He was about 10 months old at the time and had definitely had a rough start to his life. He had a history of neglect and hunger, had ended up with Hamilton Animal services, had been pulled out of the pound by MHS, and ended up in their foster program. He was at least ten pounds underweight when MHS took him in. He has scars in one of his ears from something that happened before I met him. And he had a great deal of anxiety. When I brought him home, he would panic when I left the house, when I got home, when he had to go in the car, when he was tethered anywhere to anything, and when he saw certain types of strangers. I used to have to distract him with food and slip out the side door when I left. In the car, he would drool excessively and get sick to his stomach. A friend of mine once brought a towel to throw over her shoulder when she was in the car with us – it was that extreme. Sam has come so far since then. When I leave in the morning, he runs to his bed (it used to be mine, but now it’s pretty much his and he lets me share it with him) – at home at least, he trusts that I’m always going to come back for him. He has become a happy car passenger. And he’s so, so smart. He’s still a hyper-aware dog. He notices absolutely everything. I think it has to do with spending a lot of his young life on edge or worried about his own well-being.
When I adopted Sam, I had very recently started new treatment for my long-standing anxiety and depression. Sam changed my whole outlook, my routines, my whole life. He was the best treatment I could have ever asked for, and I had no idea it was going to be that way. He was this lens I had never had before. I needed him as much as he needed me. We bonded strongly and quickly and as much as he learned to trust me, I was learning to trust myself too. I have a really hard time putting into words how he teaches me to see myself and the world differently than I ever have. He’s my constant companion – my trail running buddy, my cuddle monster, my ridiculous goofball, my peanut butter fiend. He’s my heart.
Over the holidays, MHS was looking for an urgent foster home for a dog. They had posted her story a number of times, and so one day, I offered to take her in. She needed a home with no other dogs, though, and Sam is a whole lot of dog! Another foster parent was thankfully found. I was instead asked to take in an 18-month-old, 30lb flat-coated retriever mix. I agreed, and suddenly Leonard was a part of my life. He had come from a high-kill rural pound in North Carolina, where he was scheduled to be euthanized. MHS pulled out a number of puppies and two dogs, and Leonard spent some time with the coordinator of dog adoptions for MHS before being neutered. He was then placed in a foster home who decided after he had been there for about a week that they didn’t want to foster him any longer. Sue from MHS offered a whole lot of support when introducing Leonard and Sam. At first, Sam wasn’t sure of Leonard in his space. They were fine outside, and on trail runs Sam would lead and Leonard would happily follow along. Since I was off work for the holidays, I got to spend a lot of time doing fun things with them, and they settled in together quite well. It wasn’t long at all before I emailed MHS to profess my love for Leonard. Failing at fostering is maybe the best failing I’ve ever done.
Leonard is the kind of dog who attracts a lot of attention when we’re on walks and in the dog park. He has this kind, happy, soft face and he’s incredibly friendly and trusting. I’m not sure how he ended up in a pound – he’s a really lovely dog and shows none of the anxieties Sam had despite being moved around a lot in the last little while. He fits right into the routines here, and he’s been so good for Sam, too. On my first day back to work after the holidays, I expected to come home to the garbage broken into, the firewood strewn around – perhaps the entire house having fallen down – Sam’s not so good with Mondays in general, but especially after I’ve been off work for a while. Instead, not a thing was out of place, or torn, or open when it should have been closed – so I think it’s safe to say that I’m not the only one little Leonard has won over.” Check out Mississauga Humane Society