I want to start by saying, rescuing animals is a great way to expand your furry family. A rescue animal can bring love, joy, fun and laughter to your home and I highly encourage anyone and everyone looking to adopt or “purchase” a pet to consider rescue adoption as an option. I will also say – do your research about the breed, make sure you understand their history and where they are coming from, and most of all, be prepared for potential baggage. Covering all of these bases allows you to go into any adoption situation with an open mind/heart.
Now, onto Pepper Potts…
Pepper came to us from the Nova Scotia SPCA – my husband and I foster cats for them and trust their ability to rehabilitate and rehome animals. We had recently lost our Pomeranian mix that I had owned for 17 years, and we were struggling to feel normal without the presence of a pup in the house. We knew we didn’t want a puppy; they don’t fit our busier/working lifestyle. We also knew we didn’t want a very high energy breed. We had gone to multiple rescues to see what was coming in, but nothing had peeked our interest. One day on a whim, we decided to stop into the SPCA to see who they may have, and we saw a picture of a chow mix named “Pepsi,” and she seemed like she may fit our lifestyle. We asked to meet her and fell in love instantly, placing an application right away and going to visit her multiple times throughout the week (bragging about her to my coworkers more than I’m sure they wanted to hear, worse than a parent with pictures of their kids). We brought her home a few days later.
We knew she was coming with some baggage – she had been abandoned to the SPCA by her first family, adopted by a second person, and re-abandoned again to the SPCA within the month. We assumed there would be some trust issues, possibly separation anxiety; she’s a chow mix so always the possibility of some aggression (fear-based or otherwise). We knew we had to take things slow in general. When we got her home, she attached to me right away and my husband within a couple of days. She LOVED LOVED LOVED our two cats! She wanted to be best friends right away, so she started throwing their cat toys at them to get them going. We loved her right away, no matter how anxious she appeared. But, we did notice right away that there were a number of concerns. She couldn’t go down the stairs, refused to go on her own and wouldn’t let my husband pick her up, only me. She appears to be agoraphobic, won’t leave the front door of the house, is terrified of new people in her home and is very reactive to these people, men especially. She’s afraid of many weird inanimate objects and will run when anything foreign to her comes out.
My husband and I knew that it wasn’t fair for her to live in fear and decided we were willing to do what needed to be done. We weren’t going to abandon her again, as this is not going to fix anything (if anything it would make it worse in her situation). So that meant, a dog trainer, anti-anxiety medications and supplements, many hours of training and desensitizing her. We sought help from all areas possible: alternative medicine, general medicine, multiple dog trainers, the dreaded internet etc. It’s taken a lot of patience, and she’s still not 100% where we would like her to be, but it’s been a learning experience, and she is better for it. We struggle still with some of the issues, but the struggle becomes less and less with time.
This is not a cautionary tale, just a reminder that pets can come with all sorts of baggage: anxiety, fear, depression, aggression etc. and you never truly know what you are getting until you get them home into a comfortable environment. Be prepared to spend lots of time, money and patience to get them to where you know they are happiest. But it’s 100% worth it in the end, and we couldn’t imagine life without Miss Pepper Potts!
Written by Blair Lutes-Comeau, Site Coordinator