Last month I wrote that we’re adopting a new dog into our family, a young yellow Labrador Retriever named Haley.
Since we already have a dog and a cat, I wrote about the lengthy process we went through to determine what kind of dog that would be the best fit for everyone, both 2-legged and 4-legged, in our house.
As I’ve said before, we’re adopting Haley from the HAVA’s Freedom Tails program at the Stafford Creek Correctional Center in Aberdeen.
Freedom Tails takes dogs that would most likely be euthanized in animal shelters and gives them “a second chance at life” by pairing them with offenders who improve the dogs’ chances of adoption by teaching them “socialization, house training, and much needed obedience skills.”
While we were wildly excited to adopt Haley, after we met her the first time we considered passing on her and adopting a different dog.
We set up our initial meeting with her on a Saturday. When Randy and I arrived at Stafford Creek, our anticipation about seeing her had grown exponentially because we were certain she would be the perfect match for us because she met all the criteria we had carefully pieced together.
We were scheduled to meet her in a grassy area next to the entrance to the Correctional Center. When we got out of the car with our other dog Miguel, who we brought to meet her too, we immediately saw a little yellow speck in the distance that we knew was her.
Like a teenaged boy approaching a girl to ask her out, we tried to look cool, calm, and collected as we walked up to Haley.
It wasn’t easy, but somehow we managed to do it.
We thought the meeting would just be a formality. We expected that Haley would take one look at us and bound over to give up a tail helicoptering, butt wagging, slobbery kissing greeting. We also knew we would fall in love with her seconds after meeting her.
But none of those things happened. After giving us a cursory glance when we walked up to her, she ignored us.
She completely ignored us.
Instead, she focused another dog in the program that was also meeting its potential adopter. That dog had what we learned was Haley’s favorite thing – a tennis ball. For the entire hour we were there, Haley didn’t divert her attention from the ball either when the other dog or she had it.
Even treats couldn’t break the spell the ball cast over her.
Haley had no problem going for a short walk with each one of us, but as soon as we returned her attention went back to the ball.
The one encouraging thing that happened during our visit was that Haley and Miguel appeared to get along. They didn’t do any play bows or play chase, but they acknowledged each other and walked together with no problem.
We were a little depressed on the ride home. While Haley was a beautiful, well-trained dog, her indifference towards us was deflating, especially after the build up of our excitement about meeting her.
When we got home we realized we had three options:
- Don’t adopt Haley
- Adopt Haley and hope her inattention to us was an aberration
- Meet Haley one more time with no other dogs, balls, or people nearby
After some thought we nixed the thought that we wouldn’t adopt her. Even though she ignored us, we realized that if we had met Dylan, our ball crazy Labrador Retriever that died last October, under the same circumstances, he would have done exactly the same thing. He would even refuse treats if he knew a ball was nearby. That’s a big deal for a Lab.
We also didn’t want to break our commitment to adopt Haley.
But we also realized we couldn’t adopt her and just hope for the best. If she was truly indifferent to us for whatever reason, it would have been unfair to her for us to adopt her.
We decided to ask HAVA if we could meet her again with no distractions. Just us and her. HAVA didn’t hesitate to allow us to visit Haley again. Like all reputable rescues, they wanted their dogs to spend as much time as possible with potential adopters to ensure their dogs were placed in a home where they had the best chance to be happy and thrive.
So about a week later we made the 2-1/2 hour drive to Stafford Creek again to see Haley again with no distractions. No other people. No other dogs. No balls. No Miguel.
What a huge difference it made.
With no one and no toys around, Haley focused her attention on us and, like most Labs, she was friendly, engaging, fun, and playful. She had extremely good manners as well, thanks to her training. She had sit, down, and stay with no problem. She had a little trouble with heeling but she had a few weeks to work on it before coming home with us.
We also got the added bonus to see how she reacted to overly aggressive dogs. While I walked her, a guard with one of Stafford Creek’s search dogs came around the corner of a building. The dog was off leash, and when it saw Haley it immediately ran towards her barking and snarling.
Since it was about 100 feet away I had time to move in front of Haley to prevent the dog from reaching her. While the dog tried to get at Haley and I turned in circles trying stay between them. During this time, Haley remained perfectly calm and made no attempt to engage the other dog.
After about 10 seconds the dog’s handler arrived and got him on leash and under control. Once that happened, Haley immediately did a play bow, wagged her tail, and tried to get the dog that just attacked her to play.
That sealed the deal for me. Before we started looking for another dog, we decided the most important thing it had to have was a laid back personality and go-with-the-flow temperament because Miguel has a more dominant personality.
After reluctantly leaving Haley and getting in the car for our trip home, we both immediately agreed that we wanted to adopt her.
Of course we won’t know for sure how Haley will fit into our family until we bring her home, but because we did our homework regarding what kind of dog we wanted and didn’t hesitate to make another 5-hour round trip to spend more time with her, the chances are good that she’ll fit right in.
Tomorrow we go to Stafford Creek to attend her graduation ceremony from Freedom Tails and bring her home.
I can hardly wait.