The day Augie decided to pass the torch of the responsibilities of Petey’s emotional well-being, was the day he discovered his super power. I’d taken the wire-haired mutt to the shelter with me on assessment day because Petey had become too old to be much fun for the younger dog. Augie had learned how to play with the ninety-pound, severely-abused, emotionally-detached Petey out of necessity in our house, as there were no other dogs around. And for two years both dogs were content with their pack positions, Petey being the fatherly alpha, and Augie the adoring son.
Sheba, a skittish German shepherd, was on the shelter lawn and Augie struck a bow in hopes of enticing her to play. Instead, she leaped back in fear. I actually saw the moment that my little dog’s tender years of innocence came to an abrupt end. He leaped again — and again, remarkably, the much larger Sheba bolted. From that day forward, my little terrier became the household alpha, and no amount of scolding him for being rude to Petey was going to change it. In short, he became his full terrier self.
We adopted Liebchen in April 2016 to be Augie’s playmate, and the two got along famously because she bought the story of Augie’s self-proclaimed superiority immediately. Never mind that she is forty some pounds heavier and could squish him like a scruffy bug. What we did not know was that Liebchen would snuggle with the damaged Petey through the night, warding off his nightmares that had become less frequent under Augie’s former care, but none the less terrifying when they occurred. In the mornings, she kisses Petey on the nose, and is sure to give him affectionate pecks throughout the day. Liebchen is the household diplomat. Both dogs adore her for her sweetness, and when we added a fourth several months ago (a champagne cork of a coonhound saved from the auctioning block) her warmth immediately extended to Petunia as well. When we adopted Liebchen, one of the volunteers who was handling her at the adoption event remarked that she would be a great therapy dog. Who knew she’d end up being exactly that to two dogs who badly needed it. And who knew she’d live up to her German name “little sweetheart” so perfectly.
For those pondering the question of “Should I adopt a dog for my dog,” the answer for us was yes. I would encourage anyone who is seriously considering this to say yes if your dog gets along with other dogs, if you can afford another, and especially if you happen to have a traumatized dog at home who could use a little encouragement coming out of his or her shell. We see it at our shelter time and time again. When dogs do not trust people, they will often trust other dogs. Sometimes we have even used well-adjusted dogs to encourage fearful ones to come out of their kennels. Like people, dogs are social a