Sunday, October 30, 2011

Stella: The First 24 Hours

It's now been almost exactly one day since Stella came into our lives, and that seems like a good time to note some preliminary impressions. Some of these may prove mistaken as we get to know her better; some may remain accurate.

In person she looks more like a pit bull mix than I had expected, which I'm concerned may make it more difficult for her to find a home. Whether she is a pit mix or not is almost immaterial; what matters in the great lottery of adoptability is how she looks to the average eye. Owing to the real and perceived issues surrounding pit bulls, many people simply will not (or, because of lease restrictions, homeowners associations, and the like, cannot) consider adopting one. It's not fair, but it's a factor.

Hopefully outweighing that, however, that she's young, cute, and unusually sweet. If you were looking for a dog to embody the opposite of the stereotypical "pit bull temperament," it would be hard to find a better match than Stella. We'll never know for sure, but it's not hard to imagine that Stella and her brother ended up in that roadside ditch because they'd proven to be total failures as fighting dogs, just as beagles in rural areas often wind up at the pound because they're no good at hunting. Dog fighting is sadly common in the area Stella came from, and she's clearly got about as much talent for fighting as she does for juggling flaming chainsaws.

I call her the "pancake dog" because her default move when she doesn't know what else to do or is confronted by an overwhelming situation is to flatten herself on the ground like a pancake and freeze. Stella does not have a lot of confidence and is completely unsocialized to many of the everyday sights and sounds of the city (delivery guys on bikes, women in heeled boots, umbrellas, motorcycles...), so I've been seeing a lot of doggy pancakes these past few hours.

When she isn't pancaked out, however, she's a snuggly little mutt who solicits attention constantly. Every now and then I get a glimpse of a clowny side to her personality, but so far she's mostly been gentle, subdued, and forever seeking reassurance. Her ideal home would probably have an older, more confident dog that Stella could use as a role model -- she's clearly a born follower who looks to other dogs for guidance in how to react to things. Unfortunately, the older dog in this house is Pongu, who is still in full-on "oh my god what are you doing in my house get OUT you stupid little interloper" mode. He doesn't even want to play with her, which makes Stella sad.

As for the rest, it's about the same as usual. We're starting from zero on training. Stella is not housebroken, has no idea how to walk on leash, and knows no commands. Stairs and glass doors are mysterious and frightening. Like all of our shelter mutts so far, Stella is a bit of a Velcro dog and doesn't like to be away from her people (she wailed like a banshee and peed all over the place when I tied her out in the hallway for a couple of minutes so I could get Pongu and introduce the dogs on neutral ground), but she's not as vocal about it as Gremlin or Pepper, and she seems to calm down faster. So it is probably not crucial that she go to a home where someone will be present all the time, although that would likely be her preference.

And that's where we are on Day One.

No comments:

Post a Comment