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CANINE CONNECTION: Opening a tender heart to a young GSP

There is a saying that goes something like this: “When it is meant to be, doors will open, obstacles will be removed and the pieces will fall into place as if by magic.

There is a saying that goes something like this: “When it is meant to be, doors will open, obstacles will be removed and the pieces will fall into place as if by magic.”

And as the week before Christmas unfolded, that saying felt like an absolute truth.

When I received the message about the 2.5 year-old German shorthaired pointer that was returned to the breeder, I didn’t give it much thought other than, “Another commitment broken.”

But, I understood. It doesn’t matter how well versed you are in canine, you are never prepared for your first GSP.  

When it was suggested that I adopt him, well, my thoughts ran a bit deeper. I had not given much consideration to bringing another dog into my life at this point, especially a young adult. I had told myself long ago that it was too soon to even consider such a thing and put up mental roadblocks as to why it would not work. So I sat on the end of my bed and asked myself if I was ready to commit to this young dog. My aging shepherd Zumi was my first concern. I did not want to stress her during her remaining time.

There was also Raider, my young Border Collie cross, who on the best of days is barely tolerant of unknown dogs invading his space. Then there was my heart, still tender at the loss of Piper during the summer. But if there was anyone prepared for this type of challenge, it would be me. So taking a lesson from my life with my dogs, I let go of doubt, gave hope a fleeting chance and the forces that be made the transition of this dog into my life effortless.

As I watch my renewed pack of three curled up together on one large dog bed, I reflect on something else … the life of a young dog, barely three years old, whom someone had given up on.  

Over the last 20 years of writing this column and working with dogs, I have repeatedly emphasized the importance of being a responsible dog owner, which includes giving great thought and preparation before a dog is brought into anyone’s life.  

I’ve used the word life rather than home for a reason. These incredible creatures are for life, because you are sharing a life, not just a home together.

This life that you share with a dog is not just while you are in a home that allows dogs but also when you need to find a new home. If you cannot guarantee that you will do everything in your power to keep your dogs in your life, regardless of living arrangements, then don’t get a dog until you are stable in a long term home. Dogs are also not meant to fill a relationship void until your dream spouse arrives. As far as I’m concerned, if your partner does not like dogs, then get a new partner!

Dogs are not to be used as a baby starter kit until the real human baby arrives. Dogs and babies get along with proper preparation and are actually great for boosting a child’s immune system.  A 2004 study published in The Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology found exposure to dogs in infancy, especially around the time of birth, can actually influence children’s immune development while reducing the probability of certain allergic diseases. Children who had a dog at home as newborns were much less likely to have atopic dermatitis and wheezing by their third birthday compared to non-dog owners. So there!

Dogs are not material objects to be discarded at the first inconvenience. Dogs are sentient creatures. They require a commitment through every emotional up and down, every financial windfall and downfall, every move to a new home, neighbourhood or province, every job change, spouse change and lifestyle change.
This year, if your resolution is to bring a dog in your life, or add an additional one to your current pack, reflect on what your view of a dog is and what it means in your life, then commit … but only if you can also resolve to never break that commitment.

Joan Klucha has been working with dogs for more than 15 years in obedience, tracking and behavioural rehabilitation. Contact: