The thing with introducing a new dog to the pack is, you just don’t know what you’re going to get.
When the dog being introduced is a little black fur ball of uncertain origins and the anxiously awaiting family members are big Rhodesian Ridgebacks, one of whom has had his eyes surgically removed, you really don’t know what you’ll get.
Rhea trembled but remained otherwise very still on the passenger seat of my pickup as I drive her the five miles from the Lucky Dog Retreat to her new home and family. With my free hand, I cradled and scratched her little head as we took extra care around corners and over potholes. Life for little Rhea had been crazy enough without any quick-stop mishaps stirred into the pot.
Rosie and Poor Blind Sammy liked their little sister from the start. When I say ‘liked’, I mean they found her intensely interesting and eminently worthy of inspection. Little Rhea went rigid as they sniffed her, poked at her, and … well … gently tipped her over onto the surface of the backyard deck where most of our summer living goes on.
The oldsters were gently but firmly satisfying their curiosity while also establishing the new and improved pack order: First, big, intelligent Rosie, our Alpha Female … then, the Samsters, blind as the night is dark but bouncy and irrepressible in his own impaired way … and then this little blob of frightened black dogness that had unexpectedly had the good sense to appear among them.
When aggression is off the table, the reconfiguration of a pack can be a hilarious thing to observe.
After an hour or so of being groomed, Rhea began to show a sense of playfulness that I
would not have suspected was in the little girl. Now a poke from big ‘ol Samsters was no longer an intrusion, but an invitation to dance around him and have him catch the dancing puppy with his big, long, punchy arms.
Soon, Rhea was learning the ropes. Which section of the backyard makes for the best romping, where we find sticks to chew on, where the early afternoon’s sun best warms dog coats, whether Rosie’s wheaten or Sammy’s red or Rhea’s black fur.
For a puppy who had known a frightening world, her odd welcome into our pack must have seemed an unexpected gift.