March 02

Kip joins the family

At the end of December our foster kittens were ready for adoption and we went to pick up foster #69, a 6-year-old Pomeranian named Wave who had been surrendered at Chicago Animal Care and Control for reasons we’ll never know. Wave had a virus of some sort and was awaiting his second negative swab after being tested for canine influenza. After 40+ foster dogs, we’re accustomed to a certain routine with a new foster. The dog comes in, seems reserved, sniffs around and often doesn’t eat for a day or so. They are nervous while we bathe them but are generally compliant. It usually takes a few days for them to relax and be themselves. There are often naughty behaviors we have to correct like marking, begging at the table, mouthiness, chewing, barking or pulling on leash.

Wave was different. He was relaxed on the ride home and ran into the house and licked my face immediately. He found his water and food bowls quickly and had no problem being bathed or blown dry. The second one of us sat down he was on our laps and was quiet as a mouse. There was no chewing, no marking (in spite of the scent of the previous 68 animals in our house), no barking, no pulling on leash. “He’s less work than a cat,” Bill quipped. He was unusual in that he was very excited about walking 2-3 miles a day with great excitement but was also calm the rest of the day.

I had a respiratory infection at the time and was amazed how loyal and attentive Wave was during my illness. Child and adult visitors came to the house and Wave greeted them all like they were his family members. The 9-year-old girl next door asked her mom, “If we ever get a dog, can we get one like Wave?” Another friend came over and Wave jumped up on her lap as soon as she sat down and rested his chin on her legs. “He’s so calm to have around. How are we possibly going to say goodbye to him?” Bill asked.

By the end of January, we began to discuss as a family if we should consider keeping Wave. We had never had this discussion before. When our last cat died less than 3 years ago, I felt as though I couldn’t image making a 17-year commitment to a pet again because we’ll be empty nesters soon. But Wave’s life expectancy is likely another 6-9 years, which is a lot easier for us to imagine. His 8-pound size and agreeable temperament made it easy for us to imagine traveling with him. His calm demeanor made me wonder if I could train him to become a certified therapy dog. His only short-coming is that he sometimes is fearful when he sees other dogs on leash. So I called a veteran dog trainer at PAWS Chicago who has dealt with thousands of dogs with behavioral issues and asked if training would eliminate that behavior. She assured me that if we were consistent and patient that he could overcome that fear with training. We also talked to the foster team at PAWS Chicago about how we could continue fostering if we adopted Wave. There would be some animals with contagious illnesses like kennel cough or Parvo that we wouldn’t be able to foster but they assured us that there were enough fosters that would work with a resident pet once we got Wave past the fearfulness stage. As a family we all agreed that we wanted to adopt this dog.

Wave’s name, however, didn’t fit him we decided. We began researching alternative names and learned that dogs only pay attention to the first syllable of their name. For dogs that are to be trained, it’s desirable to have the first syllable be a different sound than the the names of other family members so the dog isn’t confused. Wave was too close to Weeks we decided so it needed to be a name that didn’t begin with a B, W or S. We also felt as though this spritely dog needed a staccato name. We settled on Kip as a reference to Sophie’s childhood favorite cartoon character Kipper as well as the reference to kip being a small, pointed hill, that reminds us of the shape of Pomeranian ears. Kip it was.

I began looking into the training and service opportunities for certified therapy dogs. Certified therapy dogs in Chicago are used in physical rehabilitation, at hospitals for comfort, for children who attend special schools for autism spectrum disorders, for juveniles in detention facilities, for the elderly, and in schools to calm children learning to read. I remembered that when the mother of one of our daughter’s classmates died unexpectedly, the school brought in a certified therapy dog to comfort the children. PAWS Chicago provides the classes to prepare dogs for the certification test. I also thought about doing agility training with Kip. His breed is agile and well-suited for agility training. We all agreed that he’d probably love it and that it’s a great way to keep an older dog fit and stimulated. I also felt that this would allow us to continue to develop new skills and that this would be something I’d never be able to do if we only fostered.

Kip needed some dental surgery last week so PAWS Chicago veterinary staff neutered him, removed some teeth and gave him a thorough dental cleaning. He was cleared for adoption last week and we will finalize the adoption tonight. Bill and I signed up for the first of three dog obedience courses that we plan to take at PAWS Chicago. One thing we agreed on is that if we’re going to own a dog, we’re going to teach him how to be his best self.

Kip will be the first dog either of us has ever owned. There were lots of great dogs we fostered prior to Kip and we had no intention to ever adopt. But at some point we both thought separately, “If I were ever in my life to own a dog, this would be the one.” Welcome to the family Kip. Expect the rest of your life to be filled with lots of walks, new adventures and a family who loves you.