We’d had dogs for as long as we could remember. And when Hammer, our pit-mastiff mix, died of a splenic tumor after ten years with our family, we were devastated. Our daughter was a toddler and understood very little about death; but she knew one thing—she wanted another dog.
Generally, we acquired pets through my job as a veterinary technician. It offered many opportunities to foster and adopt animals—though most had been cats. Dogs seemed to find us in other own ways. For example, I found Hammer while on my way to work. Following his loss, it seemed that another dog in need would soon enter our lives. So we waited.
A few months passed, and with no dog arriving at our doorstep, we decided to take a proactive approach. We went to the local SPCA and picked out a dog. He was an enthusiastic, but oddly constructed mutt, with a long muscular body perched atop four tiny legs—like a cross between a dog and a coffee table. Unfortunately, we learned the hard way that not every dog is right for every family. Tank, as we came to call him, was aggressive with both my husband and our daughter. We made the decision to rehome him—and after working with the shelter, we found him a new home without children, where he could be the center of attention.
Since we were left dog-less once again, our daughter was pressing for a new dog with Christmas approaching. That was when fortune intervened: We learned about an adoption event being hosted at a local pet retailer, so we piled in the car and headed over. One of the dogs present that day was a young, red-nosed female Pit Bull mix with pointy ears that stood straight up whenever she was happy or excited. She came right over to our daughter and gave her a kiss. For our daughter—then age three—it was love at first sight.
We learned that the dog—named Cannon—had been seized by authorities during a drug raid. She had not been a fighting dog but instead had been a breeder, birthing a litter before arriving at the shelter. She was currently being fostered by a family with other pets and children and displayed a good temperament.
The next week we brought Cannon home and began the process of integrating her into the family. She turned out to be great with our cats—at the time we had five—even bonding with the youngest, a rescued tabby named Annie. However, there was one problem: The name Cannon didn’t seem to fit our sweet girl. So, we decided to consider names more attuned to her personality. Our daughter suggested we name her after a Disney princess, but my husband wasn’t too excited about a dog named Cinderella. Eventually, we decided to call her Belle.
When giving a dog a new name, especially one so phonetically different from its old one, it’s best at first to call the dog by both names. The dog will associate the new unfamiliar name with its older familiar one, then gradually phase out the old name altogether. For us, the strategy worked partially—calling her Canny-Belle—and that hybrid name stuck.
We’ve had Canny-Belle for 8 years now, and she’s given us nothing but love. She’s absolutely devoted to our daughter, who’s now 11 years old; and she‘s bonded with our three cats. (Especially the female, a tuxedo cat named Leela.) Canny-Belle loves being outdoors and has accompanied us hiking, camping, and canoeing. She’s a true joy.
I can’t emphasize enough how many dogs are languishing in America’s shelters, waiting to be rescued. If you’re considering a new pet, we hope you’ll consider opening your home, as we have, to one of these amazing and loving shelter animals.
Cecily Kellogg is a pet lover who definitely has crazy cat lady leanings. Her pets are all shelter rescues, including the dog, who is scared of the cats. She spent eight years working as a Veterinary Technician before becoming a writer. Today she writes all over the web, including here at Figo.