Saturday, January 21, 2012

Happy Gotcha Day, Maisy

Five years ago today, Maisy came home.

“Home” was actually a group home. My job was to supervise the staff and daily operations of the home, and my company thought the best way to do that was to have the supervisor live there. And so my husband and I lived in the walk-out basement of a two story home; upstairs, there were four adults with pretty profound disabilities.

Since I was working with vulnerable adults, I needed the permission of not only my employers, but also each resident’s guardian. It was a pretty nerve-wracking experience. I had fallen head over heals in love with this little puppy, and as I waited for approval from five different people, I was forced to wonder what I’d do if the answer came back as “no.” I probably would have quit (losing my job and my home at the same time), actually, which just proves how completely irrational Maisy made me.

But I got permission, and I brought her home, completely ignorant about pretty much everything about dogs. I vividly remember her first afternoon at home. All the websites I’d read on housetraining lied: she didn’t sniff or have any obvious signs that she was about to pee. She just went. After the third or fourth time in as many hours, I was pretty sure I’d made a huge mistake. I was stubborn, though, and she was cute, so we soldiered on.

Maisy loved going upstairs to visit the guys, and would often climb up the steps and whine at the door separating my “apartment” from the rest of the house. In the early days, she could go up stairs, but not down, and so I’d often have to go rescue her.

But when I let her go visit? Oh, how she loved it! She would visit with the staff and residents alike, begging for food, and later, showing off what she was learning in puppy class. She would proudly sit when resident N asked her to. She learned her first trick (shake paw) when my awake overnight staff called in sick and I had to fill in (those shifts were terribly boring- the staff was around mostly to respond to emergencies). That same night, I learned the value of a good “leave it” when I dropped a seizure medication on the floor. (She left it.)

In retrospect, this was a fabulous socialization opportunity. In addition to frequent shift changes, erratic movement, and odd noises, IV poles, patient lifting devices, and wheelchairs abounded. Later, when she graduated from puppy class, the guys came to watch, and she was the only dog who didn’t freak out about the wheelchairs. Even today, she’s very excited to see a person in a wheelchair.

Things have changed a lot since those early days. Today, we live in our own house, with our own back yard. She’s housetrained (finally!), and doesn’t need to be crated when I’m gone. She has two kitty brothers, and a human mama who actually knows something about dog behavior.

But one thing hasn’t changed, and that is the fact that I love her. I can’t imagine my life without her, can barely remember what it was like before. She has brought so much joy to my life, and I love her more than I’ll ever be able to say.

So, Happy Gotcha Day, Maisy. I am glad you could come home, and I hope we have many, many more years together.


Anonymous said...

Happy Gotcha Day to a fabulous muppett. She hit the jackpot when she went home with you!


Tegan said...

I never knew that Maisy had such a start to life with you. My mother works in a nursing home, and I love the socialisation opportunities it provides. :) Happy "gotcha" day to Maisy.

Crystal Thompson said...

Nicky, you know that *I* am the one who hit the jackpot, right? :)

Tegan- Maisy's life has been interesting, that's for sure. I know I didn't do a GREAT job socializing her, but COME ON. She got more by virtue of where we lived (and going to puppy classes) than other dogs do. To me, that's just proof that genetics are a powerful thing.

Mary Hunter said...

What a great post. :)

I agree with you-- sounds like it was an awesome opportunity to socialize her to all sorts of things.

"Later, when she graduated from puppy class, the guys came to watch, and she was the only dog who didn’t freak out about the wheelchairs."

Yup! I've seen this first hand. Animals who aren't familiar with wheelchairs are often terrified of them.

I worked several summers ago running the horse program for a camp for kids and adults with disabilities. We had to do training with our new horses at the beginning to get them completely comfortable with wheelchairs and the other new sights and noises of the camp.

How great, thought, for the residents of the group home to get to have a dog living with them. :)



Crystal Thompson said...

Mary, yes, it was awesome for the folks that lived there. N just LOVED Maisy, and was always asking if we could take her for a walk.