Finding Jean Grey

Finding Jean Grey

Sometime last December, I convinced my partner to let me invite another dog into our house. This isn't anything new, really. I've been dreaming about my next dog for a few years, but it was a matter of timing and making sure Corey was on board with bringing another dog home.

But first, some backstory.

For about three years, I didn't have a dog. I had to give up Stella when I became unemployed (and later homeless) while living in Seattle in 2008-09. For me, living without a dog is brutal and is usually accompanied by depression. I've always loved dogs (even though my first word was "horsie"), and I grew up with an excellent dog named Denim, who put up with a tween/teen training her in obedience and agility.

Tan terrier mix laying on her back. She's wearing a yellow collar, and there's a small plush bear next to her.
Gambit, doing her famous relaxation pose.

When I finally got a job with a salary that could support a dog, I immediately started looking. My partner at the time was decidedly not a "dog person," but he too eventually relented, and that's how we ended up at the Dekalb County Animal Shelter, eventually picking out the one dog who wasn't barking. She was labeled as an Australian Cattle Dog mix (though through DNA testing, I've learned she has none of that breed). That's how Gambit (now ten) came into my life. She was about a year and a half old, and she is the easiest dog I've owned. She was already potty trained, she does okay in the crate, and she rarely chews things up. I didn't hear her bark for years. I wanted her to be an agility dog, but it turns out she'd rather be a couch potato. She's still afraid of cardboard boxes.

Red merle Australian Shepherd laying down on a wooden floor. He's holding a plush bus, modeled after the Mystery Machine from Scooby Doo.
Loki does this whenever I get my suitcase out.

About a year later (around the time I split up with the "not a dog person" partner, who is still a good friend), I started looking for my second dog. This time, I was seeking a dog I sensed would be better for agility. I wanted a puppy, but not a really young puppy, since those require more time than I had at the time. A couple on Craigslist was rehoming their seven month old Australian Shepherd. Loki (now eight) was/is gorgeous, but boy is he a handful. He had terrible separation anxiety, and within the first few weeks, he'd torn out all the hair on his haunches. When he was with me, though, he was awesome. We've been doing agility ever since, and he's come a long way with his anxiety.

Unlike the other two dogs, I was looking for something a little more specific this time around. This was my ideal criteria:

  • Small (no more than an estimated 15 lbs fully grown)
  • Female (partner's preference)
  • Short hair
  • Outgoing
  • Young (no more than 4-5 months old)
  • Tested with dogs (especially large ones)

I spent a lot of time searching Petfinder, a Facebook group dedicated to rehoming performance dogs, and Craigslist. The latter was a crapshoot compared to when I'd used it years ago. Now it's 99% spam posts or unethical breeders. I also contacted some small breed-specific rescues: Papillions and Russell Terriers in particular were interesting to me.

I filled out dozens of applications, rarely hearing back from anybody. I broadened my range to out-of-state adoptions, and I strongly considered a few different dogs. There was a mini Aussie in Tennessee, but she ended up being rehomed to the owner's sister. There was a Australian Cattle Dog mix (also in Tennessee), but I decided she was going to be a bit too much for me to handle, and she might not fit in well with my other dogs, based on what the trainer told me about her personality. I also visited Saving Grace, which is a large rescue near me, but they didn't have many small dogs, and none of them were in my age range.

Tan chihuahua/terrier mix puppy sunbathing on a pillow. The sun is filtered through blinds, so it’s making a striped pattern on her. Her ears are large and sticking straight up.
I think her ears might end up like this once she's done teething!

Eventually, I found "Jess" listed on Petfinder as a 5 lb Chihuahua mix. She looked like she had some terrier in her as well, so I sent in my application. I talked to the foster mom at length, asking how she did around other dogs, how outgoing she was, what her background was (still unknown, as she was an owner surrender). I agreed to meet her at a park nearby, and once I did, I realized she fit all my criteria. That sealed the deal! I handed over the adoption paperwork and check, and off we went to the pet store to buy all the supplies.

Two months in

Jean Grey has lived with us for a week shy of two months, and while there have been times when I've wanted to throttle her (I haven't), she's overall a delight to have around. She's outgoing, great with the other dogs, and she's a fast learner! She has her quirks, but those come with any dog.

She will finish her first puppy class on Monday, and then we're moving on to "Puppy Optimists," which focuses on getting her used to all sorts of surfaces, objecs, obstacles, noises, and distractions. Her biggest hurdle right now is crate training (she whines a lot when she's in there, and she balks at going in), but she's already made a lot of progress in that area, and she will sleep in her crate through the night about 80% of the time.