even my darling Moose, who had been very socialized, hated having his feet touched. Within a few hours, Mocha was flopping down on the floor, belly up, as if to say, “Do with me what you will!”
- Still very much a puppy, his attention span is short and his curiosity gets the better of him sometimes. However, he responds well to training, with or without treats. It took two years before Luna realized her name wasn’t “No, Luna, no!” With Mocha, he’s catching on very quickly and aims to please. We rarely have to call him “No, Mocha, no!”
ON THE DOWN SIDE
- The shelter hadn’t been wrong about Mocha’s prey drive. Inside, he’s content to hang out, chew on his toys, and relax. Outside, he is a different dog: hyper-alert, on-the-prowl, and ready to chase down everything (especially deer). Thankfully, see #3, above. We’re working on this.
- Although he showed no signs of fear at the shelter, when we got home Mocha suddenly became afraid of Mike, despite that Mike had been doing his best to make Mocha feel loved and safe. He’s getting better; he no longer runs away or avoids Mike. However, Mike can sneeze and Mocha will run from the room. It makes you wonder just what happened in Mocha’s former life to cause this reaction.
I’ll admit, I questioned whether Mocha was the right fit for life at the barn. In particular, I questioned whether I could control both him and Luna outside, where we are surrounded by animals that are completely irresistible to the dog whose past survival may have depended on catching and killing. Along with the territory wars and dog fights that sounded like they were to the death, the pissed off Husky who acted so betrayed by the intruder, the new dog who was testing every boundary and wanted to claim everything as his own, I felt completely overwhelmed, stressed, and weepy. I missed how calm things had been with having just Luna and I missed being able to take her for a walk without it being a production. I missed not always being in training mode, the constant corrections to keep Mocha from pulling me around like I’m weightless.
I thought about returning him to the shelter many times but I just couldn’t. Despite the toll the adjustment was taking on me (working from home means I am in the trenches 24/7) he didn’t deserve that. He deserved a family who will love him no matter his past or his current training needs, a life of love to match the incredible amount of love he has to give.
So, I took a deep breath and put on my big-girl pants…and I went shopping. Training treats, a heavy-duty leash, attachments, a harness. I rigged up a system of bungees that attach the leashes to a belt around my waist so if a leash gets ripped out of my hand, the dog(s) cannot run off (should’ve done that for Luna two years ago!). I took another deep breath and began the process of training Mocha to wait, to leave it, to come when called. I took yet another deep breath and reminded myself…to just breathe.
Looking back, I recall going through these exact emotions when we got Luna. She needed constant correction; she was always pulling and trying to chase prey. She was a bitch to Moose at every turn and I lost track of the number of times I wanted to put her in the car and drive her back to the shelter, but now she never pulls on her leash, she doesn’t chase the wild critters, and corrections are rare. I also love her to pieces and can’t imagine life without her.
I am happy to see that Mocha’s on the same path. He’s settling in, playing and loving life, and getting better on the leash (unless his nose catches an irresistible scent), always happy-go-lucky and eager to please. And, as animals often do, he is teaching me just as surely as I am teaching him. He is helping me to practice patience, tolerance, forgiveness, lightheartedness, and living in the moment. Whatever happened yesterday – indeed, whatever happened five minutes ago – he’s showing me how not to let it interfere with the happiness that can be found now and how life is too precious to let moments of frustration linger. He’s a welcome addition and I’m so happy I didn’t give up on him.
The real evidence that he’s part of the family now, of course, is in the nicknames. Like Luna C, Lulu-belle Johnson, and Luna Petunia, we have come up with a few nicknames for Mocha. There’s Mocha Java, Mocha Joe, S’Mochy Robinson, and my favorite, Mochaccino Frappa-Latte (I love it because it always elicits groans from everyone else).
Speaking of, time for coffee. I’d love to sit back with a cup of coffee and read your comments about your pets, how they get along and the adjustments you made. Tell me what they’re teaching you! I’ll pass them on to the two goofballs.