The Life of a Rescue Dog Mom

Trigger Warning: Abuse and abandonment mentioned. 

At 18 years old I decided to go to my local rescue center, Best Friends Animal Society Atlanta, and see what dogs they had. Looking back on that day, I wasn’t ready at all for what I was about to get myself into.

I had only had a purebred dog from a breeder in my life before, and he was with me from age four to age 17. Nothing could have prepared me for the way my life was about to change.

I walked through the aisles of rescue dogs with no major expectations in mind. I saw that the rescue facility had posted about a male dachshund online, but upon arrival, he had already been adopted. I had a few desires for my future dog, but I was staying open-minded if I found one who spoke to me and didn’t fit that mold.

Dog in arms Photo by freestocks from Unsplash What I wanted: 

1. I wanted a male dog. 

My childhood dog was male, and I figured I would stick with what I knew. I figured female dogs would be more difficult (ignorantly) because of their menstrual cycle, which I had never dealt with before with animals. But, I quickly found out about spaying which I highly recommend if you are rescuing. 

2. I wanted a small dog.

At the time, I lived in a 750 square foot apartment, and I knew a large dog would not live comfortably in such a small space. And, my first dog was a small breed, so I knew how to handle them (at least I thought.)

3. I wanted a calm dog. 

My first dog was extremely calm and relaxed at all times. I loved him, but I always wished he would play with me more. He slept all the time and took things slow-- that was just his personality. 

Photo by cottonbro from Pexels How it all began:

After looking around for a while, I found myself walking back to a large playpen with small dogs running around and barking inside. They were so loud, and some of them seemed aggressive. But, there was this one small black dog with a white chest, huge pointy ears, and a tip of white on their tail sitting so still, and so scared. The dog’s name tag said “Batgirl” I assume because of her bat-like ears, and was listed as a Rat Terrier Mix. I smiled and asked if I could see her in a private playpen.

I sat down on the floor so the dog could feel more comfortable with me. She was not a puppy, but probably not more than two years old. I realized she had a few cuts on her face, so she had most likely been in a dog fight or abused. She looked afraid at first, but quickly let her guard down. I will never forget the way she climbed into my lap and put her head into my chest with her eyes closed. It was the sweetest, and saddest thing I had ever experienced in my life. I told her it was going to be okay, and she just kept her head up against my chest. Finally, when she opened her eyes, she looked at me and we had an instant connection. It was like I could feel her saying “Please, save me.”

So, that’s what I did. On October 26, 2017, I brought home the best thing to ever happen to me, still to this day. She was so calm, collected, and curious… until we got in the car.

I guided Batgirl into the car, (by the way, I hated that name and the adoption center said I could change it because she did not answer to it yet) and she nestled down on the floor. Almost immediately after turning the car on, she threw up all over my dad’s floor, which was not the best start to our journey considering my dad wasn’t completely sold on me having my own dog. Nevertheless, we headed home to get her used to the apartment.

The first night was easy and quiet. She slept on a recliner in my living room all night long and didn’t make a peep. I wanted to give her her space, and she wanted to give me mine. It wasn’t until the next morning when I was woken up by a little sniff on my hand. The whole day I thought about the perfect name for that little dog. “Stella… No. Portland? No. Eve. No- Wait, yeah! Eve! It’s almost Halloween… like “all hallows eve! And she can go by Eevee like the pokemon!” And just like that, I had my Eve. 

 

Flash forward about a year:

That first year was all about familiarizing Eve with other dogs and people. Oh yeah, did I forget to mention? Eve was not the dog I remember picking up from the rescue facility. In fact, she was better. She was still curious, not calm-- she was crazy and definitely NOT collected. But that’s what made Eve so fun and different. Being with her every day was and still is an adventure, and has been worth all the time I’ve put into her. 

 

So let me explain:

Remember how I wanted a calm dog? Well, Eve was the opposite of that multiplied by 100. I mean seriously, this dog is wild. I took her to the dog park every single day that year to get her used to other dogs. Most days, she started a fight. Some days I left feeling defeated and embarrassed. A few days she was perfect and played with the other dogs fine.

It wasn’t any easier with people. The day I adopted Eve, she decided she was my protector, and she would protect me from anyone or anything. I love her for that and she is the most loyal dog I’ve ever known, but it sure got us into some uncomfortable (and sometimes dangerous) situations. At the dog park, if someone approached me too quickly, she would run in front of me and bark so aggressively to make the person leave. Sometimes, (this is when people started to suspect she was not well trained and very aggressive) she would jump up at them and not allow them to walk any further. After a year, I felt like all my work was for nothing. But, I wasn’t going to give up on her like her past owners did.

 

Today: 

Eve is my best friend, my crying buddy, and always down to share a snack with me. We’ve come a long way from 2017, and I couldn’t imagine my life without her. All of this to say, there are a lot of things I wish I had known back then about rescue dogs. So, if you are thinking about getting one, I want to give you some tips. 

 

My top takeaway tips from my experience: 

Every dog is different, but rescue dogs have a lot in common. Most of them have had very hard lives, and have lived through abuse and abandonment. I still don’t know what Eve went through, but I know she is very sensitive to certain sounds and terrified of being alone.  Christian Bowen via Unsplash

1. Do your research

Rescue dogs are very special. They require almost constant attention when you get them (or you might come home and find your blinds have been chewed. Been there, done that.) Don’t expect it to be easy that first year… or honestly, ever. Research ways to ease them into their new environment and make them as comfortable as possible. Try different remedies to calm them down until you find the one that fits them.

2. Don’t expect to find purebreds or perfect puppies

As I said, most of these dogs have had very difficult lives. Some of them are from puppy mills and others are strays who lost their way. You probably won’t find an AKC registered pup here, so if you want a purebred, look elsewhere. (But in my opinion, rescue dogs are so much better anyway.)

3. Be patient

If I have learned anything from being Eve’s dog mom it is that patience is key. There were many days when I could’ve just given up and stopped taking her to the dog park. I could have just taken her on a walk. But, she deserves to know how to socialize with other dogs and people other than me. I wanted her to live a fulfilling life, so I never lost hope or patience. Remember, your rescue dog is doing the best it can. They have been through a lot, and they are just trying to protect you and themselves.

4. Know yourself

I am not your typical college student, which is a big reason why I adopted Eve. I know I don’t party and spend most of my days doing homework and watching Netflix on the couch (fun, I know.) If you know you will never be home and can’t give your rescue dog the time it deserves, do not adopt one. The dog deserves to live a happy life, and you need to put them before yourself, just like if you had a human child. Still live your life of course, but if you can’t commit to making your dog a top-five priority, wait until you are ready. 

 

I hope if you are looking to adopt a dog you consider a rescue. If you have the time, it is the most fulfilling experience you will ever know. It has taught me patience, compassion, and has filled a void in my heart. Take my story and these tips into consideration, and maybe soon, you will have your own Eve. 

Disclaimer: Eve is not pictured in this article. You can keep up with Eve and her experience as a rescue dog on her Instagram: @evetherescuerattie