When Tigress became Tiggy

Publication: Bangalore Mirror;Date: May 13, 2014;Section: City;Page: 6

This is a story of a little scared dog called Tigger and how she made it to our family. We already had one furry member — Nishi, a three-year-old boxer then. Adding a second dog to a family is not always a smooth ride. 

By the time we got Tigger we had been highly sensitised to the state of shelters teeming with lovely dogs, eager to have a family to love and call their own. So there was no doubt in our minds that we were going to adopt an Indy (Indian dog), knowing the merits of this local breed. But which one? When? And how would we get Nishi to accept this? 

Nothing matters more to a dog than its family. So adding a new member to the family can be quite unnerving for the dog. They can get confused and insecure. The dog needs to be old enough — at least 2.5 years old — to be able to cope with such changes. That’s when a dog’s brain is fully developed and is mature enough to cope. A dog with a traumatic past might need a year or two more. 

The new entrant ideally should not be older than the existing canine family member. Bringing in an older dog leads to a lot of friction. It is like adding a bossy new member to a team; no one likes a brand new team member to tell people how to do what they have been doing for ages. Same holds true for the canines too. It’s best if new members are young, impressionable and willing to accept the mentorship of the older dog at home who will show the ropes. 

We had our eyes on a beautiful girl called Foxy — a rare Indian brindle dog. But we had to move homes. Nishi would have to get used to a new home and a new dog. We could not let that happen. So we waited till we all settled down in our new home. But, Foxy passed away during that time. I was heartbroken and wrought with guilt. I was then informed that Foxy had been survived by a sister —Tigress, a misnomer actually. She was a meek, quiet, unassuming underdog, literally. I had seen her in the past but hadn’t ‘noticed’ her. No one who had Tigress remembered her. But there she was — the little fighter; she fought off the disease that defeated her sister. 

A shelter called Precious Paws Foundation rescued Tigress and nursed her back to health. When we were ready we took Nishi to meet her. It is critical for the old and the new dog to meet on neutral ground. It was also critical for Nishi to get along with Tigress. So we watched them interact. They barely did. That was good enough for me. They did not fight. So we picked up Tigress, renamed her Tigger and brought the girls home. It is important that they enter home together. They need to understand that the home is now for both of them to share. 

It took Nishi a good month to get Tigger to forget her past trauma and accept the new home. She did all the work. That’s the advantage of having an older dog at home. They also assume a parental role and will guide the youngling. Tigger, slowly and surely, improved in health and came out of her shell. She is today a naughty little imp we fondly call Tiggy. 

Usually, getting dogs of opposite genders works best. But in our case, the girls turned out fine. Tiggy and Nishi are the best of friends. We enjoy watching them play together and care for each other. 
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