Saturday, October 1, 2011

Maisie's Adoption Story

Pet's name: Maisie
Adopted by: Francie
From: New Leash on Life Chicago

Maisie's adoption story originally appeared on Francie's blog, Maisie and Me, where you can read about their adventures together.

Nobody's Perfect

Although I obviously adore Maisie, I feel I should also try to make an effort to paint a realistic portrait of what living with her is like. She is a dog with issues ... although she's great off-leash at daycare and the dog park, she is leash-aggressive and sometimes man-aggressive, and I have more than once referred to her as "my cross to bear." 

It may help you to understand Maisie a bit better if I share some of her history. In the fall of '08, when she was probably not yet a year old, she and another dog were found at an abandoned house near the United Center. Here is a picture of where they were discovered by a lovely and dedicated woman named Sue (who also started the Trio Animal Foundation). They were near the open space at the bottom:

Maisie was found here with another dog.

This is what skinny little Maisie looked like then:

Maisie when she was found

After Maisie spent some time at Animal Care and Control, Sue managed to find a family to adopt her. They named her Harley. The husband wanted a dog to be a running partner, but something Maisie experienced in that first "lost" year of her life made her fearful of strange men. She would not run with him, and the two just did not bond. So the family relinquished her to Playful Pets, a daycare facility that sometimes housed dogs without foster homes for a rescue called New Leash on Life Chicago. (Full disclosure—I was a founder of that organization and still serving on the board of directors at that time.)

In January of 2009, I had to put down my dog Kaya after over 16 years together. It was a very painful time, and after less than two weeks I could no longer stand the silence and stillness of my empty apartment. So I decided to foster, and then to foster "Harley." She'd been living at the daycare for a month at that point, with no applications to foster or adopt her. Although (as you all know) she is very very cute and also quite smart, she is a) black and b) a pit mix, both of which greatly reduced her adoption potential. Black dogs tend to be overlooked in favor of lighter-colored dogs, and pit bulls (and pit mixes) are obviously not the easiest dogs to place. So Maisie came home with me, and with the exception of walks and eating, basically slept for two days straight. These are two of the first pics I ever took of her:

After a month or so, I had fallen in love with her (and she with me). I was determined to make her feel safe at last. A month later, she was mine. And she was Maisie. 

In addition to the aforementioned fear-related aggression problems, Maisie also has horrendous separation anxiety (she's been on anti-anxiety meds for well over a year but still freaks out when left alone) and a loud, frequent bark which actually once made me lose my apartment! We've done quite a bit of training together, and while there have been significant behavior improvements, she is and perhaps always will be a work in progress. I hate to think of what Maisie's early life must have been like to make her so scared and jittery so often. People have asked me why I went through with the adoption after knowing her issues ... but we ALL have issues, myself included. If I can't love a damaged little soul like her, why should I be deserving of love?

If you adopted a pet from a shelter or rescue group and you'd like to share his or her story, please email me. I'd love to hear from you! (And by the way, From Alone to Home is now on Twitter and Facebook!)


  1. Great story! We adopted our dog Izzy without knowing her issues. They surfaced pretty early on, but so glad we got her because we are willing to do whatever it takes for our pup! I'm sure there are many families who don't feel the same and it's always great when the right dog finds the right family.

  2. You always make me cry Francie. I can never look at the photo of that house she was found in.


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