I wrote this in May 2007. Jada passed peacefully on February 20, 2022. We had 15 beautiful years with her.
We call her The Hobo. Our new pet, who we brought home April 1, is our first experience with adopting a dog pound dog. In my childhood, we had purebred Shelties. My husband’s family had a little poodle. After we got married, we shelled out a ridiculous amount of money for a Labrador retriever who was far too well bred for what we planned to do with him: hike, swim, nap and eat.
This dog is a mutt. An abandoned mutt, no less. The call came in to the Stonington animal control in late January that a little brown dog was wandering around the very busy intersection of routes 2 and 49. She was so terrified of humans that it took five days to capture her; finally, she was so hungry that she went after the bowl of food they had put inside the dog cage.
I first saw her on Petfinder.com, the week after they brought her in. In the photo, she pressed her body against the pound’s concrete wall. Her ears were flat back on her head. Even in the blurry picture, she looked so afraid.
I met her shortly after, as I was visiting local dog pounds while researching a series of stories we were working on here about the plight of municipal pounds. The dog officers in Stonington, Mary Shulda and Rae Jean Davis, called her Jada. She will growl at you, they warned me, but she won’t bite. She’s just afraid.
She did growl. She simultaneously cowered, as if she were absolutely certain that the hand slowly held out to her was going to strike. But she was lovely. Small, maybe 40 pounds. A deep chocolate brown with a layer of golden on top. Little white socks on her back paws. White on her chest. Hazel eyes.
In the course of my reporting, I visited a half dozen dog pounds in the area. I met probably 40 dogs. Each had a story, many of them sad. But for some reason, the little brown scaredy dog in Stonington stayed with me.
I kept checking Petfinder. She was gone from the site, then she was back. I invented an excuse to go back to the pound. An adoption had failed. The woman who took her decided Jada was too skittish to keep, in light of how she reacted to the energetic grandchildren who regularly stormed the house. Jada did not bite them, but she just about suffered heart failure.
I broached the subject of a second dog with my husband. Our beloved Lab is approaching 12, and he is creaky on his good days and badly arthritic on his bad days. My husband said no. I took this as an encouraging starting point for future discussions.
I called our dog trainer from long ago when we had an uncontrollable puppy. He was the man who taught us how to handle that dog. He offered to go check her out.
I kept logging onto Petfinder, and again, she disappeared. Then she was back. Another failed adoption.
The trainer reported back with confidence that with time, Jada would be a “great” dog. He estimated her to be about 10 months old. Obviously, he said, she had been abused. I took this information to my husband and convinced him to come visit her. While we were there, the dog officer mentioned someone else was interested, so we needed to make a decision.
That night, I asked him one last time. He said yes. I cried. I brought the kids to meet her the next day.
We had some extenuating circumstances that precluded us from taking her right away, but we signed all the papers and we visited her several times a week. By the time we brought her home, she knew us. Her fear was already subsiding.
In the eight weeks since we’ve had her, there have been accidents on the rug, a chewed soccer cleat, 2-mile morning walks to try and work off some of that energy, and so much joy. My 6-year-old son, who has always treated the Lab as if he were a piece of furniture, adores this dog. He waits, every morning, for her to fly up the stairs after her breakfast and launch herself, rocket-like, onto the bed, where she wiggles and squirms her buoyant “good morning” while he shrieks with delight. He calls it “The attack of the Jada.”
The other night, he was lying on the bed watching his “Power Rangers” and she was lying next to him, her head on his leg. He was stroking her head absentmindedly with one hand. She was sound asleep.
Clearly, The Hobo was home.