What were your first impressions of your dog?

Do you remember what your first thought was when you first saw your dog? Was he a puppy, squirming around with his littermates? A pair of soulful eyes behind the door of a shelter kennel? A boisterous, unkempt animal in need of some love?

First impressions of Pyrrha

The first photo I took of Pyrrha.
The first photo I took of Pyrrha. May 2012.

We first met Pyrrha in the parking lot of a PetCo, where her foster mom, Cassie, had brought her to meet us. My first thought was, She’s so pretty!

And then my second thought was: Oh, wow, she’s really scared.

Somehow the first thought drowned out the second thought. Isn’t that how it sometimes goes?

We sat down in the grass with her, and Pyrrha walked up to Guion and then sat on his feet. We took this as a small sign of affection. (And interesting, in retrospect, that it was Guion she did this to, seeing as she’s still only now learning how to trust him.)

I was so dog-crazy at this point that I had already made up my mind that we were going to adopt her โ€” even though if I had listened to my rational mind, I maybe would have backed up and said, “Wait, you probably shouldn’t choose, as your first dog, the dog with serious fear issues.”

But that’s not what I did, and I don’t regret it, even though life with Pyrrha hasn’t always been the easiest. Cassie let us take Pyrrha on a little trip to Lowe’s that evening, and I was just enamored with her. Here I was, walking around with this dog who was going to join our life! I couldn’t believe it. She quietly got in the backseat of our car and was panting, panting, panting, eyes wide โ€” clearly scared, but so gentle and compliant. I wanted to name her Inez. Guion brought up Thekla and Pyrrha as possibilities. “Pyrrha” had such a soft, pretty sound, unlike the other names, and we realized, looking at this sweet, shy, beautiful girl in the backseat, that we had a name for her.

First impressions of Eden

First photo I took of Eden. December 2013.

I also met Eden at the same PetCo, with the same foster mom who had taken care of Pyrrha! (Cassie is our fairy dog-mother, I guess; always bringing our dogs into our lives.)

It was a cold, rainy December afternoon, and Eden (then called Eva) came bounding in the doors, dragging Cassie after her. Edie slipped all over the linoleum floors with a big grin on her face. My first thought was, Her hocks look so much more exaggerated than Pyrrha’s. And, surprise, surprise, my second thought was, She is skinny!

Eden and I had to wait for about half an hour together inside the PetCo, and she was just delighted to be there, to see all of these people and dogs and children! I was pleased with how outgoing she was, how seemingly unafraid of anything. She stole a toy off a low shelf, which Cassie bought for her. She cried pitifully when Cassie left her with me, which made me sad, but she perked up in a bit, distracted by her new toy. We talked for a long time with a PetCo employee, who said that Eden restored her faith in German shepherds; she’d been attacked by two shepherds when she was young, and seeing such a happy, friendly shepherd was heartwarming to her.

Eden nimbly hopped in the backseat of our car when Guion came to get us, and we took her home to meet her new big sister. We were technically calling her a “foster” for two weeks, but our minds were made up pretty quickly that she was going to stay.

What were your first impressions of your dog(s)? Are they still accurate as to how you think of your dog today?


15 thoughts on “What were your first impressions of your dog?

  1. Funny story about Jeni – we went to pick her up at a farm in Indiana which was one of the transport mid way points for her and her litter (adult dogs) who had been rescued. It was a five hour drive, it was raining, we drove off the road at one point and we were already kind of stressed out. We pulled up to the farm and got out of the car and one of the Icies was outside on a tie out just barking like crazy at us. Chris goes “I hope that’s not our dog.” And guess who it was? LOL. The woman we were meeting came out of the house and told me I could take her off the tie out and bring her in, so I let her off thinking she would go straight in the house, but instead she took off to go herd the chickens and ran away from us for about fifteen minutes. Then we got inside and really met all the dogs and she jumped up and kissed us and I fell in love. And of course then we had a five hour drive home, and she peed on the back seat twice and panted and shook the whole time. So not the best first impressions but now I can’t imagine life without her!

  2. We met Rufus in a college parking lot, ready to foster a big hunky lab mix. When he jumped out of the car, he was allllll head with this little body. Honestly he had to be about 20 lbs. less than I was expecting, haha…which turned out to be perfect. He was aloof and using his nose like the hound mix he is. Then he proceeded to do very little other than sleep, eat and pee for the next few days. I love him to pieces.

  3. Silas was a wee tiny puppy someone threw out. I think my first thought was “SQUEEEEEE PUPPY.” My second thought was “I’d better not wind up with this dog.”

    The moral of this story? Take that second thought seriously. Even if you decide that it’s wrong, listen to it.

  4. I first met my Jack Russell at my (then boyfriend’s, now husband’s) house. He had adopted her while I was living away, and I thought, “wow, she’s so small! I thought she was two years old!” She was, and she was extremely small. But very puppy-like and very sweet. That’s still true, and she’s now almost 12!
    I first met my shih-tzu as a puppy. Our JRT needed a companion, and who can resist a shih-tzu puppy, I ask you?! I thought, “this is the cutest puppy I’ve ever seen!” And she’s still a spunky, beautiful dog.
    Our third dog, Voxie the boxer, we adopted from a shelter this summer. My first thought was about how strikingly gorgeous she is. She has a beautiful boxer face. And then, “wow, is she ever hyper!” Those first few days with her while she was getting all of her “shelter energy” out were, in fact, difficult. She was extremely hyper. Now, she’s calmed down considerably and is just a normal (for a boxer) level of active.
    Love love love all three of them so much! Much more than the day I met them ๐Ÿ™‚

  5. I’ll go in chronological order, and since I saw each of my dogs first on the web, I was drawn first to their appearance. I obviously adore the fox- and wolf- faced dogs, big, stand-up ears and that indescribably /something/ in their eyes.

    Lasya – when I met Lasya at the humane society, I took her out into their little play area, and she pretty much ignored me. She sniffed around and sort of chased a ball, but she wasn’t all that interested in me. It’s funny that I wanted her so badly, enough to have a fight with my then-roommates! (they initially said “no way,” but when they didn’t pitch in their portions of the utility bills I thought “well, I’m getting my dog!” Lasya was always aloof and not a physically affectionate dog, just like that first impression, but she was soulful, intuitive, and going back to your post a few days ago, sage.

    Freya – I met Freya with my ex-husband and when they brought her into the meet-and-greet room she sat down at our feet with the goofiest grin, threw her head back so her tongue was hanging out the side of her mouth, and gazed up at us with a sort of desperate love. That was Freya to a tee. An adoring clown.

    Ruby – Ruby was a distracted nut when I went to meet her at her foster home. She was running back and forth between me and my boyfriend and racing up and down the stairs wondering what the rest of their dogs were doing. I knew she was going to be the highest-energy dog I’d ever had, but I still wanted her and took her home that day in a huge thunderstorm downpour.

  6. I got Dixie from a BYB (before I knew better) in Illinois. I had been looking for over a year for a Golden Retriever pup or young Golden, watching the shelters and nearby rescues. I had no luck with the shelters, and then I came across a classified ad.
    We drove to see the pups and I was very excited. When we first saw the mother and pups in the yard, my first thought was, “There’s so many!” Haha, there were 7 pups all females; I’d originally wanted the male but when we got there they told me he’d been sold. My second thought was after I’d played with and each pup, and the pup with the white horseshoe on her chest came and sat on my feet. She’d been following me the whole time I’d been meeting the other puppies. “She’s so sweet and laidback compared to all these little chubby devils.” (Haha, little did I know ๐Ÿ˜‰ ).
    Then, after hearing the ‘breeder’ talk, I began thinking, “Do I really want to do this? Maybe I should wait…” Dixie’s mother was only 1 1/2 years old, barely a pup herself, the father was nowhere in site, they didn’t talk much about him, and had only one picture to show, and it wasn’t even clear or a fullbody shot. The whole ordeal was a complicated mess involving her ex-husband.
    But I headed home with a red Golden pup in my lap and haven’t looked back. Dixie is now my velcro dog, and the most active dog partner I’ve ever had the pleasure of working with. She’s a joy to train and be with. I love her to bits and wouldn’t trade her for all the Goldens in the world, despite her DA issues.

  7. I had the Petfinder moment. Three days before returning from a month in Loreto, Baja California Sur, Mexico, I saw Bella’s (now Luna) picture on the Pima Animal Care Center Adoption website. It was an instant connection. I called my husband over to the computer and said, “There’s our dog!”. He said, “No, that’s not our dog. She doesn’t fit what we agreed to adopt. She’s 13 months, not 2-4 years. She’s not medium size. She doesn’t have short legs.” Four days later we met her and adopted her but my husband made it clear that she was “my” dog. Two years later Luna has my husband wrapped around her paw.

    A Ridgeback mix still with issues we now realize that if we had not adopted her most likely she would be dead now. Either she would not have been adopted or she would have been returned. We doubt many would have put up with her issues. Thank goodness we are retired. Her energy is boundless. She’s fearful. She’s independent and highly intelligent. It took her 9 months to trust us. Five months into the adoption we almost gave up but decided we made a life time commitment to her. We hired our first animal behaviorist. Eighteen months later we all have made progress. She’s a good dog who missed out on socialization and a home where someone understood her nature and needs.

    Luna has a quirky little personality and such a joy for life that it takes my breath away every morning. She will probably always be our “work in progress”.

  8. My first impression of my now departed Millie then 6 weeks old, was: she’s the cutest puppy in the world. Three pounds of brown, curley adorable. My first impression of Pyrhha remains the same today. She’s the most beautiful GS I’ve ever seen. She’s one lucky girl

  9. Moses we met at the breeders – we were visiting for the second time (of 3), helping to give the new puppies their first baths. At that time, Moses was “blue” and not officially assigned to us yet, but I just could not get over how the heck those tiny puppies would grow up into giant Newfs. So adorable.

    Alma we met after driving down to Montana to meet her and her foster mom. I remember thinking she was timid and skinny. Moses was interested in her immediately and wanted to play, but she was bit standoff-ish to him (never has been since!).

  10. My first thoughts about Kaya were pretty generic puppy-love thoughts like CUTE, playful, sweet, adorable, cuddly, naughty. I was so desperate to finally adopt a dog that I already had it in my mind that she was coming home with me when I saw her picture online.

    Norman’s picture had me sold also but I had a different thought process going to meet him. I kept telling myself that if he was not a lot more relaxed than Kaya, then I couldn’t let myself adopt him. And he was…the polar opposite of her. He was quiet, laid back, sensitive, gentle, awkward but also super sweet and loving. Oh…and also CUTE!

    Though Kaya picked up a lot of obedience tips along the way, 2 plus years later they are exactly the same:)

  11. Hmmm… Bunny walked up to me in the kennel when we met her, leaned up against me and gazed into my eyes with those amber peepers of hers. She has always been calm and sweet and that has never wavered. Kรผster was a determined little puppy, but also extremely happy to be with people, and very confident. He’s still all three of those things! Flattery was a funny little goofball and very affectionate, and she’s gotten ever more affectionate since we brought her home. Morgan was unusual. We put her in the van with the girls and she rode back there with the three of them (Lilac and Blueberry have since passed on). She never looked back at her home that we were leaving and the only time she got upset was when we stopped for gas and my husband got out and left for a little bit. She wasn’t happy that we weren’t all together. About a year ago is when she came unhinged and now I just don’t trust her with the other dogs. In some ways, she’s the same, she’s still very attached to us and wants us to be together, but she will not leave the other dogs alone and she’s reactive to about everything.

  12. Emmett? Love at first sight! We saw him out the window, dragging a shelter volunteer across the parking lot. Who knows what it was, but we looked at each other and knew. My first thought when I saw Lucas was, “That is the saddest puppy I have ever seen.” He was so shut down, as people passed his kennel he barely lifted his head. He was on a cot, and I stopped to look, he lifted his head maybe an inch, then put it back down and sighed, like, giving up without even trying. It. Broke. My. Heart. So, he came home with me! And, Cooper. Well, he was a 7-pound, 7-week-old pit puppy. The only possible thought is, “AAHHHH!!!!!” ๐Ÿ™‚

  13. I love your stories! I just asked Rob the other day if he knew how much we were going to looooove our dogs. I mean, I knew we’d love them, but they’re so much more than dogs to us. I think I had similar feelings about Isis as you did with Pyrrha, just so excited this little creature was going to join our family.

    We looked at a lot of puppies before we found Leo, and even within his litter, it took us a while to figure out which one was The One.

    Mia is the funniest story to me, because we were told she was four, and when we met her I thought, “This dog is OLD. All that gray on her muzzle. I don’t know…” mostly because I thought Rob wanted a dog more puppylike, like Isis was. But we brought her home and every day, I’m so happy we did.

  14. Well… we have both our dogs from when they were pups and we saw them both when they were still tiny little babies.

    Killian was only 5days old when we first saw him. We didn’t make a choice yet, because the pups all look the same and you can’t see any differences in character yet. It was very special to hold such a small pup in our hands though… With both Killian and Ophelia we were allowed to visit the pups on a weekly basis, so we actually saw them grow up and evolve into “real” dogs. I cherish the photos I have holding both of them in my arms or on my lap, because that’s not possible anymore since they grew up into such big dogs by now (Killian weighing 75kg now and Ophelia 45). I can’t believe I used to be able to pick them up and hold them in 1 hand!

    When we chose Killian, we chose him because he was one of the calmest and most easy-going pups in his litter. We couldn’t have been more wrong with that choice, cause by the time he came to live with us, he had turned into a stubborn whirlwind of a pup! But we love him no matter what and take him the way he is now. ๐Ÿ™‚

    With Ophelia things were a little different. From the first pictures I saw of the puppies, my attention was immediately drawn to the little female with the yellow collar and that hasn’t really changed in those 8 weeks she spent at the breeder’s house. We also liked her sister with the red collar a lot, but were drawn a little more to the yellow collar. When the pups were 7 weeks, a dog behaviourist did a puppy test and when we saw Ophelia’s character description, it was the deciding factor for us. And I have to say: everything that was mentioned in the puppy test has turned out to be right! She still is a dog that is very confident, is not easily impressed or scared, is very playful, has an enormous appetite for any kinds of food and likes to chew things – especially wood. ๐Ÿ™‚
    The image that will always stick with me, is when she was 3 weeks old and was beginning to eat other things than just milk, she pushed all her brothers and sisters out of the way and stood in the food bowl with her front paws so she’d be sure to have enough food.

  15. I am the terrible emo-adopter. I first saw “Benjamin” the GSD (now shortened to “Ben”) on the local animal control website (the pound) and I remember being really endeared by his one flop ear. I also couldn’t stand how sad and scared he looked in the photo. He was clearly miserable. When my family and I went to the pound the next day, it was even worse. He was ill and emaciated and so shut down that he was totally indifferent to us. He staggered around the little outside pen sniffing the grass like the only thing that mattered was that he was so glad to be outside again. We were basically invisible to him until we brought out the treat bag and he single-mindedly ate every treat. My husband was not enthusiastic at first–he noted how large and how sick Ben was, but I really, really wanted him. My husband said later he didn’t trust that Ben would make it through the “7 day stray week” alive, that was how frail he seemed. It wasn’t until the second time we came to see him–and bathe him–that we saw Ben show any interest. He liked that we rubbed him with the towel.

    We brought him home and he was afraid to walk down the hallway or do much more than lay on his towel and look at us. That night, as we were hanging around just kind of observing him and talking about being new dog owners, the poor wretched animal slunk on his belly over to where my husband was standing and stretched a paw out to my husband’s boot. It’s been over a year and I still can’t think of that moment without feeling like I’m going to cry. I _did_ cry when it happened. I had never heard of a dog doing anything like that. What a sad, desperate pup he was.

    I thought for the first two months that we had adopted Eyore–silent, solemn, gentle, but with terrible separation anxiety. I don’t really know what happened other than that he wasn’t starving anymore and we always take him everywhere with us so he got used to lots of environments. Now he is happy, vocal (oooh, so barky in the car, esp on the way to the dog park or PetCo) and fun-loving. He likes almost everyone he meets and loves most dogs. He is friendly when strangers of all sizes come up to him when we are out on the town. He even likes going to the vet and loves PetCo.

    I am no dog trainer for sure. We took him to obedience classes, but Ben is our first dog. After doing a lot of reading, the most I can say is that he probably always had a great temperament and was just traumatized by whatever led him to be sick and starved in the pound. He still has pretty significant separation anxiety, but other than that he is sunny, happy, and devoted boy.

    I lucked out big-time with Ben. I doubt I would get that lucky a second time.

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