Finding the perfect dog


Today’s prompt: Watch the video “Every Move you Make” and then write about someone in your life who watches over you and how they help you live with Headaches and / or Migraines. 

otto_faceEvery year there is a prompt about caregivers.  In the past, I have written about family members who support me. This year, I have a different take. I’d like to share the story of how we found the perfect dog.

In 2010 my family and I started thinking about adopting a dog. We wanted a new family member and thought carefully about the qualities that would make a good fit.  We discovered an adorable Border Collie mix named Henry on the local shelter’s website and decided to pay him a visit. Henry was a sweet dog with a great temperament.

However, ouotto_jennr daughter wasn’t impressed. She kept looking over at this large black dog. When we asked about the other dog, the attendant assured us that we did not want him because he was a biter.  My protective instincts took over and I refused to consider him. We stepped inside and started the application process to adopt Henry.  My husband and kids wandered around, looking at all the dogs and cats while I filled out the paperwork.  Before I was done, my husband quietly asked me to take a look at that big black dog.  A different attendant had convinced him the dog was not a biter and was actually very gentle. I relented and back outside we went to meet this big dog who had a bad reputation.

Otto in the snow 2The attendant demonstrated the dog’s “biting” behavior.  Whenever someone ran next to him or tried to leave him alone in his kennel, he would reach up and gently take hold of the person’s hand in his mouth. He was trying to “hold hands”. He seemed sweet enough, so I took a look at his temperament testing results. The only caution was that he liked to pull at the leash — a habit easy enough to correct.  The trainer who had conducted his temperament test was available so we visited with her while the kids tossed balls for him to chase.

OttoThen it happened.  We fell in love with this overgrown, misunderstood dog.  As we checked into his history, we discovered that he had originally been placed in another shelter for several months and then transferred to our local shelter. We couldn’t understand how such a sweet dog had been stuck in a shelter for so long.

We otto_faceintroduced Otto to his new home on my 41st birthday. One quick run in the yard eliminated that so-called “biting” with a single, firm “no”. The leash pulling was stopped with a few weeks in a training collar and some consistent limits. He discovered that he was safe in his “forever home” – a valued member of the family. We had a perfect canine companion in no time.

It wasn’t nanalong before we realized that the shelter staff was wrong. He was not a German Shepherd mix. He was part Australian Shepherd and part Bernese Mountain Dog. He had a strong herding instinct and an uncanny ability to nurture his human family members.  We started joking that he was a lot more like “Nana”, the Newfoundland nanny from Peter Pan.

He can tIMAG0505ell when I am about to get a migraine and never leaves my side. If I get up for any reason, he follows me and will not rest until I am seated or back in bed again. He lays at my feet, “on watch” until I am recovered.  At night he sleeps outside our bedroom door, guarding us from potential threats and then joins me in bed in the morning after my husband leaves for work.

20140313_080559I wish I had the time and strength to train him to retrieve ice packs from the freezer. I know he is smart and motivated enough to accomplish the training. His warm presence is so comforting. I couldn’t ask for a better nurse. He is happiest when he is doing his job — taking care of Mommy.


The 2014 Migraine and Headache Awareness Month, is dedicated to Dreaming of a World without Migraine and Headache Disorders. The 2014 Migraine and Headache Awareness Month Blog Challenge is a project of American Headache & Migraine Association.

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