My sweet ray of sunshine, Miss Panda Bear, turns 7 today. Well, as a rescue, we aren't entirely sure of her exact birthday, but it appears that this is the likely day.
Our family had a dog when I was very young, but, in reality, Panda is my first. I would have sworn, up and down, that I did not have it in me to be a dog person, before I met her. I thought of dogs as being drooly, stinky, needy and loud.
When Leo and Panda met for the first time.
Perhaps I was tainted by my experience with dogs in my neighborhood. Most were allowed to roam freely about our cul-de-sac, and were often poorly mannered and pushy. Others were tied up outside, year round, and spent their days barking and lunging at passersby.
Panda's first few weeks at home. She could be very silly.
In my teens, some of my closest friends had dogs, but almost never the sort with which the family felt inclined to spend long hours. These dogs were appreciated, well cared for and content dogs, but they weren't ever taken on hikes, or, for that matter, even long walks. They didn't sit with their people and get pet while everyone watched TV, they tended to just be high energy distractions. There were exceptions, but they were rare.
Panda's first trip to the beach.
So when Leo and I moved in together and he said that his first goal would be to find a place that allowed pets and get a dog, I felt a certain trepidation.
With those sweet eyes, she could have gotten away with being much more poorly behaved.
I don't think we had lived in LA for more than a few days before my best friend and animal trainer extraordinaire, was telling us about a sweet 9 month old Border Collie mix who needed a home. She was one of an accidental litter of puppies born in December, who had been used in a commercial. The owner decided he didn't want them back so the training company agreed to place them. The entire littler, who looked mostly like cattle dogs, were quickly adopted out. The lone straggler was a timid, and gentle girl named Houston, who looked far more Border Collie like than her siblings.
Panda loves to be picked up and held like this.
Leo and I met Houston and she clung to Leo immediately, which was incredibly out of character for her. We paid the dollar adoption fee, and brought her home that night.
She didn't pee for almost a day. I woke up every couple hours, that night, to give her another shot at it, to no avail.
I wasn't sure what we had gotten ourselves into.
Houston, now Panda, had just been spayed a week before and could lie on her back for hours getting belly rubs, to dull the itch of her hair growing back, but as soon as we stopped, she'd duck under the coffee table or bed and hide from the sounds of kids playing outside.
Panda's always been a fast learner.
Soon, she started to open up at home, becoming a snuggly, loving and affectionate girl, as well as a keen learner and surprisingly well behaved addition to the household. Still, leaving the house was an exercise in frustration. Panda would attempt to drag us, bodily, back home, while we would endeavor to find positive experiences for her to help her overcome her fears. We could ask her to sit, and she would, but her whole body would quake with fear and she'd drool incessantly until we would bring her home. There wasn't a treat in the world that made the experience fun for her.
You can't keep this girl out of the water
It wasn't until we brought her to the ocean, that we saw her full potential. At home, the distant hum of airplanes in the sky, would send Panda into a drooling, quivering trance, but at the beach the roar of waves crashing upon the shore, was a symphony for her. She was in her element. We began to make beach trips a regular event for her and the result was a happier dog at home.
At seven, Panda seems more content and happy than she ever was as a younger pup. Even though her black spots are becoming speckled with white hairs and her coat has grown less silky and more fluffy, I still see that thoughtful gleam in her eyes and thirst for adventure.
Seven? She doesn't look a day over three.
Each year with Panda, continues to be a gift. Here's hoping we have many many more ahead.
Happy birthday, little girl.