We adopted our first dog, Timber, a 64-pound Irish wolfhound mix, in the fall of 2016 when she was 6 months old. One of our friends was fostering her through Friends For Life (FFL) in Houston. We had always thought of getting a friend for Timber, but it wasn’t really that feasible at our old house. But, we recently moved into one with a much bigger yard.
We immediately thought of going back to FFL because of how supportive they are. We knew it would be an adjustment to add a second dog, and we were not sure how Timber would handle it; she can be a little finicky when it comes to being around another dog or sharing her space. But through FFL, all the adoptees start out as “sleepovers,” and there is no pressure to keep the dog if it is not working out. We knew it was going to be trial and error to find a match for Timber.
When we saw Millie, a Manchester terrier/Doberman Pinscher mix of about 30 pounds, at FFL’s website — they do this cute little write-up about the dog with really great photos of them — it was all like she wanted was to be part of a pack, to be with another dog and part of a family who already had another dog. Also, her size was perfect because we did not want to add another dog as big as Timber, just because that is just a lot of dog. She was half the size, but with just as much heart and energy. Also, it seemed like her temperament would be a good match for Timber’s.
Millie — I did not find this out until after the fact, luckily, because I never would have been able to even think of giving her up if I knew — came from BARC, which is Houston’s pound. She was on the kill list and was about to be euthanized before FFL pulled her. She was an owner surrender at just 8 months old. So Millie had been with FFL for 4 months.
She had been on four sleepovers before us. So, she had been essentially trialed by four different families and it just had not worked out. My understanding from FFL was that it primarily had to do with the other dog and the relationship. I will say, in my experience, it had nothing to do with Millie and 100 percent to do with Timber being uncertain about having another dog in the home.
Millie did not hit it off with Timber right away. We visited FFL and Timber instantly wanted to play with Millie, but she is twice her weight and Millie was pretty nervous. But then the behaviorist said, “Why don’t we try to walk them side by side?” So, we took them for a walk around the block, and Millie became totally receptive to playing with her. They started playing nonstop. We took her home that day and they played nonstop for two whole days. It was like the happiest I have ever seen Timber. But then when Monday rolled around, we were back to our schedules, Millie was still here and Timber was like, “Is she leaving yet?” She had really cooled off toward her. It got really bad, they were fighting, tensions were really high — everything was a competition between them. If I was petting one, the other one would come up, and try to bat the other one out of the way. I did not think it was going to work. I really wanted it to work because they were so happy the first day.
FFL scheduled us with a behaviorist who talked us through everything and gave us tips on what we could do to make them more comfortable around each other. One of the biggest tips they gave us was to make sure to walk them together every day. When they are walking side by side, it is just Timber and Millie against the world. Another tip they gave me was I should only pet one of them at a time. If I was petting one, and the other one approached, to stop petting them altogether. That way they know if one is getting attention, that is their turn, it will be the other’s turn later. That was counterintuitive to what I was thinking initially.
It was very helpful to have that level of support. I was very committed to making it work. Millie’s just such a sweet dog. At two weeks, I was crying every day like, “We’re going to have to give her back,” because it is not working. But then at two weeks and a half, they turned a corner. Timber finally just realized that she was sticking around. That is the moment we said, “OK, we are adopting her.” Now they are back to playing. They have fun and can sleep side by side with no problem at all. It just took some training from the behaviorist.
What I really like about adopting a rescue, specifically through FFL, is that you do not just walk in, see a dog, take it home and then that is that. They are more supportive in that they interview you. They make sure you know what you are getting into when you are getting a dog. They are following you with that dog for at least one week before you fully adopt them, so that you can bring that dog into your home and see how it is responding to your family, your environment and all of that. They will not even let you commit until you have the full experience.
Getting another dog is so worth it, even with the issues that we had about the relationship… that was really the only downside to getting another dog. But now the dogs entertain each other all day long. Especially in Houston, there are so many adoptable rescue dogs that it just does not make sense to not rescue.
It used to be Timber sleeping next to me on the couch while I am getting work done all day. Now, they are out in the backyard, they are upstairs wrestling, or they are napping because they played all morning. It just makes my heart so happy to see her having something to do and having joy throughout her day.
As for advice for people looking to adopt a rescue pet, I would say to fully evaluate why you want a dog, what size and temperament you are comfortable with bringing in your home because it is a big commitment. There are going to be adjustments that have to be made to add to your family. Take your time looking for a dog that fits your lifestyle because, at the end of the day, that is what you really want, a companion that can meld with your lifestyle.
I can’t emphasize enough how much I did not think it was going to work, but now I could not imagine life without her.
As told to Mellanie Perez by Ryan and Amanda Livezey, in Oak Forest, Houston.
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