After seeing Needlenoggin break down whenever he was around dogs or saw one in a commercial, or thought about the dog he'd had back at my folks' house, we all decided it was time to start looking for a dog. We checked at the pound, but found nothing there but older dogs, aggressive dogs, pit-bulls and a Siberian Husky puppy. So, we searched craigslist, and applied at some rescues.
A thing I don't get about dog rescues. These animals were going to be put to death, are in cages and cost a LOT to care for. A family wants to bring them home, and I understand wanting to ensure that the dog will have a good life, but some of the requirements are unbelievable. We were turned down by 5 rescues. 1) They don't give dogs to families with kids. 2) We don't have a dedicated private yard and do have kids. 3) No other dogs and we don't make enough (?!?) 4) Too many people in the home, no private yard 5) No kids, dogs don't like wheelchairs, no yard.
Well, yes, an adults-only home with a large, fenced yard, lots of disposable income and someone at home all day (we met that one!) with other well-behaved dogs would be ideal. However, isn't a stable, loving home better than a shelter?
Then we found Tony La Russa's Animal Rescue Foundation, or ARF. Arf had LOTS of dogs, some rated for living with kids, some not, some that needed yards, some that didn't, and the sizes ranged from 4 lbs to 60 lbs. Awesome. (yes, I'm totally shilling for them. They are a GREAT organization, the dogs come microchipped, fixed and you get a free 7 week obedience training class when you adopt. If you're in the Bay and want a pet (they do cats, too), look them up.)
Anyway, we looked at a few Lab mixes, some of whom really seemed to do well with the kids, but a lot of them were afraid of the wheelchair. Anytime Needlenoggin would move, the dogs would panic and run from him. It was heartbreaking. Then we discovered "Beatrice" the Shepherd mix. She didn't mind the wheelchair at all, is (pretty much) housebroken and was an angel with the kids.
Here's the photos they took at ARF:
Doesn't Needlenoggin look happy? :) So, Beatrice came home, and after an hour or two, had adopted both Needlenoggin and Little Monkey. Needlenoggin is her friend, and Little Monkey is her puppy. She will lick tears (or food) off of his face, cuddles up with him on the floor and will let him pull on her skin and fur to balance and cruise around the house. Being the kind of people we are, we decided any dog that looks like that and loves to lick small children so much should be named "Dingo." And since she's just the silliest dog ever, her full name is "Dingo-Berry." I know, I know, there's something wrong with us. I don't care, Needlenoggin loves her.
And, she loves the rest of us, too:
She's registered with the United States Service Dog Registry as a service dog in training, and is learning to pick up objects Needlenoggin has dropped, hold doors open for him and pull his manual wheelchair when he gets tired. She even went out in Public to the Monterey Bay Aquarium the other weekend in her service-dog-in-training vest.
All in all, she's melding in quite well. She's a little protective of Needlenoggin and Little Monkey (she'll sometimes growl at strangers who approach) and she's made a few messes (easily cleaned up, but still) on the carpet in the apartment, but otherwise, she's doing well. "Sit" and "Lay Down" and "Paws U[" (putting her paws in Needlenoggin's lap and standing up so he can pet her) she has down, and she's working on "Up" (onto his bed), "Off" and my favorite, "Baby" (where she goes to lick Little Monkey). She's already a part of the family (after 3 weeks) and even joined in the Halloween fun: