Charlie Update, 3/21/21

Charlie, lying down in a such a way that it looks as if she is running.
John Scalzi

It’s been a full twenty-four hour since Charlie has been gotten, which is enough time for me to say that based on early observations, she is, indeed, a very good dog.

Yes, yes, all dogs are good dogs, I know, I know. But I mean that Charlie has shown herself to be a) quite intelligent, b) very even-tempered, c) socialized to an impressively significant degree, all of which we couldn’t necessarily hoped for right out of a box for any dog, much less a shelter dog whose previous home life and treatment were a mystery to us. But so far:

* She’s been great with the cats, who at this point want to avoid and/or murder her. Her response generally has been “Okay, you don’t like me, that’s cool, maybe you’ll come around later.”

* She hasn’t really looked at the standing bowls of cat food or the cat’s water bowl; she understands which bowls are hers and uses them exclusively. If this continues this will be the first dog we won’t have to yell at for eating the cat food.

* She has met and played with the neighbor dogs Buckley and Gus, and has also gotten along well with Roxy and Roscoe, my mother-in-law’s Shih Tzus. She’s personable and doesn’t seem to need to dominate other dogs.

* Is housetrained and lets us know when she needs to go out.

* Is calm when meeting people and looks to us to make sure they’re okay, and if we indicate they are, is good with them.

* Is able to bark, but doesn’t unless there is a reason, which is a thing I love so far.

* Is a snuggly loving cuddlepup.

On the flip side, she did have some immediate separation anxiety when Krissy left the house; Charlie went to the door she left from and started whining and pawing the door. We calmed her down and I took her for a walk to dissipate some of that nervous energy. Then Krissy came back, proving that she had not in fact abandoned Charlie, which was a happy moment for the dog. When Krissy left later in the evening, Charlie was rather less stressed about it. I suspect this is part of Charlie’s learning curve that this is her new home and we’re her new people, and that we will go, but we will come back. The sooner she learns this the better, because in usual times, we do of course leave the house and even travel.

Also she was disappointed to learn she’s not allowed up on furniture, but seems to be accepting that fact pretty well.

But that’s it for “negative” behavior, at least so far.

Charlie’s actually pretty remarkable degree of calmness and situational intelligence suggests to me that the story we received of the previous owners surrendering her because she got too big for the terms of their apartment lease might actually be true; this does not seem to be a dog who was neglected or hurt, and indeed seems to have been as least lightly trained. Our previous dog, Daisy, had neglect as part of her backstory and it was something we did have to work through a bit, especially at the beginning. So far, what we get from Charlie is pretty much, “Is this my new home? Is this my new squeaky pig? I love all of you!” Which, you know, is great.

As with our previous dogs, Charlie’s most immediate and obvious bond is with Krissy, who she happily follows all through the house and wants to be by most of the time. I mean, I get it; I feel the same way. But it’s amusing to me that, given that all three of us met Charlie at the same time and gave her equal amounts of love and attention, she imprinted on Krissy the quickest. She knew that Krissy was her human, just like the rest of the dogs knew. They always know. The irony is that she, like all the other dogs, will spend most of her time with me, because I’m the one who is always home. And that’s fine. She likes me! And is happy to be with me! But she clearly loves Krissy the most. Again, I totally get it.

As a family unit, we’ve had three dogs: Kodi, Daisy and now Charlie. All of these dogs have something in common, which was that they were someone else’s dog before they were ours. Kodi had been claimed by someone who had then changed their mind for whatever reason, so when we mentioned to a friend we were thinking about getting a dog, he said he knew of a puppy who needed a home. Daisy we got through a lab rescue organization. And Charlie, now, from a shelter. I’m not someone who feels it is an absolute moral imperative to get a shelter/rescue pup (there might be specific and reasonably ethical reasons to want a “purebreed” dog, mostly relating to allergies and temperament), but all things being equal, I do think it’s strongly preferable to do so when one can, and I do recommend doing it that way. We hadn’t gone wrong with secondhand dogs before this, and with Charlie, at least from the perspective of one day in, we seem to be going three-for-three.

— JS

33 Comments on “Charlie Update, 3/21/21”

  1. With specific reference to the cats, Sugar and Spice at this point have mostly fled from Charlie, Smudge hisses but stands his ground, and Zeus a couple of times has gone out of his way to bat at the pup, being very vocal as he does so (Zeus is at this point in his life rarely vocal at all).

    Of the four, it appears that Smudge is the one acclimating the quickest to Charlie, inasmuch as they can walk past each other without altercation, and Krissy tells me they even touched noses. This is a good sign and I’m optimistic that in a couple of weeks there will be a new pet equilibrium. As mentioned, Charlie does seem to be helping by being good-tempered.

  2. think of the emotional strength and resiliency it takes for a dog, even from a not terrible home like it sounds like Charlie had, to endure weeks or months of unhappiness and alienation, followed by the chaos and fear of changing homes suddenly and without notice, and yet being so loving and accepting of new people.

    dogs are amazing.

  3. Looking forward to future updates on Charlie, from your family’s perspective, the cat’s perspective, and of course, Charlie’s.

    Congratulations on your new family member.

  4. Congratulations on the new pup! She is beautiful and it’s wonderful to hear she is so good tempered. Much happiness for y’all in the future.

  5. Gerry, being cats, its surprising that their humans are allowed on the furniture let along a dog.

  6. As a side impact of the pandemic in my area so many pets have been adopted from shelters that very few dogs are available. People are paying four figures to adopt a mixed breed–i.e. normal dog–from a local shelter, and on-line scammers are relieving people of that level of cash for “legal fees and transportation” for shelter dogs.

  7. But will Charlie bypass the tasty treats all dogs are want to eat at the cat box?

  8. Jeffrey Otterman:

    The cat boxes are in the basement and we’ve decided to let Charlie know that the basement is not an area for her. That also gives the cats somewhere to go when they are all dogged out.

  9. It sounds like you won the pup lottery with Charlie! Of course, to be fair, she won the adoptive owner lottery, so it goes both ways.

    I’m interested that Smudge is the first member of the clowder to sniff noses with Charlie. I recall Sugar being especially bonded with Daisy, so I’d have thought she at least might be willing to open negotiations with the new family member. I’m betting that Charlie’s calmness and sweet disposition will win her over, though Zeus will likely continue to assert his senior position by swatting and vocalizing.

    Thanks for the update – it is grand fun to follow along vicariously!

  10. Girlfriend is very smart and on her best behavior.

    We get our new doggo tomorrow. We’re very excited; we’ve been dogless since November.

    And thank you for adopting! I’m always psyched when “public figures” adopt, because that boosts the signal that shelter and rescue animals are good dogs (or cats). Too many people still buy pets, because they fear the potential baggage of rescues and surrendered pets.

  11. Wonderful to hear that Charlie is settling in so well! I look forward to More Tales of the Pet Integration.

  12. I’m impressed by Charlie not eating the cat food. Even our finicky eater helps himself to the cat food when we visit the shared family property. @jeffrey, one of my favorite stories to tell is the time my father decided to add a potbelly pig to the menagerie and the “recycling” circle established between the dog and pig and the other animals was something. For note I grew up in Oakland CA so it is a bit unusual to have dogs, cats, rabbits, turtles, chickens, parrots, and a pig given free reign of the house.

  13. You know John I love most of your posts but my favourites are probably the photos and the pets so a combination of the two is great. Also, being a former cat person who is now a dog person I’m interested to see how the two work things out. Our Border Collie herded our cat and snuggled with her and the cat was totally fine with that but the Lab mix wasn’t too fond of the cat and the feeling was mutual.

  14. A big shout-out for mixed breed rescue dogs! Always the best. There’s a pet store in our nabe which sells puppies, mostly pre-bred but not all, Usually, they don’t post their prices, but a couple weeks ago they did–$1600 for English bulldog mix pups; $1800 for pure-bred pups (small dogs of various breeds) That is simply insane, MHO. Even if one must have a pure-bred, find a breed rescue group!

  15. I am so delighted to get Charlie reports! Does she have a bit of the Shar Pei blue to her tongue in that last photo, or is that a trick of lighting?

  16. The dog you have in 6 months may be somewhat different than the dog you have now My experience is that newly-adopted dogs tend to be insecure and intimidated when they first come home, and gradually become their long-term selves in 6-8 months.

    For example, my first shelter dog was OK with kids, nipped a lot, never barked, and didn’t eat trash when I first got him. Well, live and learn!

  17. Think of Charlie not as secondhand, but, as ‘preowned and certified.’ She’s bonded w/Chrissy because she recognizes her as the alpha female; you? One of her fellow pack members. Re: getting on the furniture, I’d bet she’s not going to be real happy with the fact that the feline members of the pack get to….but then, they ARE armed.

  18. I cant remember ever not having a dog in our home. A HOUSE IS NOT A HOME WITHOUT A FOG, A DOG IS PART OF S FAMILY ,SO IF HE/ she wants to be on my couch with me,he/she can be there,..I recently had to see my little chihuahua pass away. I sure wish she was on my couch eith me now..

  19. GOD b less all animal lovers, any. Kind, They were made for us to love and BE Loved

  20. I’m happy for Charlie, and for the rest of the pack. I’ve followed you since Kodi and Ghlaghghee and am confident that she’ll have a good life.

    Regarding rescue, I’m glad you did that too. As another poster has said, when celebrities rescue, people take note. Also, for folks who want a pure breed pup, there are breed-specific rescues. My parents have been involved in boxer rescue for years (currently in Ohio, as luck would have it), and have had/fostered some amazing dogs.

  21. My wife and I (her more than me) rescued a Miniature Schnauzer from a very bad situation and had a couple of wonderful years with him before he passed due to kidney failure (don’t feed your dog human food, people!). It took awhile but my wife was finally ready to get another dog – and this in response to your reasons for getting a purebred – and it had to me a MiScnau. We got Niko from a non puppy farm breeder when he was 8 weeks old and he is my wife’s dog way more than he is mine. He will be 9 years old in May and he has been a joy in our lives. So glad the Biden’s brought dogs back to the White House; I don’t trust people who don’t like pets (whether they own one or not, you can tell). Good on you guys on your new pup pup!

  22. You are so right about rescues and shelter dogs! I have had a few purebreds in my life, but they were also rescues. It’s a good thing on all sides.
    So glad Charlie is fitting in so well. It’s a blessing.

  23. Please tell me you weren’t implying that the cats have ONE water bowl. Mapping and sampling all of the different oases in their territory is one of life’s great joys for felines.

  24. Do I miss my guess, or was that Krissy down on the floor with Charlie in the previous article? Dogs love it when you play with them at their level! That might be the secret to becoming their favourite. Much love from Scotland to Charlie and her new forever family.

  25. Good for you. I am glad it worked out but it doesn’t always. We tried a shelter dog. We were told it was so mellow – we found that is because it was near death from “kennel cough” and a few other things. Major vet bills later, we found that the dog who was “so mellow” wasn’t. He was not broken to the leash like we were told. He was not good with other dogs, he wanted to fight them on sight. He “got protective” and growled and snapped at family members. It was a horrorshow, made worse by the fact that he was a sweet giant puppy for my wife and no one else. Not only did the shelter people present us with what they said was a healthy mellow happy well adjusted dog who was actually none of those things, help with this problem was not available, beyond telling us that we needed to be more in tune with what the dog needed. On the plus side, we ended up choosing cats and ended up with 3 great ones. Maybe we’re ment to be cats only people.

  26. She’s adorable! All of our dogs have been shelter/rescue (for much the same reasons as yours)… And yeah, obvious differences between ones with abuse/neglect in their backgrounds and ones without. We’ve had a neglected rescue, a given up for valid life reasons, a given up for not-their-fault behavior issues, and a rescued puppy of a street dog… all very different. And wonderful.

  27. I have a foster puppy and 4 purebred dogs. — which are also purpose-bred sport dogs. Good dogs come in all varieties, shapes and sizes and people should get whatever suits them. But we also need to support breeders who do health checks on the parents, study pedigrees, and breed dogs for a purpose, whether as herding dogs, protection/detection, sport or pet. Not all purebred dogs are purpose bred; not all purpose bred dogs are purebred. Get one that suits you, whether from a shelter or breeder who breeds for reasons for a purpose apart from making money.
    Congrats on Charlie, who looks like a sweetheart.

  28. Congrats on the new dog and kudos to the Scalzi’s for getting a shelter dog. Rescues are the best and they seem to know that they are getting a second, or even more chances.

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