For anyone that might be reading who doesn't know Casper, or even for those who do, I wanted to take a minute today to formally introduce him on Have Dog, Will Drive! He is the dog behind that title and a lot of the inspiration for Grace and me to get outside more and explore new places.
Casper is a special guy, and he is beloved by many. I thought a good way to introduce him would be to answer some questions we often get about him:
1. When/where did you get him, and how old is he? Grace adopted Casper on October 11, 2014, at the West LA Animal Shelter. We first visited him about a week prior, when Grace suggested we go check out our local animal shelter to see what kind of volunteer opportunities they had available (famous last words). We decided to stroll the hallways of kennels and just visit some pooches that were up for adoption, when we noticed this one dog hiding in the back of his kennel looking dejected. Every other dog was coming up to the front of the gate, putting their paws up, smiling, and generally hamming it up. But this one (at the time, temporarily named Logan by the shelter) looked depressed and mangy, and the little schedule/notepad outside his door said that he hadn't finished any of his meals in the past few days. Also on a sign outside the door, there was a message that said something like "Before You Walk Away! Please give this dog a chance. He is a gentleman of a dog, and all the volunteers love walking him." That made Grace's heart skip a beat, because her family had always described their dog Max (who passed away about a year and a half before this) as a "gentleman." Below is a photo of Grace with Casper for the first time, when we got to take him out of the kennel and play with him.
He was extremely skittish and would not make eye contact with us. He was also covered in scabs and scars. I'll admit, he didn't seem like much. But Grace felt something tugging at her heartstrings, and though we didn't adopt him right then, over the next week she went back to visit him every morning before work (I was back in Berkeley at this point). On the next Saturday, she went back and brought him home! He was stiff and nervous at first, not sure what this new life was going to be. But he quickly warmed up, going from being super shy to a super clingy, 65-pound (now 80; he was malnourished at the time) lap dog. Based on our vet's estimation, we think he is about 9 years old at this point, and we celebrate his "birthday" on October 11, his adoption day.
2. What happened to him in the past, and why was he in the shelter as an older dog? We don't have a full answer to this question, but we have pieced a backstory together through a few different clues. Before Casper was brought to the shelter, he was found running loose in West LA. He was beat up and skinny. It turned out, he did have a microchip (the little chip in dogs' ears that give information to shelters and vets if they run away or get lost), and the shelter called the number associated with it. Whoever answered told them that yes, he was their dog, but they didn't want him anymore. It's like a knife to the heart hearing that about my precious pup, but some people just do not have compassion for animals (as my dad likes to say, they're "going to a hot place"). Casper has a lot of teeth mark scars on his body--two in between his eyes, a few on his back legs, and some rough scar tissue on his ears and tail. Based on this, it seems like he was part of an amateur fighting situation but likely wasn't very good at it. He was also nervous when we first got him, and was afraid of belts, indicating he was beaten with one. Again, it breaks my heart. But that's just the reality of his life for about 6-7 years before he ended up with us. Below are a few photos that showed what he looked like when we first got him--because I was in Berkeley for most of this time, most of what I have are screenshots of Snapchats and Instagrams and grainy photos!
3. With a dark past like that, is he dangerous? This is an understandable question that people often have. There are two parts to it. The first, which is the good news: he is a gentle little baby lamb around every human (of any age) that he has ever met. He doesn't jump up, bark, or growl. He's shy but excited to meet every person we walk past on the street. He's a little cuddle bug, and if he finds someone at a party who will scratch his ears and above his tail, he will stay glued to that person's legs the entire night. In short, he's a gentleman and a sweetheart. He trusts humans, despite everything they've put him through. The second part, though, is a little more complicated: he cannot be around other dogs. He is terrified of them and will not react well. On walks around the neighborhood, it's not a big problem; if a dog is on the other side of the street or even 20 yards ahead of us, Casper pays it no attention. However, if face-to-face with another dog, he will go into fight or flight mode. We've been extremely lucky to learn that quickly and not put him in situations where he would be faced with another dog. He's never gotten into a fight or anything like that. It's just something we know to be true about him, and we plan accordingly. Also, we are able to occasionally board him (though we avoid it because it's very stressful for Casper) through Brandon Fouche's facility, where Casper is off leash with other dogs and has no problems (he just hides from them and avoids them). I'm planning on doing a whole separate post about our training journey with Casper, so for now, I'll just say that Brandon is a miracle worker and has helped us get Casper's issues with other dogs in check to a point that I rarely think or worry about it anymore. Which, from 2014 to now, is an amazing and huge change.
4. Is it hard to take care of him while working full time? This is actually the most common question I get about Casper. Most of my friends in LA do not have dogs of their own at this stage in life, in part because they're not sure if they would have the time and money to care for one properly. I think it's very considerate and responsible to have that in mind, but at the same time, I would encourage anyone to consider adopting an older dog as a way of having a companion that does not need as much attention and will be forever grateful to you.
Grace's schedule is more flexible than mine, so she ends up taking him on walks and caring for him a lot. But that said, there are times when she is out of town, and I take care of him on my own. Even though I'm gone at work from around 7:15am-5pm, he is just fine hanging out and sleeping at home during those hours. I take him on about 2 long walks and 1-2 additional shorter "bathroom break" walks every day and he's happy. More than anything, he just wants to hang out at home with me and get attention. He is not a big eater and does not whine or get snappy for his dinner when I get home (usually, he hasn't even finished his breakfast). So in short, Grace and I are extremely lucky to have such a low-maintenance dog that fits so well into our lives at this age.
5. Lastly, what is his personality/likes and dislikes?
His little personality is so precious to me. He is a quiet, shy guy most of the time, but when he sees a favorite person (which is basically any person he has ever met), he wiggles his butt (he can't really wag his tail because of it being broken previously, so he just wiggles his whole lower half) and gets VERY excited. He loves his rubber ball and Kong. His favorite foods are mozzarella string cheese, fish, and eggs. He also likes ice cream and bananas, haha! His favorite time of the day is when Grace and I are watching a movie or TV in the evening and he can lay stretched out across both of our laps. He also loves to sleep in and can easily sleep until noon. He dislikes when Grace or I are getting packed up for a trip and he's uncertain whether he will get to come with us. He also strongly dislikes rain. Thankfully, he lives in sunny LA. We adore him and pray for many more years with him in our lives. I hope you enjoyed e-meeting him!