I’ve never been good with baby steps

By Mir
August 7, 2009

Otto and I decided that it would be certain catastrophe to take the kids to one of those “adoption day” events to look at dogs. Surely one of them would fall in love with the first dog they laid eyes on, and tragedy would ensue when we were unwilling to embrace that pup on the spot.

One of the dogs I’ve had my eye on on Petfinder was listed as being at a local rescue, and we figured we’d go check him out today BEFORE potentially dealing with a child enamored of him, etc.

So we got the kids off to school and headed over, and the woman there asked which dog we were interested in and we told her, and she disappeared inside and came back out DRAGGING the most frightened dog I’ve ever seen in my life. He was shaking. He wouldn’t make eye contact. His tail was down.

Everything I’ve read says that’s a dog with serious problems, and probably a history of abuse. A tough case. A lot of work. Naturally I fell in love with him immediately.

Go ahead. You look at that face and tell me you could’ve left him there.

His name is Super, and he’s about three years old, and he’s a labradoodle. Probably.

By the time we got home, he was unwilling to let me out of his sight. He’s still very submissive and worried, but we’ll see what the weekend brings.

Officially we have agreed to foster him for two weeks. Depending on his progress, we may not end up keeping him. I of course am certain there’s a wonderful, fun, happy dog in there. But if there isn’t—or if he’s truly too far gone for it to come back out—we won’t be able to adopt him. And explaining that part to the kids is going to be hard, but unfortunately with a dog like this there’s just no way to know until we work with him for a while whether or not this can be a success in the long term.

Yes, we’re taking him to the vet. And consulting a trainer. And maybe giving him lots of belly rubs. And hopefully… Super will live up to his name.

Joshilyn has already suggested we rename him. To SuperGreat. If he stays, I totally will.


  1. sassymonkey


    Baby steps. Pish. Who takes baby steps?

  2. Burgh Baby

    Awwwwww, I lurve him! I hope it all works out so we can see lots of photos of SuperGreat.

  3. Janet

    Super-Great, Super-Cute, Super-You-are-so-hooked. :) Congrats!

  4. Leandra

    Well, THAT dog right there in that picture looks like a totally normal dog, so maybe that normal, non-scared dog IS inside just waiting to be coaxed out.

    If the name SuperGreat doesnt’ work out, you could always call him SuperCute!

  5. Patricia

    He’s ALL tongue. What’s not to love?

  6. Kelly

    He’s precious.

  7. dad

    Where is his face? All I can see is 2 eyes and a very long tongue (the better to lick you with), and a load of hair. Yep! That’s my kind of dog.

    I’ll start a college account for him today.

  8. Chuck

    Awwww, what a cutie. I hope it works out and he gets his new name.

  9. Amelia

    growing up, i had a friend who had a formerly abused dog…they picked him up off the side of the road. he was by far the sweetest dog i’ve ever met. here’s hoping you have similar luck with SG! :)

  10. Chris

    Speaking as someone who has had 3 rescue dogs of varying backgrounds, GOOD ON YOU! With stability, training, and love almost all of these dogs can rehabilitated and become wonderful, loyal pets. Any good rescue group will also help with tips and peer support.
    Good luck- he does look like a Super dog:)

  11. Ariel

    My sister adopted a 10 year old boxer who was blind in one eye and on death’s door(or so she thought. She just didn’t want him to die alone, at the humane society because he HAD been horribly abused). That dog lived for 4 more years, and was the best dog any of us have ever had the pleasure of knowing. And he LOVED my sister more than anything.
    We still miss him. He wasn’t the perfect dog overnight, but he was so worth it :)
    I’m so happy for you!

  12. paige

    Sounds like you’re going about it in a responsible way. Congratulations and I REALLY hope it works out. He looks like a real sweetie.

  13. Ani

    The logistics of creating a “labradoodle” just kind of boggle the mind. :-)

    congrats, hope he works out, he looks adorable.

  14. RuthWells

    Aw, what a sweetie! Good luck with him.

  15. Cheryl

    2nd) He’s a Pup? He’s BIG! and he very closely resembles a non-cropped Bouvier DesFlandres (sp) I had several years back…does he have a pointy knot on the top of his head? I swear I think he’s part that….Makes me want another..

    last not least, ENJOY !!!!

  16. Mary

    How precious!

    Years ago, we had an older cat at home and had always said we wouldn’t get another as long as we had her because we didn’t want to put her through that. Until my husband found an abandoned kitten and we agreed to bring him home to “see if things would work out”. Hahahaha! My guess is you are going to be SO hooked that SuperGreat won’t be going anywhere.

    When the older cat did pass, we decided to get another to keep the second one (confused yet???) company. We took a kitten from our then-neighbor. This poor little guy hid inside a recliner for days. I tell myself that he wasn’t actually abused, only neglected (and I DO believe that!) To this day, if there is the slightest inkling that anyone is in the house but hubby and I, he runs and hides in the closet. He can still be skittish with us, too, but he also loves to lay in bed with us and LOVES belly rubs – it just has to be on his terms!

    Good luck with it all, though! And YAY for you for going through a shelter!

  17. Nicki

    Yup. Another patron saint of lost souls. We love our rescused pals whether they walk on four feet or two. There’s some special satisfaction derived from bettering someone’s life because they better ours, too.

    Well, because love really can conquer all, SuperGreat is bound to flourish.

    Can’t wait to read more SuperGreat tales. (Think he might spawn a series of children’s books…?)

  18. Asianmommy

    Oh–he’s so cute! Who can resist?

  19. susie

    Awwwww, I like to think of him as Charlie Brown did about that Christmas tree – as in, “He just needs a little love.” And that, your family has plenty of to give.

  20. Peggy

    I think you will be Just Fine. He looks ok in the picture and those EARS!!! Made for snuggling!

  21. Crista

    Congrats! He’s a cutie! Add my vote also for SuperGreat!

  22. Kai

    I got a rescue with a history of former abuse and she turned out to be the best dog. EVER. I was very lucky, I had no behavior problems with her at all, it just took only a LOT of love to get her to realize her new environment was safe. Hopefully Super realizes he hit the dog lottery with you guys!

  23. Megan

    He’s gorgeous! I’m still two years away (maybe one… hopefully) from being able to have another dog and oh, do I miss one!

  24. Katie in MA

    The kids are going to FLIP!! Can’t wait to hear more from The Tales of SuperGreat!

  25. tuney

    A month ago I found 4 babies at the dumpsters, one of which was so scared that even his hunger almost wouldn’t let him take the risk of getting caught. When I got him home, he ripped my hand apart, to the point of puncturing one of my fingernails. (I named him Boggart. Heh.)He would cringe in the corner of the crate when I fed him. It took him just 4 days to decide he was safe and loved, and now he’s the biggest cuddlebunny of the bunch.

    Love will win the day, and if there’s any family on earth that can help that dog feel loved, it’s yours. SuperGreat indeed.

  26. Nina

    he is precious! And I’m sure with a lot of love, he will be awesome

  27. Karishma

    our dog was like that too. before we could get him into the car, he ran underneath it and cried and cried. it took forever to actually pull him out and get him in the car. i have never seen an animal more terrified, to the extent that for the first weekend, he literally had to be carried in our arms in and out of the house for bathroom breaks. he would not move, would not eat, would not make a single sound, but would gladly hide. then suddenly, three days later, it was like a switch flipped. at 5am, he barked and barked and barked until we came down, and then did this little routine we have yet to understand where he essentially bowed in submission, or something of the sort. and then he turned into the greatest dog ever, all love and roses thereafter.

  28. Aly

    We have a labradoodle too. I hope you can make it work. Your new friend there was probably given up by someone who just couldn’t deal with him anymore. I have never had a dog that is so smart and frustrating and psychotic and yet sweet and lovable all in one. Ours is only a year old, and the trainer at puppy school said she would be a “puppy” for about 4 years. I hope Super realizes he’s got it good with this new chance and makes it work with you guys.

  29. Stacia

    He’s so cute! I just want to pet and rub his belly. Hope everything works out and you get to keep him.

  30. Karishma

    oh yeah, and we’re pretty sure that our little guy had been abused too. he was most terrified of my father and generally has issues with tall men. i still can’t figure out how anyone could abuse such an adorable dog, though. hopefully, Super understands the concept of play. ours has no idea what fetch is, or a squeaky toy, or anything, and it’s too late to teach it. sigh. he likes to steal socks for entertainment. and is incredibly affectionate, probably to make up for the past, which is so beyond adorable.

  31. Shalet

    I find once they come home they usually stay (I’m a vet and get conned into bringing them home more than I ought). He doesn’t look fearful of the camera which is good. I bet he’ll make a great pet!

  32. Pepper

    He is adorable! All the dogs I have ever adopted from rescue have been through some horrible thing that leaves them scared and not sure of anyone but with a little work and a lot of love they come around.
    My step-dad adopted a puppy 4 or 5 years ago who had its muzzle tied with butcher twine and dragged down the street when she was a puppy. To meet her you would never know that she went through hell in the beginning, she is the sweetest most caring dog that you could want. I hope this works out for you guys!

  33. Grace

    I’m so happy for you!

    It sounds like you are going about things just the right way, as far as only making a commitment to foster to start out. But nothing you’ve said so far makes me think he’s necessarily been abused–it could be that he’s just been in a shelter. Makes sense that he’d be scared and submissive and shy. My Leo was like that for weeks after we got him, and he’s turned out to be my singular favorite creature on the planet.

    Anyway, I am going to be reading with a ton of interest to see how things go, and I do have quite a lot of experience with rescue dogs and rescue dogs with prior issues, so please let me know if I can help in any way.

  34. The Other Leanne

    That is One Fine Dog, and I’m sure that your children are going to love his demons away. And bonus–dog in the swimming pool! Because labs pinkpuffyheart water. Yayyy!

  35. TC

    Adorable. Good luck with him. (I was about to type, “and be sure to let us know how it’s working out,” but then I realized, this is YOU, and of COURSE you’ll let us know…it’s what you DO!)

    I actually think you were very smart to a) go for an in-home foster rather than a straight-out adopt, b) get on the stick right away with a trainer/vet, and most especially c) get an adult dog. Those are the ones who need us most.

  36. Jenn C.

    That can also be a sign of a dog complete freaked out by being in the shelter, and he’s going to blossom in a safe and loving environment.

    I hope he works out, he’s adorable.

  37. Rebecca

    He’s adorable! I hope it works out perfectly!

  38. Michele Bardsley

    That is a beautiful dog. It’s awesome thing to open your heart and home to SuperGreat. And, you know, he’s probably gonna need a friend. C’mon! Pets are like potato chips. One is never enough.

  39. JennyM

    Congrats to you and SuperG! We’re firm believers in rescue adoptions — both of our dogs have heartbreaking backgrounds, but they are the sweetest, snuggliest and, these days, most confident pups ever.

  40. Tiffany

    awww.he is very cute!!!! My parents adopted a rescue that was told to them he was a *pushy* dog and that he didnt like men at all with a history of possible abuse…Scooter loves my father more than the world(totally his dog) is great with the kids and is quite the watch dog. He is in fact a wonderful rescue who just has to be reminded he is not boss every so often.
    I hope super works out for you :)

  41. Lauren

    What a face! Hopefully he was just freaked out by the shelter experience, and once he’s in a nice stable home environment (with lots of belly rubs) he’ll settle right in. My in-laws have had several rescue dogs, several with some pretty horrific histories, and they have blossomed into awesome companions.

  42. jen

    We got an abused dog from the SPCA and it took quite a bit longer than 2 weeks. She actually came around quickly with me, but is still fearful of men. It took alot of work to get her to a neutral status with my husband. Every time he changed clothes or wore a hat, she would lose her mind. The best thing we did was enroll her in obedience classes and made my husband her handler. It helped her understand expectations and that he could be an Alpha without being abusive. The point is, don’t expect the dog to forget its past in two weeks. As long as the fear isn’t agressive fear and it seems to be responding in some positive ways, give it a chance.

  43. Kristie

    Yay! Congrats to you guys! Once he gets over his initial nervousness he will be fine and he will love you more than any living being can love anything else. They know when they’re saved. They’re almost always grateful. I’ve had my rescues for four years and they’re still velcro dogs. I wouldn’t have it any other way.

  44. Nelson's Mama

    I LOVE him!!

    Please, please, please tune in to The Dog Whisperer on National Geographic channel. He offers such great advice on rescuing super dogs like Super.

  45. Jamie

    Cute, cute! We’re looking to adopt a dog these days, too. Can’t wait to hear how SuperGreat does.

  46. Javamom

    We adopted a dog who had no “official” issues and developed them after the two week honeymoon. We kept Rusty for 10 years at which point he developed a rapid, disgusting, painful tumour and was put down. This happened a couple of months ago. Despite all his issues he became our family pet and we loved him with all his limitations and problems.

    Good luck and I’m Sooooo Happy to hear that you went to a shelter to get a dog!

  47. Beth R

    I hope for everyone’s allergies that he IS a labradoodle – that would be perfect. And he’s adorable. Good luck with the fostering :)

  48. pam

    With a name like Super how could he not be Super? And my suggestion: train train train

  49. Half Assed Kitchen

    Aww, I couldn’t have left him there either.

  50. kakaty

    Awww – he reminds me of our fuzzy black dog when we got him (he was about 3). He was terrified and submissive and timid and after about 2 days he was totally at ease (but we can’t kennel him – brings back too many bad memories I guess – he freaks out). He came to us as “slick” but we renamed him to Mac without any issues. Good luck!

  51. Lindy


    Sounds a lot like Rosie when we first got her. She wouldn’t let me out of her sight, wanted nothing more than to lay in my lap on the couch (even though she was half as big as I was). It took us about a week to her tail wagging, and about a month to totally get her out of her shell, though occasionally she gets scared for no apparent reason. We’ve had Rosie about three months now, and if we didn’t tell someone about her past, nobody would ever guess. You just have to be patient and affectionate, and if he’s afraid of people, just take him out in very controlled, semi-public areas now and then ( I took Rosie to the newsroom after hours, to a friends house, to the park in the morning, etc). If you have any questions or problems, coming from a similar situation, I’ll be glad to help if I can. We got a lot of tips from a friend of mine who trains police dogs.

    You know, growing up almost all our dogs were rescues from bad situations, and I dunno. They were always the best, most loyal dogs. I think they know how lucky they are, and they’re thankful for it.

  52. Laura

    We had a stray show up at our house three weeks ago. We ‘believe’ she is a greyhound/coonhound mix. Although she was a total mess upon arrival, now she is a sweet good-natured dog. She has been christened with the name Shug (as in sugar). I hope Super is the dog for your family.

  53. Tracy

    Oh, Mir…what a great looking dog. I’m positive with all of ya’ll love and attention, he snap out of it. Just be patient with him and you’ll see..he’ll be SUPER!

  54. Susan

    We once adopted a dog from a shelter who had clearly been abused. She cowered at the back of the cage and was shaking when we tried to pet her. She wasn’t housebroken, which was difficult because if you even pointed your finger at her or raised your voice she just folded. But, eventually she came around. It took about six months for the full transformation, but she turned into the happiest, most confident, sweetest dog.

    He looks just adorable — be patient with him and I’m sure he’ll come around. Good luck!

  55. Cathy

    We found a dog roaming around after Hurricane Andrew that had clearly been abused — he was covered in cigarette burns, had a clearly homemade tattoo on his stomach (not for identification purposes), was skittish, and trembled nonstop. It took some time, but he turned into the most affectionate, lovable dog you’d ever meet. He was a pleasure to have for the next 12 years.

    I wish your Super dog the same success story. I’m sure it is possible!

  56. Debbi

    Adorable!! And you guys have tons of love to share, your new potential-member of your family is very lucky!! Hope it works out for everyone! Best of luck.

  57. Brooke

    Beautiful “puppy”! Easy to see why you fell in love at first sight!

    A word of experience…..beware of black dogs in the dark. They are easily stepped on. Go on, ask me how I know! :)

  58. Lisa

    When we first moved to Virginia 3 years ago – we went to our local shelter and looked around. So many dogs bouncing up and down, barking, trying to climb over their cage doors. We took a few out for walks, but didn’t feel they were right for us. Almost at the very end of the row of cages we found Belle, a one year old Heeler mix that just sat in the corner. She didn’t move, didn’t make a sound…just sat there looking at you with soulful eyes. We took her for a walk around the building – and had to carry her 3/4 of the way. We decided then and there that she was the one for us. She would curl into a ball whenever my husband came in the room, visibly shaking.

    A week after we got her, she sat next to me and “talked” for an hour straight. I imagine she was telling me her life story, about how she was abused by some mean man, how she was found wandering the road and brought to the shelter.

    It took her a few months to really like my husband – and now she willingly lays all over him. Still a little wary of new males – but has been, hands down, the best decision we have made.

    Good luck to you guys – I’m betting he will be an amazing addition to the family!

  59. StephLove

    Good luck! I hope it works out for everyone’s sake.

  60. Paula

    He is a doll baby! I hope you have a long and happy life with SuperGreat! We rescued our labradoodle in April and he is the best. He could not possibly e ANY sweeter. His previous owners used a shock collar on him to “train” him and so he barked without any sound when we got him. Sad, but totally hilarious. It took him a whopping 36 hours to “find” his voice. Sometimes he still does the silent bark but not often. our family has had several rescues over the years and they always seem to end up being the. best. dog. ever. It’s almost like they KNOW you saved them. Best of luck with SG! Can’t wait to hear how the kids react…

  61. pharmgirl

    Bless his doggy heart!

    Purely layman observation: Dogs reflect back the love in their surroundings. This is one lucky pup.

  62. radioactivetori

    What a cutie pie! Our puppy was pretty timid at first too, but after a few weeks (months?) I was positive she was the right choice for us. It was like she was sent here just for me with how awesome she has been snuggling me while I recover. Good luck! I hope it works out well!

  63. Maria

    And this is the post that makes me un-lurk! Super looks like a labradoodle (but the coat looks like it lacks the usual curl) or Portugese Water Dog, maybe Bouvier des FLanders but if the ears arent pointy and long haired then probably not. Webbed toes means he is made for the swimming. YAY for rescues, both our girls are rescues, my fiancee and I met ( we are getting married next week) at the dog park and we thank them all the time for it.

  64. Lady of Perpetual Chaos

    I can’t go to animal shelters either. Last time, when we adopted Dexter, I left crying because we couldn’t take them all home. Dexter was a puppy and an excitement pee-er, but we’ve had him for over 6 years now. Mostly because he doesn’t pee everywhere. Thank goodness for hardwood floors. Good luck with your Super! He’s adorable and cuteness makes up for neurosis, right?!

  65. ChristieNY

    He’s absolutely beautiful! We have a 1 year old Goldendoodle (you’re right, Super totally looks like a labradoodle ;)) and I must say that clicker training is a wonderful, gentle way to help train him. These doodles love to please, and giving a command and rewarding it with a click of the clicker and a treat (we use plain cheerios, per our vet, our “Scout” loves them), letting him succeed over and over, tons of praise and lots of attention and love and I’m sure he’ll come out of his shell. Poor baby being so frightened! I’m so glad that you and Super have found one another! :)

  66. aly

    delurking to welcome super!!!!!!! i think he’s GORGEOUS and you will find that happy dog in there. the belly rubs are a great start! congrats and give him ear skritches for me! :)

  67. NJula

    Our dog was a shelter dog who had definitely been neglected and or abused for the first several months of his life. Best. Dog. Ever. Wishing you all the luck in the world with SG – hope that the little glimpses of his potential are bright enough to make him worth keeping.

  68. Priscilla

    he looks just like my labradoodle “Shaggy” who was a rescue as a puppy. He is the best and smartest dog I have ever had! Shags wants to be with me all the time, even follows me to the potty! I hope it works out for you all

  69. Priscilla

    Oh, I forgot to say Shags is 7 1/2 now, and less high energy! He is also a great watch dog and very protective of me, which is great because I live alone in an urban area. He is a built in alarm clock that wakes me up every am to get up and feed him, much easier to wake up to his paw or a lick than the jangling old alarm.

  70. mama speak

    You know, he might not be abused, he might just not do confined loud spaces well. I mean really who does? I know we had a dog who had similar issues at the pound, but (with a lot of work) was an entirely different dog in a home environment. Best advice I can give you is to exercise him consistently and the majority of your problems will take care of themselves.

    Much luck to you all, I think you’ve already had quite a bit in finding each other. (If SuperGreat doesn’t work out, how about Fred? He looks like a Fred to me. ;) )

  71. Flea

    We adopted three year old dogs a while back. They didn’t even bark the first three weeks. It took nearly a month for them to realize they were ours and we were theirs, that they could protect our home. It may take a little time, but your Super is absolutely GORGEOUS. I’m green. :)

  72. Dawn

    Carmi was in a daze when we “rescued” her. Couldn’t really focus on us until we left the shelter with her, and then she wanted to live in the car because she probably figured we couldn’t escape from her that way. It took her about a week to wake up and become the beautiful, neurotic pooch she is. We LOVE her. And I think she would gladly die for any one of us, unless she was sleeping on one of her people’s beds, and couldn’t be bothered.

    What a beautiful dog you have! I love those Labradoodles. Hope it goes well for you all.

  73. joaaanna

    Ok – I love Super. I feel it, just feel it in my bones, Super is yours. And BTW – not sure you should be worried about the kids… just your readers who have fallen in love with him at first sight!

  74. Audrey at Barking Mad!

    Awwww bless your heart!

    We’re about to do this with a Newfie. Fingers crossed.

    BTW as a former ‘Doodle owner, they are amazing dogs and I really hope this guy “comes around” for you because seriously, the love, affection and loyalty from a Doodle is a wonderful thing!

  75. Sarah

    I love him. I hope it works out. I want photos and funny stories.

  76. Aimee

    Awww. I love Super! He’s beautiful. I so hope it all works out so that we can see lots of super Super pictures.

  77. Randi

    Awww, he’s adorable!!

  78. jen

    so cute. has the eyes of my childhood dog. brought back lots of memories. hope he brings you lots of joy and lots of laughs!

  79. jen

    ps- from the jen above- i’ll do just about anything for my pets… i brought my black lab and my cat with me to live in china- my husband works here as an airline pilot.

  80. Reagan

    Fostering rocks! Good for you guys!!! What a lucky pup!!

  81. Amy

    He is gorgeous! I hope he is able to overcome his fears and you get a new member of the family.

  82. vanessa

    Congrats! and please, right away, read The Power of Positive Dog Training by Pat Miller.

  83. Kris

    All my dogs have been previously abused dogs. Each one quirky in its own way. But really, they do take a lot more work, and it’s TOTALLY reasonable to expect some “growing pains” and a large learning curve. I’m not sure two weeks would be enough for this dog, if it were seriously abused, but at least you’re giving him a shot.

    But he looks like a real snuggler, when you get down to it. Just wanting of your love and approval. Look at that face! (You may find yourself giving him more than two weeks, after all…which would be lovely.)

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