I adopted Madison from Family Dogs New Life Shelter in October 2011. I had just lost my first ‘second chance’ dog and was going to see a younger dog, but it was on the list for everyone to see. When I looked through the book I saw Madison, an older dog who’d been in shelters for over a year. recently coming from California for her ‘second chance.’ She wasn’t on anyone’s list. I asked to see her, we took a walk, and we took her home.
Maddie really needed a bath so I took her for a good brushing and grooming, then to the vet as I discovered she had scabs and flaky skin that was really dark in places. She was eventually diagnosed with environmental and food allergies, which are now managed with regular care and constant vigilance. Maddie was also 88 pounds and unable to walk more than 15-20 minutes when she first came to us; now she can do an hour at the right pace with a few stops for rest. Her vet would like to see her under 80 pounds, and she’s currently at 83!
Early on, Maddie would react to men by racing around them, snapping and barking. She also barked at women, but less ferociously. I took her to see Tonya, a trainer at the Oregon Humane Society, both of whom had been very helpful with our first rescue dog, who had a number of behavioral issues.
We’ve worked hard to alleviate Madison’s…aversion to men, and have managed to modify her behavior so that she can be off leash around men at the dog park and not react, and also be in our yard with us and not react to passersby. We are still struggling with workmen, mail or delivery men . . . so far she still has to go to her room.
Very aloof at first, it’s taken Madison awhile to bond even with me. But over time she has allowed herself to be more vulnerable. She does have anxieties though, including being left alone (thankfully there’s almost always someone home with her and she comes with us whenever appropriate). Thunder/lightening/loud noises and anything that startles her causes an exaggerated response. One winter day we walked past a snowman. She jumped and was afraid to walk past it. We have avoided medicating her and have found that a Thundershirt helps some.
Our approach with our rescues has been to allow them to adjust to their new home for six weeks and then we address one issue at a time as they arise. It’s my experience that it takes about a year for a dog to settle in and for their true personality to come out. In the seven months Madison has been with us she has learned to walk on leash, to be off leash in appropriate environments with me (she’s on leash at all times with other family members), to allow people into our home without making them “assume the position,” and to relax and accept belly rubs and massages. And . . . she has a waist now!
It’s been interesting to watch her change from a … not aggressive, but definitely not nice . . . dog who seemingly didn’t need us to a softer, more comfortable girl who spends most of the day waiting by the door for me to come home — much to the mailman’s dismay.
I have recently begun taking her to events to help her adjust to being around other people and dogs; we attended Doggie Dash and Bark for Life, and recently had our first meal out together. She is still stubborn and has moments of being aloof, but she is becoming a wonderful companion and I am SO proud of her for adjusting so well at her age.
Madison is resilient and amazing. I don’t know much about her story before she came to us, but I know she has a good life now and I hope she’ll be with us for a long time.
Thank you for allowing me to share our story. Adopting older dogs is one of the most rewarding things a person can do and I like to advocate for them when I can.
Carol Opheikens, Portland, Oregon