Friday, June 10, 2016

Expanding the Pack -- Adding a Puppy!

Finding Balance With a Puppy and an Older Dog

 At the beginning of the year, my husband and I decided it was time to expand our little pack and adopt a puppy.

 Although we adopted our eldest dog, Juno, as an adult, we felt ready for the challenge of a puppy one more time. But we would still adopt rather than buy a specific breed. We were hoping to find another lab mix, though, so focused our attention with that criteria in mind.

 We watched the listings from our local ASPCA and then also contacted a few rescue organizations. As luck would have it, Black Dogs, Second Chance (BDSC)came back to us with a 4-month-old puppy who was rescued from the streets in southwestern Texas. BDSC felt that our house made for a good fit for the little guy, as he was displaying a little bit of apprehension toward young children which they felt might become an issue.

 Seemingly overnight, we were puppy parents. Our older dog, Juno, was not terribly amused, but she took the newcomer in stride. We named him Polonius, or Polo for short.

 Having both a puppy and an 11-year-old in the house at the same time proved challenging, primarily for the same issues that any new puppy parents face: crate training, redirecting the puppy’s chewing habits to appropriate toys (rather than furniture or us), and making sure the little guy is properly socialized. Of course, Polo wanted to play with Juno, but she has never been one to bounce around and play doggie games, so that left my husband and I to fill the gap. Juno was a little displeased to have her naps interrupted, but soon learned she could move away a little while we played with him so she could go back to her snooze. I can’t say that I didn’t shed tears during the whole process (they were), but after a little while, we found a good routine with both dogs.

Therapy Dog Juno!
 Once the puppy was trained, it was time to re-establish balance in our household. So, we pursued some additional training for the puppy, while our eldest returned to her Therapy Dog visits. I strongly believe the dogs need to have individual attention time from us to be happy and healthy, just as much as it’s important for them to socialize together with other dogs.

 Today, Polonius is not only a graduate of puppy kindergarten, but has gone on to a more advanced “boot camp” where he honed his skills (and added a very useful command called “Place”). He’s currently enrolled in an Advanced Obedience class that’s a precursor towards earning his Canine Good Citizen certificate. We also aspire to have him join an agility team to help him focus his tremendous energy for chasing balls. Of course, he adores his big sister, and can’t wait to see her after he goes to daycare or a class to tell her all about his day. He also still loves to sleep as close as possible to her.

 As for Juno, she’s continuing her Therapy Dog work, and, even though Polo misses her when we leave for a visit, he’s learning the importance of some “alone” time. Like Polo, she greets her little brother with “kisses” when she comes home from her volunteering, and doesn’t mind his snuggles any longer.

Pursuing a balanced pack is a challenge for any dog owner, but it is possible even when they are on different ends of the age spectrum.

Did you know that in shelters, black dogs are the last to be adopted and first to be euthanized?

Find out more at Black Dog, Second Chance Rescue --

MJ Courchesne is a freelance publishing consultant, writer, and part-time personal trainer with a passion for gardening, walking, wine, and travel. She lives in a restored 1890s Victorian home situated in the heart of Buffalo, NY with her husband and lab mix, Juno and puppy Polo.. Her new blog can be found at