Adopting a dog with a troubled past is not easy, especially if it’s a big dog. Few people have gumption for it and Suman Bolar is one such person. She recently lost her dog Domino, which was survived by a lovely black labrador named Carbon. I was a bit nervous that he would slip into depression. So I took my sprightly dog, Tigger, to remind him of younger happier days and put him in a good mood. One such play date, Suman cancelled on me. She mentioned that she had adopted another dog, a rottweiler called Bozo, and she wanted to give Carbon and Bozo time to bond. That was a fair ask. But having some insights into Bozo’s history, I wanted to know more. Suman’s wisdom and magnanimity struck me.
As I spoke to her, she was laser-focused on how she could meet Bozo’s needs and not on what she expected of him. For Suman, Bozo’s needs came first. I asked her why she decided to adopt a dog. “While we badly wanted our Domino back, we discovered that there were many people who had dogs they didn’t want. The irony was unbearable,” she said.
People are often averse to adopting a rottweiler. Suman says: “We don’t believe in ‘selecting’ a dog the same way you would choose a pair of shoes. A pet is more a matter of commitment than of instant connection — like the difference between the reality of a long-term relationship and the idea of love at first sight. Bozo had been abandoned more than once. He needed stability in the form of a family that was reasonably settled, with a low probability of major life changes in the near future. Our children are 15 and 19 years old; we both work from home and we have a large garden space. So we fit the bill on all counts.”As a behaviourist I knew that a dog like Bozo would require constant supervision around small children. So I could see that she really had considered all factors before adopting Bozo.
She seemed very well informed. But once, a long time ago, she too was a first-time pet parent. Did she have her oops-moments? Was there anything she was not prepared for the first time around? “Looking back at our experience with Carbon and Domino, though not clueless, I don’t think we expected it to be a 24×7 job. Dogs can be messy, naughty, moody, tiresome, fussy, stubborn, boisterous and demanding. They can get into fights, fall ill, injure themselves, and damage or destroy things. They need attention, entertainment, exercise, vaccines, medicines, even surgery sometimes. Before we got the dogs, we only saw the fun, happy side of owning a pet.”
She had some sensible advice for first-time pet parents. “Be honest with yourself about your own traits, habits, and lifestyle. Are you lazy? Self-absorbed? Have an unpredictable schedule? Frequent visitors? Travel often? Hate waking up early? Think about the next five years: Do you see yourself getting married? Having a baby? Moving abroad? Taking on a more demanding job? Speak to dog owners, consult a canine behaviourist and a vet. Once you have taken the plunge, be patient — with your pet and with yourself — as you get accustomed to one another. Developing a relationship, based on friendship and trust, takes time and patience.”Adopting a dog with a troubled past is not an impossible task. However, it does take a lot of hard work and patience. I wish Bozo and his new family the very best.