I first met Sahara at Hermosa vet clinic on a warm March day. She had kennel cough and had to be kept separate from the other dogs during the walking group that meets every Sunday morning. My husband and I had just said goodbye to our first foster (who had been adopted), and were ready to take another sweet little boxer soul into our home that we shared with our bomb-proof angel Ho-Bo alum Linus.
“I really want you to meet Sahara,” said one of the volunteers, “she has a sweet soul and just needs someone to give her a chance.” Ok, I thought-- let’s give it a shot. When I walked into the vet room where Sahara was, I could immediately sense her distrust of strangers. Fortunately, I had come equipped with a bag of treats and she was very interested in that! Treat after treat, her body language started to relax. The poor girl had the markings of a puppy mill mama. Enlarged swollen teats, barrel chest and suspicious eyes. What have you been through little one?
Sahara came home with us a few days later. After a shaky intro with our dog Linus, the two new roommates seemed to settle into an understanding that Sahara was his new boss, and that was just how things were going to be from now on. Gotta love calm boxer males! Seeing Sahara relax on a dog bed for the first time in our house melted my heart. She had been at the kennel for so many months with the loud chaos of dogs barking and people moving in and out. The quiet peacefulness of our house was already starting to relax the look in her eyes.
Our first walk with Sahara was a very interesting experience. Every person, dog, squirrel, and suspicious inanimate object was a fright for her. She barked and lunged at everything so defensively and clearly so scared. Working through this was a long process that taught me so much about myself, and about dog behavior. Sahara taught me the importance of calm and patience, and also that positive reinforcement is the ONLY answer for dog training. We worked with a trainer (through Noble Beast dog training-- highly recommend), and also eventually got her on Prozac to help her calm down enough to listen to the training. Her transformation was truly miraculous. Hot dog treats and a marker word were our new best friend with Sahara. She wanted to please so badly, and I was so proud of her with each day that she learned something new, or passed a dog or person without reacting. Sahara went on to go camping with us and even hike a 14er. We could not be prouder foster parents. However, Saraha was not at her final home.
Sometime in the fall about 6-7 months after we had welcomed Sahara into our lives, we received an adoption application for her in a home that sounded absolutely perfect. The application came from two brothers who had a big house and nice sized yard, as well as a calm male boxer dog who they were looking to find a playmate for.
“This application sounds perfect!” I told my husband.
“ Let’s just meet them first before we get too excited,” he said… always the realist.
A Ho-Bo Care volunteer and I went to meet Adam and his brother a few days later to do a home check as is Ho-Bo Care’s policy. Immediately I sensed Adam’s calm and accepting energy. He had fallen in love with Sahara when he saw a video of her on the Ho-Bo website doing tricks I that had taught her. I told him a bit about Sahara, what we knew of her past, and the quirks that she had that would need continuous patience and understanding. I was very clear about what this sweet girl would need, and he was very clear that he was willing to provide it for her. He couldn’t wait to meet her.
The day of the introduction finally came, and I was nauseous with anxiety. We had had this dog for 8 months, and I cared for her so deeply. I wanted her to find the perfect home. And I wanted there to not be a fight between her and Adam’s boxer, Opie. We arrived, and let Adam meet Sahara first. She trotted around him and his yard like she had been doing it her whole life… there was an immediate connection. She was at ease right away and I started to get a good feeling. When we let Opie out, they did the typical sniffing of each other’s butts and playful bowing. Finally they started to chase each other around the yard. I let out a huge sigh of relief and saw a big smile on Adam’s face.
“I think we’re going to be just fine.” He said.
I cried tears of joy when I left Adam’s house that night after we finalized the adoption. Sahara had finally found her soulmate and she was finally home.