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In February it will be two years since we adopted our American foxhound, Bella.  As I watch her sleeping in the shadow of the Christmas tree, I can’t help thinking back on how she came into our lives. It was about six months after we said goodbye to Lucy, our 15-year-old Rottweiler/shepherd mix. Our hearts were broken, but we wanted to make a loving home for another shelter dog. Also, we were worried about Jason, our huskie/corgie mix, who was pining away after his “sister.” I would come home from work and find him lying on the floor facing the corner. He just seemed so depressed. We knew that he was lonely and needed a canine companion.

As the coordinator of the Adopt a Pet features in The Record newspaper, I am frequently on the pet profile web pages of shelters and rescue groups in Northern New Jersey. That’s how I came upon the photo of Bella on the Save the Animals Rescue Team II page. I would scroll through the images and kept stopping at her photo. Those soulful eyes just kept calling to me. There was also a nostalgic pull as I grew up with hounds in Ireland.

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Meeting Bella

It was on a snowy Valentine’s Day when we made the trip to New Jersey to meet Bella. She came strolling into the shelter with her foster mom, Samantha. We were surprised at how sad Bella looked, but her foster mom assured us that she was really a very happy dog! The real test was whether or not she and Jason would get along. Jason acted like the little punk he is when he first meets new dogs – barking and lunging – but after a walk around the block he settled down, and it wasn’t long before they were playing together in the snow.

We brought Bella home and a whole new doggy adventure began. All we knew about Bella was that she had been part of a pack of hounds in Virginia before being surrendered to a shelter. Even though she was only 1 year old, we could tell that she had been bred. Who knows why she was abandoned in a shelter. Their loss was most definitely our gain!

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Sharing Our Home with a Foxhound

Bella had never really lived in a house except for the three weeks she spent with her foster mom, who did a wonderful job with her early training. We had the fun of introducing her to stairs – in the beginning she descended at crazy speeds, but eventually got the hang of it. She took the doggy door in her stride, while it took a little longer to learn that she shouldn’t jump onto tables.

It’s been so interesting for me having a foxhound living in the house.  As children, we were never allowed to pet or play with the hounds in the kennel. My father, who was the master of the pack, told us that if we made pets out of the dogs it would ruin them for hunting. So, I was really interested to see what it would be like to have a hound as a pet.

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We enrolled Bella in basic obedience training. She did really well for about the first 20 minutes of each class, after that she got bored and tuned us out. Luckily, she is treat motivated so I could coax her cooperation.

Mealtimes were interesting because Bella seemed to assume that she should share our food with us. When we told her “no” and sent her to her “place” she would go into a play bow and howl at us. This was such a novelty, and we were amused in the beginning, but knew better than to allow that behavior to continue. Once she started howling it was like she couldn’t stop – and when Jason joined in we had quite the chorus. I discovered that Bella hates the sound of the harmonica, so all I had to do was blow on it once and that put a stop to the howl fest.

Bella Has Settled Into a Routine

At first Jason didn’t know what to do with his new sister. She followed him everywhere and instead of lying down beside him, she would lay on top of him. Hounds living in a pack tend to do this to keep one another warm, so I”m guessing this gave Bella a sense of security. Jason was a good sport and finally gave in and let her lay her head on his back.

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Two years later Bella has settled into her own routine. She’s good for about 10 minutes of doggy play after breakfast and dinner. She loves going for walks and does plenty of sleeping in between.  When she’s in the mood for some attention, Bella pops up on the couch and stares at me before extending her paw. After a few minutes of this, she bows her head for a head butt and then settles down for a snooze.  She’s an adorable dog who has totally won our hearts. Happy Anniversary Bella!