What a Difference a Year Makes


Heading home from the shelter

Wow what a difference a year makes! A year ago today, we brought Riley home from the shelter. We started this journey with no plan at all and she continues to amaze us everyday. I still remember when we first saw her, it was in the last row that we looked at and she was sitting in a pen just shaking like a leaf. In the same pen was a very active and friendly poodle who kept jumping all over the place, they were polar opposites. The minute we laid eyes on her we knew she was ours. We sat through talks with the doctor and adoption counselor. We were told she was a puppy mill dog and the best way to acclimate her to her new home. She sat in J’s lap all the way home, both of us kind of in shock that we just adopted a dog together. Our first stop was PetCo, where she gained the love and attention of every single employee. Too bad she was so terrified she wouldn’t move and just shook. We went a little overboard buying her stuff, we weren’t exactly sure what we would need and wanted to be prepared. When we first got home, she wouldn’t go through doorways, she yanked on the leash and tried to get away. She did the same thing with stairs so we had to carry her up the stairs and gently coach her into the house.


First day in her new home

When we first got her home, we had no idea what to do. She was very scared and hid in the corners. She hated (and still hates) having her back to you, it made her jumpy. The adoption counselor told us not to overwhelm her, just let her be so she can get used to her new surroundings. It was very hard not picking her up and just holding her. Lots of love was key, we were told, and we had a lot of love to give. Those first couple of months were really trying and had us doubting ourselves. She wouldn’t eat, so we started leaving her food out and let her eat whenever she wanted. It took a couple days before she ate the first time. She wouldn’t take treats, so training her with food was not an option. We were hesitant to discipline her at first given her history. We slowly realized she worked better with routines. She was terrified of anything she didn’t know, but if we did it a couple times she would eventually pick it up.


First bath

Training her to use the bathroom outside took a very long time, it was probably about a month before she peed outside and a little while longer for #2. We started with just walking around the neighborhood every few hours with her not doing anything. It started to get really frustrating, but we were persistent. One day, she decided she was ready and I got so excited and cheered so loud I’m sure I scared her even more. After a few more weeks, she was in a routine and we kind of knew what to expect during the day. She still has some problems, when she gets scared or confused she is most likely to have an accident but that’s about it. For awhile, she would only go up the stairs and would refuse to go down. So, we let her get used to going up first. They we started to coax her to go down them. At first she adamantly refused and every now and then she would go down a few steps and stop. But she always surprises you when she gets the hang of it. One day, she took off down the stairs and then looked at us like, “why are you so shocked?”


Hiding in the pillows

We went to puppy play dates at PetCo for awhile, and it seemed to help her. At first, she would just hide in the corner and shake, but eventually she would go and sniff other dogs. It’s her MO – sniff another dog and then run away and observe. Everywhere we went, we would take her with us to get her used to different environments. She would get really motion sick in the car, so we did a lot of short trips. She still has some trouble with longer trips and we just give her a little bit of dremamine. She LOVES to be outside, it is where she is happiest. She could run all day as long as you were there. We have taken her to the dog park a few times and I cannot wait for the weather to warm up to take her more this year. Our dog park is separated with an area for smaller/older dogs if you choose and then everyone else. We wanted her to get used to other dogs, so we let her run around the bigger area and she has absolutely no problems.


First roadtrip to Missouri

It has taken her a long time to warm up to J, I have a feeling it has to do with her past upbringing. For a long time, it was really hard on him because she would get scared when he walked in a room and he loves her so much. She used to run away from him if he started getting close to her, that broke his heart and mine. For awhile, every time J would go to take her out she would have an accident in the house. Now, she is his and he is hers. It is very clear that she loves him, it just took her a little longer to warm up.


At the dog park

We have her on a better schedule with eating and going outside, we try to keep everything as consistent as possible. We no longer leave the food bowl down at all times and she is getting better about eating on her own. At first, she wouldn’t eat unless you were sitting right next to her. Now, I show her her food, put it down and go to the living room. You cannot go too far, because she will follow you. She likes to stay close.  She tells me she’s done by jumping up on the couch and I put the bowl up. She started to play games and would jump on the couch even if she hadn’t finished, but she quickly learned if she comes to the couch, the bowl is going up.


Hiding under the bed

She is getting more comfortable in different surroundings. She doesn’t get as scared in larger groups of people, as long as they leave her alone while she gets used to everyone. She likes to sit back and watch everyone. If you are sitting on her couch, she will snuggle right up next to you. She gets held a lot, especially by my dad. He cannot get enough of her. She is much better at listening to commands (sit, stay, come). She LOVES to lick, and will lick you dry if she could (if you say “enough” she will freeze and just stare at you. it’s really cute). These days, we take the leash off of her when we get close to our building and let her run to the door. If she starts to run off, you call her and she comes right back. She takes off like a rocket and sits at the door with a huge smile on her face.


Rolling around in the leaves

One of my most favorite moments is the day she started recognizing her name. Again, she always surprises you when she picks things up. It is not gradual, it is one day she won’t the next day she will. We were sitting on the couch and I was talking to her and said her name and she looked right at me. It was a very proud parent moment. J and I kept saying her name over and over again to make sure it wasn’t a fluke. It was a sweet moment. We like to play “Where’s Riley” when she is hiding. We call out “Riley, where are you?” and she comes running out from under the bed or the closet or her corner and gets right in your face like “I’m here! I’m here!”


Hiding from the camera

This pup has no boundaries, she will be under your feet, in your lap, on your head… She just loves to be near you. We cuddle a lot on the couch in the evenings. At night, she sleeps right in between me and J. She is my little shadow though, wherever I go she goes. Even when we go to other people’s houses. This works in our favor because it keeps her from hiding, but I cannot go anywhere without this little one following. It is comforting for those middle of the night bathroom runs though. When I make dinner, she sits right outside the kitchen and watches me, like she is protecting me. She has become more vocal over the recent months. She growls when she hears something in the hallway and barks when someone is at the door. She is  in a whining phase, which I hope passes soon. Honestly, we love hearing her growl or bark. She was so silent for so long, it’s nice to hear her voice sometimes. And it is great that she is more comfortable with using it.


Tuckered out

She loves bones and anything she can chew on – dried tendons, rawhides, etc. We get her big ones so they last her a long time. The one thing she still hasn’t gotten the swing of is toys. We try to play with them with her and she wants nothing to do with it. She will sniff it and walk away. We have tried rubbing her treats on it, and nothing. We used to hide treats under all her toys before we went to work. We would come home and the treats would be gone but the toys were still in the same place. I have caught her once playing with a toy. I walked into the bedroom and she had her monkey toy’s head in her mouth, but as soon as I saw her she dropped it and ran away. I tried to get her to play with it again but she wouldn’t do it. She probably plays with it when no one is watching, that’s usually when she gets into her shenanigans. She tends to be a lot more active when she is by herself or she thinks you aren’t paying attention to her. She loves paper and will chew anything resembling paper. I once had a wooden ornament in a bag on the floor by the bed. One night, she got into the bag and chewed the ornament to bits. She is very curious and will get into anything and everything when she is alone. We can’t leave anything on the side tables in our living room because she will get on the arm of the couch and get whatever is on the table.


Daddy’s cowgirl

She recently found a puppy friend. He is a yorkshire that lives in our building. She cannot get enough of him, they both smell each other, run away and then do it all over again. It is the first time she has shown real interest in a dog friend. She plays with our friend’s labs, but they are usually more interested in her. It is so cute how excited she gets when she sees him. Sadly, they just bought a condo and will be leaving soon, but maybe a new puppy friend will move in.


Not ready to get up

We have definitely learned a lot with Riley. She is a very different dog than both of us are used to having. She isn’t in your face like other dogs, maybe one day but not yet. She is very sweet and loving and it is really hard to get mad at those eyes. She is not aggressive or mean, but when she is at her limit you will know it. When we first got her, we think we overwhelmed her with too much too quickly and when my dad went to pick her up, she tried to bite at him. It was just a nip, but she was definitely reprimanded. It  happened one other time with a friend of ours and it was the same situation. That was very early on, and it has never happened again. She will let anyone pet her, but you will most likely have to come to her. She’s a very stubborn dog. She knows exactly what you want, but will stand there and stare at you. She much prefers it when you get on her level, it makes her feel more comfortable. She’s weird – she will come running if you call her and she is out of sight, but if you are right in front of her and tell her to come, she gets scared and won’t do it. I will usually have to move a little bit closer and lie on the ground. She doesn’t like when it is unknown and a huge distance, she will start coming and then get scared and turn back. Or, since she is long, she will stretch as far as she can without actually moving from her spot.


Chilling on the couch

We never crated her, we were hesitant since she was a puppy mill dog. When we first got her, we would keep her in the kitchen with a baby gate while we were at work and at night. Once she was trained, we would let her stay in the living room when we were gone and she slept in the bed at night. When we moved apartments, we made the mistake of not gradually getting her acclimated to the space and gave her free reign. She had some accidents in the house for a little bit. In hindsight, we should have done the same thing we did in the old apartment and gated off an area for her until she was used to the new apartment. These days, she has the living room and dining room to run around while we are gone – the kitchen is always off limits so she doesn’t get caught in our feet while we are cooking or whatever.


New hiding spot

Riley is a completely different dog than she was a year ago. We joke and say she is doing more “normal” dog stuff. She has tested our patience and we have come to wits end a few times, but she has proven time and time again that she will come around at her own pace. She will sometimes take treats from other people, which she never would before. She doesn’t hide like she used to and will come out when you call her. She gets so excited when you come home that she starts running all over the apartment. She does not shake profusely when in new environments or in public. Her personality has really come out in the past few months and she has become more curious about her surroundings. She has stolen our hearts and we cannot imagine our lives without her.

Since we do not know her real birthday, we are claiming her adoption day as her birthday. It was the start of a whole new life for our family of 3.

Happy 2nd Birthday, Riley!


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