The idea of a new puppy came up shortly before last Christmas. My son felt ready to take on the responsibility, and the dog we already had could desperately use a playmate. So the decision was made, and off to the shelters, we went. We found six-month-old Tigger at Brother Wolf Animal Rescue in Asheville, NC, and knew instantly that he was the one. Though he was a bit skittish, we could see the energy level was high and knew he would be able to keep up with a seven-year-old boy. He was also free with kisses, so we guessed that as he got older he would calm some and settle into slower moments as well. Tigger, it turned out, was aptly named. While we were filling out the paperwork for his adoption, he bounced from the floor onto the four-and-a-half-foot-high counter like it was a single step.
It didn’t take long to realize the puppy we found was just as quirky as the rest of the family. Seemingly afraid of his own shadow, the skittish guy was always jumping away from something. The first big obstacle we encountered was his fear of the dark. This became apparent on his first bedtime walk. We put his harness on him, and out the door, we went. He huddled close to me the entire walk, jumping every time the wind rustled a leaf.
Another large obstacle we’re still working on is his separation anxiety. Though we call Tigger my son’s dog, I am Tigger’s person. When I leave, he’s seriously upset. We’ve had to replace a lot of chewed-up belongings. Some of Tigger’s things were among these items, such as his bed and bowl. But a lot of them were mine, such as a purse, a beanie, and a hairbrush – all of which ended up in the crate from more than three feet away. He’s still not overly fond of the crate, but he’s at least stopped howling the entire time we’re gone.
Hiking is a large part of our family’s life. This is the activity that brought us all together and we try to go at least three times a month, at the very least. Our older dog is a hiking and camping pro. She spent her first year of life living in a tent in Colorado with my boyfriend. The woods are her favorite place to be. We try to only hike in places we can let them off the leash so that they can explore and have a good time doing things wild dogs get to do. So, naturally, this was the first kind of hiking we wanted to take Tigger on. We took along some training treats to encourage regular check-ins, let the dogs loose, and started on our hike. He did amazing. He would come back and check in every five to ten minutes and hardly ever left our sight. His sister taught him to drink out of the flowing streams to stay hydrated, as well as to keep an eye on their people because when their people stop walking, things like beef jerky get shared among them. We were so excited that we had found another hiking dog.
Tigger’s first camping trip was a three-night stay in the Pisgah National Forest somewhere near Brevard, North Carolina. We found a great site, away from most traffic as the road we were off was still closed at one end from the winter months. We took his lead with us but hoped to not really need it since he did really well off-leash on hiking trips and we had his sister along for additional guidance.
We only had one unfortunate occurrence with him that weekend. Firewood is, of course, a large part of the camping experience. While the guys were gathering larger limbs, the two dogs picked up a game of chase. Just as a limb was falling to the ground, the dogs’ game took them underneath and the edge caught Tigger’s inner thigh. I heard him yelp a bit and it was only seconds later that he was beside me, trying to tell me what happened. Now that he’s all healed and has had many an apology treat, we joke that his first instinct was to run and tattle to mommy.
When the weekend was over and it was time to pack up and load the car, Tigger had no intentions of being left behind in the woods. He perched in one car or the other for the entire loading process. As we filled whatever place he was sitting in he would climb to a new spot or on top of the coolers and blankets.
Our most recent camping trip lured Tigger a lot further out of his shell. This trip was four days out in the Cherokee National Forest somewhere near Greenville, Tennessee. As soon as we arrived he shot out into the woods with his sister and they played for hours, neither one of them wandering out of sight for more than a moment or two. He cozied up closer to the fire to stay warm. Since our camp neighbors loaned us their chainsaw, the process of gathering firewood was a bit different this time and Tigger had to be attached to his lead instead of roaming free for that time. Next trip we’ll see if we can’t get him over the fear of falling branches.
Deciding it was time Tigger got more acquainted with water, we came up with a plan. We would lure him out into the water on the promise of training treats. We were lined up, five wide across the river in our fold-up chairs, each of us with a few treats in hand. Being as Tigger has claimed me as his person, I sat toward the end of the line in hopes that my calling him from so far away would entice him further out into the water. This worked, but not in the way we had hoped. Instead of going through the water to each person, he hopped from one chair to the next stealing the treats from the hands of the shocked occupants.
Tigger is a phenomenal addition to our family. And while we have a long way to go with the water idea, it won’t take much longer before he’s as accustomed to the outdoors as he is to the comfy bed he sleeps on every night. After only five months with our family, he has adjusted well to our lifestyle and fully understands that he and his sister go wherever their people go. I can’t wait to see all of the adventures this little guy goes on.