Wagging Tails Wednesday: Alexandra Rethore

Alexandra, a hard working professional who often traveled for work, needed a break from her busy lifestyle. Little did she know the love would find in her foster (failure) Brecken! Alexandra took on the role as a first time dog mom like a champ and never gave up on Brecken who came with some behavioral challenges. She did not give up on this adorable pup and both their hard work and trust in each other has paid off. Read on to learn all about their success story.

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Tell us a little bit about yourself and your dog (when did you adopt him/her, is this your first dog, etc.).

I am a new dog mom. I used to travel constantly for work, living this hectic life, and recently took a sabbatical for a few months to reset. During that time, I decided to spend some time looking after dogs to figure out if I could have one of my own. I signed up as a W&W foster parent and quickly became a “foster failure.”

Brecken is a sensitive soul – kind of an old man in a little pup’s body. He’s about 18 months old now and we have been together 7 months. We thought he was a maltese/terrier mix, but he’s actually a miniature poodle/chihuhua/bichon mix (thanks, Wisdom Panel!). He was a stray before we found each other. He is a little introvert, whip smart, up for any adventure, fit, and kind. He has become so much more playful and engaged in the world, which has made me so proud. We recently completed intermediate training at K9s Only, which has been an awesome way to bond and develop a way to communicate with each other. Nothing makes him happier than a good belly rub, tug-of-war, or jumping 5 feet off the ground, up a tree after an elusive squirrel.

How did you find out about Wags & Walks?

I did some homework online to figure out where I could foster and W&W popped up as a great option. We did a few calls to chat through expectations of foster parents and I decided to take the plunge.

How did you know your dog was “the one”?

I fell pretty hard and fast for my foster pup, Brecken. I went to the center and, while the team pulled supplies for me, I looked in all the crates at the newest arrivals. Brecken was scrawny, scraggily, and downtrodden when we met him. He was hiding in his crate with a huge cone on after a vet visit, staring warily at me. He peed on everything when I took him out, marking his spots, including my curtains the first few minutes he was in my house. To be honest, I had no idea what I was getting myself into, but Brecken was so patient with me (as I “You-tubed” how to put on his harness and cone!) and appreciative and hungry for any kindness. With the help of the foster network, and a lot of Google searches to explain things I was noticing, we just started to work together to figure it out and learn more about each other. After 3 weeks, the W&W team called to ask me to bring Brecken to the next adoption event and I panicked. It was over – I could not bear the thought of letting this sensitive soul go to another family.

Have there been any challenges or setbacks you’ve had to overcome? What was your biggest surprise?

A few – the most important of which was that we can figure anything out that we put our minds to! I want Brecken to be able to go anywhere with me and be a good neighbor in our apartment building. And, in getting there, you never quite know what a rescue has been through.

We have definitely had some behavioral challenges, mostly because I don’t know that anyone really set the expectations for him and helped him get there. Investing in real obedience training has been a life-changer for us – to develop structure, to model good behavior, to help him gain his confidence, to challenge him. I am amazed at how sharp he is and how much he has thrived with some consistent training – it’s helped him come out of his shell and helped his mom feel much more in control and supportive.

The scariest situation we had actually happened while I was away - he bit a child that he knew and liked, quite unexpectedly, which upset everyone so much. But, he knew right away he was wrong and felt terrible – trying to make amends. Since then, we have been working through this quite carefully with professional training and structured exposure to help him be the best dog he can be.

I have also been surprised that he does well at some doggie daycares and not at others – e.g. cage free, outdoor ones stress him out more than the indoor ones where he can hide out – which I would not have expected. While he still struggles with dogs in his personal space, he gets more comfortable and confident every day and I know we will conquer a lot of these challenges and try to ensure we put him in situations where he will be successful and safe.

What is your favorite thing about your dog? Does he/she have any funny quirks?

I love that he gets better each time he tries something new. – He will often go from shaking and hiding and head down when he’s nervous or confident and positive when he figures it out and/or realizes he’s safe and we’ve got him when faced with a new experience.

I also love that he licks my sister’s face when she comes over and immediately lifts a leg for rubs. I love that he sticks his little chin on pillows, piles of blankets, or any chair arm to peer over at me. I love when he puts himself to bed in his crate. I love when he full-body wags when I come home. I love when he chases his toys around the house and sighs contentedly at the end of a full day. I love when he closes his eyes and looks up into the wind when he is settled in the back of my convertible. I love that he doesn’t like getting his photo taken (like his mom!)

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What is your favorite thing about being a doggy parent?

Having a little guy to plan around and care for. He is the best company.

How has your dog changed you?

For me, it has been a transformational time with Brecken. He has taught me so much about patience and being present. He is unconditional love and I can't imagine my life without him.

Through patience, hard work, training, and a TON of unconditional love, Alexandra has helped Brecken come out of his shell and be a more confident and secure dog! The two are lucky to have each other!

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Team Wags