I recently had a little debut party for Willie with some of my neighbors and friends, and today I want to have a virtual version of that on my blog! I already shared the story of how we adopted him, and now I'm going to tell you all about his personality and who he is. This is the latest post in a series where I introduce our road trip "team"--you can read about Casper (now in heaven) here, Grace here, and me here and here. We love Willie a lot, and we can't wait for our upcoming adventures together. I'm so excited to officially introduce him on Have Dog, Will Drive!
I think the easiest way to introduce Willie in this post is the same way I introduced Casper in his--by answering some of the common questions I get about him. If you have any others, feel free to leave a comment or use my Contact page!
Where did Willie come from? What is his past?
If you've read the story of how we adopted Willie (linked above), then you know that we got him from the same shelter as Casper, the West LA Animal Shelter. He was in the shelter for about a year before we adopted him. His life before that is a little bit of a mystery, but we've picked up on a few clues. His intake form says that he was found as a stray, but the volunteers mentioned that his previous owner died. I guess both could be true. But overall, we don't have a lot of information about his past. What we do know is that a few months before we adopted him, he got adopted from the shelter by someone else. It turns out that they adopted him as a companion for their existing dog, a chihuahua. Well, from the way the volunteers told it, the chihuahua really didn't care for Willie, and the people gave him back to the shelter. BUT, they returned him to a different shelter, the South LA Animal Shelter, which has a very high euthanasia rate. When the volunteers at West LA got wind of this, they worked for a month to do an inter-shelter transfer to get him back, because they loved him so much! So that's how he ended up back at West LA, where we found him. Also, shoutout to the West LA Animal Shelter volunteers. They are truly amazing. Without them, we wouldn't have been able to adopt Willie OR Casper!
Just based on Willie's personality and markings on his body (or lack thereof), it seems like he had a pretty "normal" life until he had a stint of bad luck and ended up in the shelter for a year. His skin, coat, and eyes are healthy and shining, he doesn't have the markings of having been abused or fought, and he LOVES other dogs. Unlike his poor older brother Casper who was too traumatized from his early life to ever be around other dogs, Willie is extremely well socialized. We joke that he calls the vet's office the West Hollywood Social Club. It's clear that he hasn't had negative experiences with other dogs like Casper did.
His age is a little bit of a mystery as well. Based on vet records from his previous owner, he might be as old as 6. But he just does not feel that old to me. He prances around like a puppy, and his skin has the elasticity of a very young dog. Part of me wonders if the vet records could be inaccurate or from a different dog (they only vaguely describe the dog, and the weight is off by about 30 pounds). If I had no context, I would guess that he is 3 years old. But, in the end it doesn't really matter.
The one other thing we've noticed about Willie that might point to his past is that he is extremely bow-legged. Because of this, he gets pretty tired and sometimes limps on one side. It looks like he possibly had an injury that didn't heal properly at a young age, or maybe he was just born with an odd bone structure on his front legs. It doesn't bother us at all and doesn't seem to bother him. We've had the vet look at it and been assured that it is nothing to worry about. But when you adopt an older dog, you always kind of raise an eyebrow at their funny physical quirks and say, how did you get THAT? Haha!
What kind of dog is he?
Great question! I would like to test his DNA at some point. My parents tested their dog (a mixed breed from a shelter), and the results were really interesting. Willie can definitely be classified as a pit bull-type, but his ears have everyone stumped, even the vet! So far the guesses for what he's mixed with that I have heard the most are bull terrier (different from a pit bull; do a google image search if you haven't heard of this breed) or possibly a bit of German Shepherd or Australian Shepherd mixed in. Though I will say, SO many people have said he looks like a dingo! As in, "a dingo ate my baby" (apologies if you don't get that reference). A dingo is a wild, undomesticated Australian dog that lives out in the bush. It would be considered an exotic animal to have one as a pet, like keeping a hyena in your house. They are illegal to export from Australia, so I very highly doubt he has any dingo in him. But my dad is convinced from the photos he's seen. I'm pretty sure he's about 80% pit bull (or Staffordshire Terrier, if there's really any difference) and maybe 20% some other type of terrier or shepherd dog. In other words, his parents and grandparents were probably all pit bull types, and maybe one of his great grandparents was mixed with some other type of dog.
Does he know his new name? Does he know that you and Grace are his parents?
Yes, he knows his name is Willie! He learned that within a couple of weeks. I'm not sure if he really responded to his assigned name in the shelter (Teddy) or knew it, but he has adjusted smoothly to being Willie. (If you're curious why we renamed him, read my post about adopting him). And I think he definitely knows that Grace and I are his moms. Pit bull breeds are generally clingy dogs (which I LOVE), and Willie loves to be touching at least one of us at all times. It's so adorable to me. If I'm sitting on the couch and Willie is too, he will make sure that at least his tail or paw is touching my leg or whatever. If I move away slightly, he will readjust so that he is still touching me. It makes me melt. Also, I have stepped in on several occasions to find Grace and Willie napping like this:
And it makes my heart explode.
He does get pretty worried when we leave the house, but I'm hoping he will get more and more calm as he learns that we always come back for him. Whenever we leave from Grace's house, he runs to the front window and shoves his head through the blinds to see us walking down the sidewalk to our car. It's pretty heartbreaking and cute. Sometimes, we'll be gone for over an hour and come back to him still looking out the window for us. He's not frantic or anything, I think he just misses us! We've all bonded a lot.
One thing that was unexpectedly nice was that Grace and I each independently went out of town for about a week during the first month we had Willie. So while I was out of town, Grace kept Willie by herself, and then when Grace left, Willie and I hung out for a week. Although it's always better when we're all together, I think we really enjoyed having one-on-one time with him and letting him know that we're both his moms.
What is his personality like?
Willie is so funny. He makes us laugh all the time. On almost every walk, he turns around at some point and walks backwards and smiles at me. He also loves to sprint alongside Grace and race her. He's a very playful guy. With other dogs, he's pretty submissive. He usually kind of politely sniffs them and then waits for them to invite him to play or "make the first move." One hilarious (to me) thing about him is that if we're on a walk and he gets to meet another dog, he gets SO hyper right after we walk away. He gets this burst of excitement and energy from making a new friend and suddenly sprints forward and looks up at me with a huge smile, like, "did you see me mom?!? I made a FRIEND!"
We are lucky that Willie isn't destructive at all. He doesn't chew or dig or anything like that. However, sometimes we will come home to find things strangely moved around. Things in low-to-the-ground shelves will be rustled through, or something on a tabletop will be moved. One time he rifled through my clothes in a packed duffle bag! It's so weird but funny. I don't really mind it, because he's never broken or damaged anything--it's just clear that he is curious and sniffs around the house when we're gone.
Willie is such a happy and good dog. We knew that he had some BIG paws to fill after his big brother Casper, but he's completely stolen our hearts in his own right. All those feelings of it being "meant to be" that I wrote about when we adopted him have only solidified since then.
What are some of his favorite things?
If Willie could talk, I have no doubt that the #1 thing he would tell me to write about in this blog post would be his baby, Lambchop. See the photo below:
Every dog I have ever had (growing up or as an adult) has loved to destroy stuffed toys. I know there are even companies that advertise their toys' ability to withstand dogs' destructive tendencies. So imagine my surprise when my new dog, Willie, wants nothing more than to lick, groom, and carry around his little baby stuffed animal! We realized this about him a couple of weeks after adopting him. He picked out Lambchop (or Lammy for short) at our local dog store (he seriously picked him out of a pile of toys), and they have been inseparable ever since. He gently carries Lammy everywhere with him; he even sets him down beside his food bowl at meal time! If Lammy squeaks (he has squeakers in him), Willie gets very worried about him. Sometimes he even brings Lammy to us to ask what is wrong. We tend to Lammy and pat him, and Willie feels better. Lammy is like his little brother that he takes care of. Willie has this maternal streak that is just precious to me. I've never seen a dog do this!
He also loves beds, and it's so funny. I mean, who doesn't love beds?! But this dog takes it to another level. If we take him over to a friend's house, we have to guard their bed so that he doesn't jump on it. And when I was sick with the flu, he stayed in bed more than I did! I was so worried that he would get restless or bored while I wallowed in bed for an entire 48 hours (literally only getting up to get food or water or take him on 3-4 short walks a day), but he actually spent MORE time in bed than I did. Another thing he loves to do is to play a game if we try to get him down from the bed--he will pounce to each corner and jump away from us. He thinks it's hilarious! And, honestly, it is, but we try not to let him know that. One time he jumped on Grace's bed right after taking a bath and rolled around on it with his wet fur. I felt so badly because Grace was mad, but I was laughing so hard I couldn't catch him to pull him off the bed!
Willie also loves his dog friends. His best friend is our friend Daron's dog named Wally. They are so cute together! We recently took Willie to a playgroup in West Hollywood, and he had a great time and we plan on going back. He plays well with other dogs and usually finds one friend that he particularly takes a liking to. The size of other dogs doesn't seem to matter to him; we've seen him play with a huge Dogo Argentino (probably over 100 pounds) and also with Wally, who is tiny.
What are his dislikes?
I mentioned above that he gets nervous when we leave him, and that's definitely his biggest dislike. I'm confident he will get more comfortable with it, though. He also does NOT like fruits or vegetables. I know that sounds dumb; why would you feed a dog fruits or vegetables? But his brother Casper loved some fresh watermelon on a hot day, and Willie won't touch it. I also tried putting some canned green beans in Willie's food for extra fiber to help his digestion (my dog growing up used to love this), and I was shocked when he finished every bite of dog food but left a little pile of slightly chewed green beans at the bottom of the bowl. He's like a little kid who will not eat his veggies. Thankfully, he's a dog, so that's okay.
One other funny thing that he doesn't like is when people pick up other dogs. He really likes small dogs, but we've noticed that he gets extremely distressed if someone picks up a small dog--especially his best friend Wally. I think it's his maternal streak; he wants to be able to see his friends so he can make sure they're okay! He's similar when there's been a squabble at playgroup. He will rush over to the dogs and try to break up the fight (not talking about anything serious here, just a little play fighting between dogs). Grace always says he's a lover, not a fighter!
What does he eat/what medicines does he take/etc.?
As I've gotten to know more and more dog parents, I get these questions, and I love it! I think it's so great to be candid, if you are comfortable, about what you feed your dog, what works what what doesn't, etc. I know a personal recommendation is always better than an online review.
That said, we are still working out the kinks of what to feed Willie and the best preventative medications to give him. For the first month we had Willie, we fed him Pulsar Fish dog food, a grain free salmon-based food. Then because we ran out and couldn't find it again (it's a small brand), we switched him to Pure Vita Salmon and Pea Grain-Free dog food. We experimented with topping his food with fermented fish stock and Kefir, a cultured milk product recommended by many vets. The reason we are still working on perfecting Willie's diet is that he has consistently had some minor digestive issues. Right now, he's on a round of anti-diarrheal pills and eats probiotic powder sprinkled onto his food. Our vet has also recommended that we slowly switch him to a duck, rabbit, or venison-based food, because he might have a fish allergy (and those three types of food bases have a very low rate of allergies). We have had luck in feeding Willie pumpkin to help with digestion, and he likes it a lot.
For his preventatives, he has in the past gotten an over-the-counter topical flea and tick treatment. However, for our Alaska trip, we wanted him to have top of the line protection because of how much time he will be spending outdoors. So now, he is on Bravecto for flea and tick prevention (it's nice because it's just one pill every three months), and Trifexis for flea, heartworm, and intestinal parasite prevention. We overlap on the flea part with both meds, but it's safe! The interesting thing about heartworm prevention is that I have been told it's not necessary in Southern California. Heartworms are spread through mosquitoes, and we don't really have those here. For a few other reasons, heartworm infestations are extremely rare in LA. But because we're going to be taking Willie to 12 states and provinces and another country in a month, we need to protect against them, just to be safe.
Another thing I would like to get Willie started on is some kind of joint supplement, especially given the bow-leggedness I described. If anyone has any suggestions, I'm all ears :)
Thanks for reading about our sweet, funny boy!