My wife and Pet Me Happy Treats co-founder Nadine A. Peeples and I went with our heads, hearts and guts when we adopted a shelter rescue dog as a family pet and Pet Me Happy mascot.
After three weeks living with Lennon, our newest family member, we’re elated to report adopting him was one of the best decisions we’ve made in our 35 years of marriage.
Nadine and I named our 8-year-old corgi-chihuahua-terrier-?? mix Lennon because we’re both Beatles fans and we adopted him on October 9, what would have been John Lennon’s 76th birthday.
As I recounted in a post a few days post-adoption, Nadine and I found this dog, and this dog found Nadine and me, at the 16th Bow-Wows & Meows Pet Fair in Santa Clarita, California, out of more than 125 other adoptable dogs from shelters and rescue groups all over Los Angeles County.
Now, it can be risky to adopt a pet from a public shelter, especially at a huge one-day adoption event like Bow-Wows & Meows (more than 160 shelter pets were adopted that day).
Unlike most private pet adoptions, which involve introductions and home visits and take a little time, there’s little to no time to get to know one another at a one-off event. What might seem like a perfect match at first may soon prove otherwise.
But in our case, the planets all lined up. God blessed us. Dog blessed us. Fate was on our side. A random coincidence occurred. We rolled a seven. However you want to put it – our new-to-us pup is almost perfect. He has all but one or two of the qualities we wrote about when describing our dream dog, and more we never dreamed of. We couldn’t have scripted a better scenario.
First Encounter of the Canine Kind
We had decided to adopt a family dog and canine Pet Me Happy mascot in early September, and started sniffing around the local shelters and rescues as part of our co-sponsorship of the “Adoptable Pet of the Week” feature on our hometown radio station, KHTS-AM 1220 in Santa Clarita.
But we hadn’t found our perfect pup before Bow-Wows & Meows rolled around in early October. There, we fell in love with and adopted Lennon 10 minutes after the gates opened at 10:30 a.m.
With all the commotion of 250 cats and dogs and hundreds of people at that event, Lennon didn’t seem nervous or freaked out at all. It was like he was the only dog in the park. The first time I picked him up, he was totally at ease, no shivering or squirming to get down. We decided on the name “Lennon” very quickly.
At the end of the event, when Nadine, our Pet Me Happy partner Paige Hagen and I packed up our vendor booth, we leashed Lennon up to a new harness and he walked right alongside us to our car, tail wagging.
Fantastic – he’s cool on the leash!
Lennon jumped right into the back seat and immediately laid down.
Fantastic again – he’s car-savvy, too!
When we got home 15 minutes later and opened our front door, Lennon met Batman, our 13-year-old mackerel tabby, and Pet Me Happy’s official Feline Mascot. They gave each other a few perfunctory sniffs, then essentially ignored each other. No barking, no hissing. Great start!
We let Lennon explore and sniff the house down, watching to make sure he didn’t whiz on something or take a dump on the carpet. We had no idea when he’d last pooped. I fed him some canned food, we went for a walk, he sniffed down all the new foliage, and whizzed, but didn’t poop.
On the walk, I was amazed at how perfectly he stayed with me, preferring to walk to my right. He never pulled on the leash except when he wanted to stop and sniff, which I always accommodated. When we got ready to cross a street, he stood stock still at the curb, and did not move until I did.
Along with being leash- and street-savvy, he understands and obeys basic commands like “stay,” “sit” and “come here.”
Just a few days ago, I discovered that if I whistle, he will come running.
I couldn’t believe it, either.
Lennon’s First Nights of Freedom
Lennon’s first night in the Peeples abode was like his first night out of jail, so we figured WTF, right? We spoiled him rotten with a big dinner and lots of love and affection. We let him jump up onto our bed, and he immediately rolled onto his back, begging for a belly rub. When he got it, he was happy as a dog could possibly be. Batman graciously shared his domain at the foot of the bed with the new guy for the night.
Next morning, we discovered Lennon had whizzed on the bathroom floor, and dropped a load on the living room rug.
Fortunately, it was all easy to clean up. We didn’t yell at him or anything – he just didn’t know where to go yet. That was our fault. So Nadine and I added training pads to the list of dog supplies we needed to get after work that night.
At our neighborhood pet store, Canyon Pet Center on Soledad Canyon Road, Karen, the owner, was a huge help. She helped us round up the stuff on our list, recommended a healthy dog food, a good collar, and so forth.
We mentioned the house-training issue, and Karen told us to forget the training pads. Instead, she suggested we get a crate for Lennon, and keep him in it at night and when we were away until he could be trusted not to TCB in the house.
“Keep him on a leash with you at all times in the house for the first month,” she said, “and put him in the crate overnight or when you’re out because he won’t soil his own space.”
Back home, just as I finished assembling the crate on the living room floor, Nadine walked into the room with Lennon on his leash. As soon as I opened the crate’s gate, he walked right in, curled up and laid down, and looked at us with a grateful grin.
Lennon’s obviously crate trained! Fantastic again!
I pushed our goofy dog and his crate into our bedroom and parked it in front of my dresser where we won’t trip over it in the dark. Batman assumed his usual spot at the foot of the bed, and we all sailed off into dreamland.
And that was the end of the housebreaking problem. Since that first night, we’ve had zero accidents.
A Day in the Life of a Pet Me Happy Mascot
I usually work late so Lennon stays in the Pet Me Happy Treats home office with me, chilling on a comfy little doggie bed. He’s wonderful company when it’s time for me to take a break, and is totally low maintenance when I’m otherwise focused on a task.
When it’s bedtime, I give him a belly rub, he licks my face, and he curls right up in the crate and goes to sleep. Never a whimper. Never wakes us up at night.
Nadine is up early every day, and takes Lennon out for a pee break about 6:15 a.m. I’m usually up around 10 or 11, and feed him breakfast. Then we go on a half-hour walk, on which he takes his daily dump.
For me, it’s also needed exercise, and quality prep time, off the grid. As we walk, I wake up, get the heart pumping, and prioritize and strategize my work ahead that day, without interruption or distraction.
Back home, Lennon hangs out in his crate while I shower, and stays there if I have to go out on errands and appointments, or until I let him out to join me in the Pet Me Happy home office. We take another walk about 3:30, Nadine arrives home about 4:30 and gives him dinner at 5:30 (same time as Batman), and Lennon and I take another stroll around 6.
After Nadine and I eat our dinner, Batman and Lennon hang out in the office with us while she reads, watches the tube or works social media, and I work on assorted Pet Me Happy business including the occasional blog post, like this one.
Nadine and Batman crash early, by 10, and Lennon chills with me after hours until I park him in the crate and hit the sack sometime between 11 and 1.
It may sound hackneyed and banal to some, but Nadine and feel like we’re in the middle of a vintage Norman Rockwell Americana scene, with Mom, Dad and their cat and dog sitting together in the parlor, warming the room with their unspoken love and companionship.
Lennon’s First Vet Visit
Our adoption package from the county included a voucher for a free vet exam, so we took our canine mascot to Sierra Veterinary Clinic in Canyon Country on the Saturday morning after we adopted him.
Lennon was totally at ease in the vet’s waiting room, wasn’t nervous or shivering, and was friendly with the staff and the vet, who gave Lennon a clean bill of health.
The vet did say Lennon needs a teeth cleaning, and has some sort of minor skin allergy, probably food-related. He put Lennon on a special dry food diet to allow his system to detox, and to give us a baseline to start tracking down the allergy so we can treat it.
We’re very relieved he has no major health issues otherwise. But we’re a bit bummed we can’t give him our all-natural Artisan Dog Treats just yet – not because they’re unhealthy, far from it, but because it’d break the baseline diet!
Lennon’s Pet Me Happy Mascot Debut: Bark for Life
Lennon’s first public event as a Pet Me Happy mascot was the Bark for Life fundraiser for the American Cancer Society, at Bridgeport Park in Valencia on Saturday, October 22.
We had to arrive and start setting up our booth at the absolutely uncivilized time of 7 a.m., and it was still chilly outside, though a sunny and cloudless day.
Lennon was shivering; we thought maybe he was nervous. We bundled him up in a blanket like a burrito, and he was a happy pup. As soon as the sun rose and it got warmer, his shivers were gone.
Wearing his custom-made embroidered bandanna, Lennon was an immediate hit as our official Pet Me Happy mascot.
Dozens of pet parents and kids parading by the Pet Me Happy Treats booth for free Artisan Dog Treats also stopped to pet him, and he got to meet and sniff their dogs, too. Everyone seemed to get along fine.
We saw lots of friends and fans including Beth Harrison from A Paw Above dog training school, Dani Caouette from Shelter Hope Pet Shop, and Brooke Ritter of Brooke Ritter Photography, and met new ones like Nikki from the Agility Training School for dogs, and Stephanie Brash, one of the managers at the Kriser’s store in Valencia, who had the booth next to ours.
Digging the Scene at Casket Lake
The next day, Sunday, October 23, the Pet Me Happy Treats menagerie was set up as a vendor at the huge Casket Lake family Halloween event at the LIMS Studios complex in Castaic, just north of Santa Clarita.
About 3,000 locals showed up, according to organizers Ed Bernstein and Marlene Bernstein of the Santa Clarita-based 25Score marketing group, who produced the event. We met hundreds (!) of people, most of whom were pet parents, sold a bunch of Artisan Dog Treats, and added a nice new batch of email addresses to our newsletter mailing list.
Decked out once again in his Pet Me Happy bandanna, Lennon was just the perfect canine mascot. The people and noise and commotion didn’t faze him in the least. A parade of humans, many of them kids in freaky-looking Halloween costumes, reached out to pet him and remarked how cute he was, and SO well-behaved. We felt like proud parents all over again.
We were at the Casket Lake event for about six hours, and though we took him out for a whiz break a few times, he didn’t go. He held it until we got home, where he watered more familiar foliage along our sidewalk. We praised him effusively, of course.
It’s impossible to overstate the joy this awesome little creature is bringing into our lives. We can’t imagine how anyone could have had him as a pet and given him up.
Reconstructing Lennon: A Bear
Using the scant information available from his adoption records and our fertile imaginations, we’ve reconstructed a backstory for our canine Pet Me Happy mascot.
The Baldwin Park shelter paperwork indicated he was 8 years old, weighed 20 pounds, was neutered, chipped and up to date with vaccinations, and had a slight dry skin condition the vets there had treated for a short time. (As we’d find out from our vet, that was a symptom of a suspected food allergy.)
His first visit to the Baldwin Park shelter had been in 2011 when he was taken in as a stray. The vets then observed he was nervous, but otherwise in good health. They neutered and chipped him, and updated his vaccinations including rabies.
At some point after that, Lennon was adopted from the Baldwin Park shelter, although there is no record of exactly when or by whom.
So the next five years remain a mystery, until early September 2016, when he showed up again at the Baldwin Park shelter, again brought in by a human as a stray.
The volunteers there named him “Bear.” Over the next month, the vets and volunteers updated his vaccines and helped him regain some weight, and by Bow-Wows & Meows on October 9, he was healthy and ready for a new home.
We’re guessing his previous pet parent was a loving senior who went into assisted living or died, and there wasn’t a family member available or willing to adopt the pup. Whoever was taking care of the dead person’s effects took the dog to the shelter, and fibbed about it being a stray.
Everything about this dog – his mellow demeanor, how well-behaved and well-trained he is, how he loves to sit on laps, how happy and grateful and affectionate and smart and funny and trusting he is – tells us he had a wonderful, loving home during those five missing years.
There were probably other pets and maybe grand-kids around because he’s at ease with both. He may have traveled a lot because he’s so relaxed in the car. He seems to be a very loyal little companion.
Maybe someday we’ll find out more. But for now, we revel in our good fortune, adopting a loving pet who seems to be un-traumatized by anything that might have happened in his earlier years. One thing is for sure: we’re making sure now is the happiest time of his life.