By Sonjie Johnson
“I Don’t Want a Dog!”
That’s what the Halker’s daughter (then 6) said when the family went to Second Chance Animal Rescue to adopt a puppy for their son. All that changed when the foster mom put Duchess, a golden ball of fur, in their daughter’s lap. The Halkers went home with two dogs – Duchess and Shiloh.
The 10-year-old siblings are “Shepuskies,” an Aussie Shepherd/Huskie mix, their mother a stray from South Dakota. Niles says that mom was the sweetest dog, carefully dividing treats among her puppies before taking one herself. Shiloh and Duchess share that disposition and are very mellow, people-oriented dogs, who are great with kids and strangers alike.
They can be unpredictable around other dogs, however, and need a firm hand and a good leash when taking their daily walk around Como Lake. The Husky in them makes them extremely strong and determined. Niles wears a leash around his waist, backup for those days when the dogs scent a rabbit nearby.
When younger, the pair easily jumped a four-foot fence. One evening, their doorbell rang. On the doorstep was a very unhappy man whose wife was walking their dog when one of the dogs jumped the fence. The next day, Niles added a two-foot extension.
Duchess and Shiloh have free range in the house. Sometimes they sleep with the kids; sometimes with Niles and Heather, and sometimes by themselves.
When asked if he had advice for potential adopters, Niles echoed what other families have said. Whether puppies or not, dogs require a lot of time and effort. Basic training is essential, as is socialization to other people and dogs. Daily exercise makes a huge difference in behavior. A tired dog is a good dog.
A personal story from the writer. In an HR “bonding” group many years ago, the leader asked this question. “If you could spend an hour with anyone who has passed, who would it be?” One man raised his hand. “My dog,” he said. I was dumfounded. His dog? Then I got a dog.
The author, Sonjie Johnson, was a volunteer with Midwest Pug Rescue, MN Division for 10 years. She fostered many rescue pugs, from families, mills, and auctions, and adopted three of them.
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