It’s almost the 4th of July, is there really anything more puppy-patriotic than a rescue Labrador Retriever? Nope. Not to us. Some people write out their children’s birth stories, well this is our dog adoption story. And it’s a long one. I may not be a consistent blogger, but I try really hard to be a dang good dog mom, and in honor of Porter’s first year in our family I wanted to capture his story.
It seems like just yesterday Jake and I were en route to Portland to meet friends for a fun Memorial Day weekend 2017 trip. We had been searching pet rescue sites for six months by that point. We’d gone to shelters looking for our second perfect rescue dog to add to our little family. We knew we wanted a big dog who could be active and camp and hike and run and keep up with us, and while we love Paisley Mae Mae, she’s more of a couch lounging animal. (Although it should be noted that when she goes hiking she tries her best and can go about five miles. But at each campsite she has to be tied up, especially to protect her tiny self from birds of prey like bald eagles, and once it becomes early evening, like clockwork she promptly starts begging to be let into the tent to go to sleep. If we don’t oblige she’ll dig herself a burrow – that little dog loves to dig a good hole – and once it’s dugout enough to her liking she curls up in it and sulks. While hilarious, camping isn’t really her jam.) We didn’t have a particular dog breed we were set on, we just knew we wanted to rescue and hoped it would be energetic but not so much that it couldn’t adapt to apartment life. It also couldn’t be any of the “bully breeds” that were restricted by our lease. Coming from the Midwest and the South, where larger mixed dogs are a dime a dozen, we grossly underestimated how much harder and expensive adopting a dog in Seattle would be. We spent weekends roaming the different shelters in the area, only to be faced mostly with breeds we couldn’t adopt and a lot of smaller dogs like Chihuahuas. We had put in applications for a hound, a golden retriever and more, but every time we were never contacted. We even did an overnight foster of a German Shepherd husky mix that turned out to be way too aggressive towards us and Paisley and wouldn’t have been a good fit. We finally asked a shelter worker one day what she recommended and she basically told us that unless we were at the shelter everyday when they opened to have first dibs on any dogs put up for adoption over night, that we had very slim chances of adopting in the city. Discouraged, I began scanning rescue sites in other states. Even as far away as Georgia, thinking that family could scope one out for us and we could just make a trip to pick it up. In doing so I randomly stumbled on a site for Adams County Pet Rescue in rural Eastern Washington and began following their Facebook posts, which is how I came across “Batman” on our road trip.
They had posted a photo of an older black Labrador puppy (see above), probably 7ish months, who appeared to be grinning ear to ear. His description read something like, “We don’t know much about this dog, but if you’re just looking for a good dog, he’s the dog for you.” And we instantly fell in love. It just felt right and we decided we had to have him. We spent the remainder of the car ride that Saturday morning filling out an application, calling (bugging) the shelter to make sure they’d received our info and asking them to hold him for us until we could get there to see him. Turns out he wasn’t even adoptable yet because he hadn’t been neutered. So they agreed to give us first dibs and call us when he was ready. We anxiously awaited their call that next week. When we did hear from them the news wasn’t great. Our poor boy had ended up having a surgery to retrieve a testical and it hadn’t gone well. He was all alone in a cement kennel in a run of barking dogs, wearing a plastic cone with basically no supervision, so he had ripped the cone off and torn open his incision resulting in a severe infection. He needed another surgery to remove the infection and drains placed. That happened during the week and by the end of it they cleared us to come pick him up. He was not doing well in the shelter because they couldn’t get him to stop destroying his cone overnight. We drove the three hours across the Cascades early Saturday and arrived right after the shelter opened on that eastern Washington morning.
They led us back to “Batman” who was bigger than I’d pictured but immediately started wagging his tail and was very excited to see some visitors. We leashed him to lead him out of the kennel and he bolted for the door, trailing me and the remnants of the umpteenth cone he’d destroyed overnight. I had ahold of his leash but he was basically dragging me out the door. It was like he was saying, “Hey guys, been waiting on you to show up – now let’s bust out of here!” The shelter wanted to make sure we were 100% in our decision so a young volunteer led us out into a grassy area and we took him on a small walk. He’d never been on a leash before so that was a bit of a learning curve, but wasn’t bad. He was just so sweet. We could instantly tell what an amazing puppy he was and just so eager to please and be loved. Makes me tear up thinking about him looking up at us for the first time.
Back inside, I had him lay down and petted him all over, rubbing his head and paws and belly, testing just how gentle he was going to be towards me, especially with three huge drains hanging out of his swollen infected abdomen. All he did was rollover and hang his tongue out the side of his mouth. He wasn’t aggressive even a tiny bit to other dogs or kids running in and out of the busy lobby. We knew he was coming him home with us. We paid our (cheap compared to $700+ for most Seattle shelters) adoption fee of $250 which covered all his surgeries, current meds, shots and microchip, and went to the car. Batman had never been in a car before and was very confused. Jake lifted him inside and he immediately lunged to jump out the open back window of the Jeep. We settled him down and drove down the road to a local farm store that had the same food the shelter had been feeding him and a gentle leader, because it was clear a regular old collar and leash combo wasn’t going to work for this big boy who needed to learn what a leash even was. He whined a bit off and on and we stopped a few times to let him out to potty, but otherwise he laid with his head in between us and we made it back to Seattle.
We renamed him Porter on the way and it suited him much better than Batman, which was apparently given to him by the people who turned him in. All the shelter knew was that someone had given him as a gift as a small puppy, they didn’t want him and he ended up being locked up outside in some ladies backyard, who also didn’t want him because he had “behavioral issues”. More like he was a five month old puppy left alone to fend for himself, but that’s another soapbox and we are just thankful she decided to take him to the rescue instead.
When we got up to our apartment that afternoon we let him in to explore while Paisley was still in her kennel. He looked at us, walked a few steps to the bathroom door, lifted his leg and whizzed all over it. We quickly taught him that wasn’t an appropriate place to do business and he literally never tested us with potty training again. A big puppy in a 700 square foot apartment has to learn what being inside even means, not to mention learning that “going outside” doesn’t mean just getting in the elevator. But he caught on so quickly, like he’d always been there. Meeting Paisley was pretty anticlimactic. She could tell he was a puppy and that he was sick somehow I think. Usually she’s not that nice to other dogs but warms up easily if they’re in her own home. They sniffed a lot that first day and we let her establish her alpha position, which literally only took her growling under her breath one time because Porter is such a beta, and they were perfectly fine as new siblings. After a smattering of vet appointments that first week, a thirty dollar foam cone that he liked a lot better, us hot-packing his abdomen and monitoring drains, he started to try and weasel them out. After ate half of one (gross, I know), I made him lay down and took them out myself. When he just calmly laid there, I knew we had found an amazing dog. He healed up perfectly minus the insane scarring from his first surgery mishaps, and now you would never know. The next week we took him on his first adventure, to Christina Lake, British Columbia where we learned just how much of a fish this dog is. His tail is truly a rudder and he can out swim anyone; literally born for the water.
We love our Porter man and are so glad he came into our lives last summer. A big goofy Labrador sure can round out the family dynamics of two Libra’s and a tiny Chinese Crested Powderpuff who thinks the entire world bows to her. It’s so much fun to hike and camp with him and watching his affinity for water and tennis balls cracks me up every time. He really is just a huge lapdog, and although we don’t let him on the couch, he gets plenty of snuggles and sits on our laps on the floor daily. He plays very gently with Paisley and is always a gentlemen, letting her have her way. They’ve turned into best friends. He knows how to sit, stay, heel (most of the time), come, wait, lay down, shake, and when told will go to his bed and sit until he hears his next command. Jake is a mini dog whisperer and we are constantly teaching Porter new tricks.
If you made it this far, applaud yourself, and please, please consider shelter animals the next time you’re in the market for a new pet. They truly are the absolute best.
Happy 4th of July week and cheers to rescue dogs of all sizes! – Amanda
(Some photos by our friends Chris and Rob.)