Meet My New Assistant

Today’s post was slotted to be one detailing our wonderful, recuperative trip to the desert, but then we met Molly.

Our desire to adopt a rescue dog was solidified over the Holidays and during the trip so on return, we started looking seriously with the intention of finding the right dog for us. I told Davin, “This is going to take some time, months even.” I expected to bring a dog home around the time that the peas go into the ground.

Molly was posted on Petfinder on Tuesday night. I called on Wed afternoon and had a long chat with the woman fostering her. She sounded too good to be true. A gentle, loving dog with no behavioural issues that would be overwhelming to people like us who do not have much dog experience.

Molly was being fostered in a home just outside of Toronto so we booked a rental car for Saturday knowing that she might not be right and that this could be the first in an exhaustive line of disappointing dog visits. We were eager to adopt a dog, but we also wanted to be honest and mindful of our limitations. Neither of us have much dog experience and we were worried that a dog with serious social issues and/or showing any signs of aggression could be more than we can handle. I have a tendency to root for the underdog, but I knew it would be detrimental for everyone if we took a dog based on feeling sorry for it, or with good intentions only.

It’s a tribute to the experience and integrity of the foster parents that Molly was exactly as described. It wasn’t long after meeting her that we knew she’d make a wonderful addition to our family. She was hesitant about us at first. She took her time to approach, but warmed up surprisingly quickly for a dog who has been through so much recently. What’s more, the allergies that normally plague me with prolonged exposure to shedding dogs was absolutely non-existent with this fluffy little Muppet (a mix of non-shedding breeds). A few hours later and she was settled on my lap in the back seat and we were on our way home together.

And just like that we are in love with a scruffy little dog.

It’s the beginning of our second day together and Molly is surprising us at every turn. She really is the most gentle and loving dog I have ever met. She has a generous heart, wants to please, and is showing the intelligence of her breeds (we think she is a poodle/schnauzer mix). We’re learning which commands she knows, how she likes to play, and what her food preferences are (banana=no, peanut butter=YES!!!!). Yesterday she was my shadow, and I became worried about whether we were doing what she needed to help her feel secure in order to overcome the separation anxiety that is inevitable in these sorts of situations. I know it takes time and patience for any animal to adjust to a new home — Kitty cried the first night we brought her home and I remember that it took her a while to form trust and see us as her people. My worries with Molly were about my lack of experience with dogs, and not about a rush to make things better. I’m reading everything I can about dogs as a way to boost my confidence and knowledge. I am currently enjoying, “The Other End of the Leash” and just finished “Dogs Never Lie About Love.” Amazingly, by bedtime we noticed that she was already letting go of some of her insecurity, was bonding more with Davin, and had stopped searching frantically for me every time I left the room. That’s leaps and bounds beyond what we expected.

As I write this she is splayed out comfortably on the lounge chair in my office. She has her head propped on the pillows and occasionally opens her eyes to look at me lovingly whenever I sneak a peak to see how she’s doing.

Molly is part terrier, derived from the Latin terrarius, or, of the earth. Most terriers were bred to unearth animals living underground. Naturally, they like to dig. Some breeds NEED to dig. People have been asking how she will do in the garden and the answer is that I don’t know yet. The garden is currently frozen and covered in a blanket of snow. I’d imagine that Molly’s personality and energy level hasn’t been revealed to us fully since she’s adjusting to new people and surroundings and has also just been spayed. We’ve had a few glimpses of her enthusiasm for running and play, but have had to be mindful of her recent surgery. As far as a possible penchant for digging goes, I figure we’ll cross that bridge in the spring. And if she does show a desire to uproot the garden, lots of exercise, trips to the park, and some obedience training will help keep all of us happy. I want her to experience time spent in the garden with me as a pleasant one, rather than a place of deprivation and restraint.

She couldn’t possibly be worse than the squirrels and feral cats that had their way tearing the place up this last growing season! She may even help keep them out. Regardless, I know she will be an excellent companion and I can’t wait to see what comes next in life with a dog.

Along with seeds, I carry dog treats in my pockets now.

Gayla Trail
Gayla is a writer, photographer, and former graphic designer with a background in the Fine Arts, cultural criticism, and ecology. She is the author, photographer, and designer of best-selling books on gardening, cooking, and preserving.

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58 thoughts on “Meet My New Assistant

  1. too cute for words … is there a command for ‘go get two potatoes’ clap clap; or ‘carrots & beets Molly”, gardening could get very interesting [... we used to eat carrots a lot more than planned because our dog used to dig them up and leave them beside the garden]

  2. Oh, I’m so happy for you guys! Sounds like you guys will all be very happy together. Hope you enjoy getting to know each other!

  3. Oh, what a sweetheart! Life isn’t complete without a dog.

    As for the digging, I have heard of the following trick, but fair warning, I haven’t tried it, yet. I will if digging is ever an issue with my dogs, and as an owner of two (and hopefully three one of these days) terriers, I’m sure it will be:

    Set aside a sand pit for her to dig in, and put toys/treats there for her to find. That way, you control the behaviour by limiting where it can be expressed, which is easier than trying to prohibit it. Reward with praise when she digs there, and redirect her to the area if she tries to dig elsewhere. In theory, it should work…

  4. Congratulations! She is adorable, I absolutely love hearing happy adoption stories. ‘The Other End of the Leash’ is one of my favourite dog books, and I found her other book ‘I’ll be Home Soon’ really helpful when we were dealing with separation anxiety issues with out little adopted dog (he’s getting much better now). Her blog is great too.
    And just to put your mind at ease, my Schnauzer is now 12, and not once in her life did she consider digging in any of our gardens (she doesn’t like having dirty paws, I swear). Stealing empty plastic pots to play with is another story though…

    • Perhaps Molly doesn’t like to get her paws dirty either. On a few of our walks she has lifted her feet up and we thought it was that they were getting cold — which it still may well be. There’s snow on the ground and I didn’t think that it could also be that she doesn’t like getting dirty. I will watch and see.

    • If there’s lots of salt on the ground, that will hurt her feet. My dog has to wear boots in the winter, otherwise I would find myself carrying a 50 pound dog home 15 mins later because she wont walk.

    • We’re being mindful of salt and may try boots if it becomes a problem. So far it’s been okay and we check her feet and wipe them when we get back inside.

  5. she is so adorable! congratulations! you are lucky to have such a sweet little rescue dog without any baggage :) our rescue had problems on leash with other people and dogs at first. now he is ok with people, but we still have to work on meeting other dogs on leash without freaking out. he’s fine off leash and loves trips to the dog park but the leash is evil in his eyes hehe

  6. I love her! She really is a little muppet.

    I hope you and Davin have a lot of good, long years with her!

  7. Ahhh! Congratulations!!! She is absolutely adorable! As the adopter of a terrier mutt myself, I can tell you they are an absolute joy to be around. Though my guy needs lots of walks and plenty of playtime, he is very well behaved and more than pleasant to cuddle with. I know this sounds cheesy, but I recommend “The Way” by Caesar Milan. That book changed our relationship with our previously stray dog. He was a little bit of a terror and definitely protective of food etc, but once we implemented the ‘rules, boundaries and limitations’ everything changed for the better. Enjoy this exciting time!!

    P.S. My all-terrier mutt doesn’t dig…so there’s a good chance yours won’t either! He does eat some leafy greens from my garden from time to time, though it’s cute when he does it :)

  8. Congratulations! I’m glad you had a great experience with the rescue agency (sadly, many people don’t) and the dog is a real sweetheart. You sound like such a great dog mom, trying to read and learn as much as you can.

  9. Congratulations! She looks like a fun addition to the house. Take a look at the books by The Monks of New Skete, and the Nothing In Life is Free training, and of course CESAR! Looking forward fun stories of your Muppet in the Garden come springtime. :)

  10. Congratulations on the new addition to the family! I wish you all a long and happy life together. Have fun!

  11. Oh! I agree about the Monks of New Skete. They love and respect dogs and do a good job of explaining to humans how to live with dogs in a loving respectful way. More fun!

    • I’ve been looking at their work and will probably read one book once we get through (or at least further along with) the separation anxiety. That’s where my reading focus is right now.

  12. I am so glad to hear that not only did you adopt but you adopted from a foster parent! I am a huge proponent of fostering as a means of getting animals adopted. Congrats on the new addition!

  13. Molly is a dolly. Enjoy your blossoming friendship. My terrier-mix dosen’t dig in the garden and does a good job keeping cats and squirrels away.

    • It’s hard not to let her get her way with that face… but I know it’s in her best interest not to spoil. She’s such a sweet girl.

  14. Congratulations! She looks adorable! I bet you and her will be fast friends. There is nothing like giving a pet a “furever” home.

  15. My dogs are half shi tzu and rat terrier. Digging isn’t a problem but tomato stealing is. We had to fence the garden area because they eat all the tomatoes even before they are ripe. They love green chilies also. Toward the end of the summer they realized that if they put their front legs on the fence it would bend down and they could reach the peppers. They drive me crazy. This year i need to change the fence a bit. Good thing we love them!

    Good luck with your cute dog.

    • I grew over 100 lbs of tomatoes last year, so if I have anything even close this summer I can probably spare a few! A few people have mentioned tomatoes to me — dogs are so strange!

  16. If in the spring you find that she does love to dig and you can’t convice her not to providing her with a small digging area can stop damage to your garden. Many people get a small box and fill it with sand and bury treats and toys to incourage the dog to dig there. This will keep her contained and give her lots of enjoyment. small childrens sand boxs or pools work really well to keep things contained (many have a lid to keep things dry and keep cats out), the sand brushes out of fur once it’s dry and no muddy paws.

  17. We have 2 dogs who are part terrier (we have 5 dogs total). They are both hilarious. One (the mother of the other one) is very ditzy and always seems to have something stuck in her hair. The other one is the most curious animal I’ve ever seen. Whereas the other dogs run from the vacuum she comes to investigate.

    Our young terrier dog digs SOME but generally she’s following our young hound dog’s nose into trouble. They are quite the dynamic duo like that.

  18. She looks like she is having a real struggle adjusting to her stressful new home … um, or that she landed in heaven and hasn’t missed a beat. Lucky girl, lucky you two. I don’t give the feral cats and squirrels a chance with her around.

    • She’s getting more adjusted everyday. My main concern now is leaving her alone for the first time and if she cries or barks while I’m gone. Been practicing leaving her alone for short periods.

    • If you are worried about separation anxiety, leave her your old t-shirt of pyamas, anything that has your smell in her bed so she can snuggle while you are away.

  19. Lovely to meet your new assistant — she’s adorable. I’m so happy for you, Davin & Molly. Terriers are wonderful companions — my Westie is lying at my side as I write this. He doesn’t dig but he does love to put his nose in the finished compost and always gets the first carrots I harvest. Enjoy your little muppet.

    PS. In addition to Jill’s suggestion about the clothing, you may want to try giving Molly a Kong with peanut butter just before you go out.

    • She LOVED peanut butter the first time we gave it to her and by the next day she was totally over it. I got her a kong and filled it up… she could care less. Just looks like it as if to say, So what? She’s a finicky one! So was Kitty. We’re slowly getting to see what she likes and doesn’t like.

  20. Congrats! It sounds like you’ve done your homework and will make great dog parents!
    I was worried about my newly-adopted dog getting into my garden, but luckily all of my veggies were in the raised beds, and she stays out of those. As for the other beds, she only started digging where there was bare ground, so as long as we keep everything mulched, we’re fine!
    Good luck and enjoy her!

  21. Dogs are amazing company for writers and gardeners. Once you get into a routine with her, let us know when she starts telling time–time to eat, time to go outside, time to play. Enjoy!!
    One year I planted some cherry tomato plants on the deck for easy access to the kitchen. I couldn’t figure out why I was getting such a small harvest until I caught my lab enjoying a breakfast treat. The tomatoes are now in a fenced garden (to keep deer and other critters away). I grow lettuce on the deck. The dogs don’t bother with that.

  22. Aww congratulations!! We adopted our Weimeraner mix Ned from a rural shelter outside of Austin about 2 years ago, and he brings me happiness every day! Happy for you :)

  23. I am so happy that you’ve found a dog that is a good match for you!

    My dog loves veggies – she won’t take them off the plants but she will steal them out of the harvest basket if I leave it on the ground. Green beans are her favourite, but she also goes for lettuce, tomatoes, and cucumber.

    If you are interested in another dog book to read, The Loved Dog by Tamar Geller was really helpful to me when I first got a dog as an adult.

  24. She is absolutely beautiful and I love how you’ve captured her in these pictures! Congrats to you all for welcoming a new furball into your home and lives.

  25. I am SO very happy for you! I believe this is the best sort of present for yourself after what happened. And Molly looks amazing. I love that crinkle of fur on her nose!
    Another book I recommend reading is “How to Say it to your Dog” [http://www.amazon.com/How-Say-Your-Dog-Understand/dp/0735203504] When I became a first time dog owner, it helped me understand what THEY were saying to me, and how to respond to it. Now I have two healthy [albiet big... 130+lbs and a ~40lbs mixed donkey/mutts.] and happy well behaved pups. [One is a pitbull mix, but one would think she's a bowl of cottage cheese, the amount of mush she's capable of being. Hee hee!]

    I can’t wait to read about Molly’s adventures in the garden! My dogs dig – but it’s never in the actual garden beds…

  26. Congratulations!! Please review what doggies are not supposed to eat to prevent health problems as uch as possible : No Onions, garlic, avocados, grapes, nuts, peanut butter, no chocolate!! God bless you both !! =)

  27. Congrats Gayla! So jealous!. I have been reading up on taking care of dogs as well. I want to do it right when we get ours. Lucky Molly that you work from home, she will be such a great companion!

  28. I’m so happy for you, and Molly looks like one of those intelligent little sprouts who never bother a single soul- just a softie! Of course they rat squirrels, but they are such good friends!

  29. She is super cute. Enjoy! We lost our Bichon of 17 years a couple of years ago and are beginning to tip toe into the idea of a dog again.

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