I adopted Penelope (then known as Wendy) in September of 2008 – one year ago this week! When I was in high school, my family adopted a bouncy, cheerful Samoyed-mix we named Yuri, who officially turned me into a dog lover. Of course, he could not come to college with me, and is a bit too much dog for an apartment (he is now 13, living with my mom, and, apart from one recent scare, still going strong). But I missed having a dog of my own. I kept an eye on the APS website, and one day I saw that they had several dogs in the right size range – so I decided to make a visit to the shelter.
The first thing I noticed about Penelope was that while most of the other dogs were barking excitedly, she just came to the front of her cage, wagged her tail, and gazed up at me with soulful brown eyes. She looked shy, but hopeful. Her first year of life must have been very insecure, because when I first brought her home, the poor thing was scared of almost everything – with the exception of me and her supper dish! It has been such a pleasure to see her blossom into a happy, playful little dog. In fact, though still exceptionally quiet, she has gained enough confidence to take up the role of guard dog – her surprisingly deep woof alerting me to some sound or person she considers to be extremely suspicious. She loves going hiking, adores the dog park (she is a world-class sprinter and wrestler), and is an avid hunter of beetles and other small fauna. She learns quickly, and is very well behaved – though she does have a spark of mischief in her, too! Sometimes I even take her to work (my colleagues are a pretty dog-friendly bunch). She is happy to sleep under my desk while I work, and in the afternoon I take her for a walk on campus as part of her continuing socialization. She is very sweet-natured, and those soulful eyes that captured me can wring an “Awww…” out of just about anyone who meets her.
I would say to anyone looking for a dog, consider one of the gorgeous, unique mutts at your local shelter. And don’t overlook the older dogs – they are just as loving and trainable as the puppies (In fact, both of mine came pre-house-trained). Some of them may have been badly treated in the past, and so come with a bit of baggage – even happy-go-lucky Yuri shied away from brooms and newspapers in his youth – but with the right training and a little understanding they can learn to trust again, and you will both have so much to gain. Penelope and Yuri are very different dogs (where she is obedient, shy, and cautious, he has always been headstrong, confident, and everybody’s friend) but they share a gentle spirit, and the ability to always make me (or anyone else) smile. I feel extremely lucky to have had them in my life.