We decided we wanted a dog. Well, I decided I wanted a dog. My boyfriend wanted a cat. But seeing as I'm highly allergic to cats, a dog it was, as long as he got to choose the breed. He wanted a German Shepherd; it didn't matter to me. I wanted a fuzzy, 4-legged companion. We inquired about a shepherd mix at a local rescue... but got a call that she had a pretty severe bite history, so we nixed that one. But they were having an adoption event that weekend and my boyfriend insisted we go to meet some dogs. I was only mildly interested in going, I was pretty sure they wouldn't have any other German Shepherds available.
We drove to the pet store event, and as we passed the store, the dogs were outside. I wish someone had gotten a video of me.... I had both hands pressed against the window, one on either side of my face, mouth wide open, pressed against the glass. There was a beautiful brindle dog laying on the sidewalk. I wanted her. I knew from that instant that I wanted her. My boyfriend parked the car and I jumped out and ran across the lot before the car was even off. I approached the dog head-on, pet her head and face, and she shut her eyes and just enjoyed every second of it. This dog was meant for me. This was MY dog.
The volunteer told me her name was Bonnie. And she never acts like that, she's just a little shy but will warm up in no time.... Something that, at the time, I assumed was a sales tactic. "She's shy, but she already loves you! It's meant to be, take her home!" We spent about an hour with her that day... they told me she was a Plott Hound mix, she came from a family in Georgia who had to give her up because they lost their home. She lived with a nice family with two kids, she loved everyone, but she was a little shy.
We picked her up the next day. It was June 28th, 2009.
We went to the pet store, where she followed me up the down the aisles as I looked for toys and food and treats. We tried to go down the aisle with all the rawhides and dog goodies and about 1/3 of the way down the aisle, her eyes got wide and she panicked. Her legs were moving as fast as possible, but she was getting nowhere.... until her paws got tangled in her leash and she fell flat on her face. She stood back up without skipping a beat and dragged me down the aisle to get away.... After that, she downright refused to walk down any of the other aisles so we had to ever-so-cautiously meander along the wall to approach an opening, where she would safely walk. Now, I didn't think much of it; it had been a very stressful day for her, finding her forever home and all. But that should have been my first clue that I was dealing with something a bit bigger than I thought.
The first few days were wonderful. She loved me, and warmed up to my boyfriend fairly quickly. Looking back, I regret not documenting her progress from day 1, but at the time, I was not aware that when the girl doing our adoption told us she was "shy," that they really meant she's "fearful" and that means she's a special needs dog. I've come to notice there IS a difference between shy and fearful, at least by my definition. A shy dog just needs a little bit of time to warm up, and then loves everyone. A shy dog needs to get the first sniff when meeting people. A fearful dog needs a lot of time to warm up, and loves some people. And a fearful dog may get spooked by unexpected noises or movements, or falling tree branches, dropped kitchen utensils, babies crying, objects that are not in their normal places.... a fearful dog needs training, and knowledge of learning theory. Things that, at the time, I had minimal knowledge of.
I started noticing that she seemed shy of strangers, nervous around children, iffy with some other dogs, and overall, she spooked easily, but it didn't click until later on that I needed help with her. I had no clue what I was doing, and quite honestly, I'm still confused how the rescue I got her from thought telling me she was "shy" was enough of a description of her behavior in order for me to understand her issues.
I found out later that she had been at the kennel, rather than in a foster home, so I sort of assumed no one really knew about her behavior. But, after spending time at the rescue's kennel as a volunteer, and talking to more and more volunteers, I learned that people were aware of her fear issues. Someone told me she would jump back and hide from falling leaves while on walks. She would crouch and hide at the back of her kennel when people were around. She never approached people. There were a few people that got close to her and would spend time with her, but not many. Because she was fearful. And she looked like a Pit Bull.