real life

My two rescue dogs have very different personalities. Here's how I found out.

Telstra Smart Home
Thanks to our brand partner, Telstra Smart Home

I am the proud owner of two rescue dogs. One is easy. The other is the opposite of easy.

One likes to come to work. The other cannot be trusted in the office because she has a fear of men and people wearing hats or sunglasses. We don’t have a lot of men working at Mamamia, but we have enough to make it problematic when she bails them up and starts barking at them like a lunatic while they’re sitting quietly at their desks.

Let me back up. I’ve had a lot of dogs throughout my life. We were a dog family. I grew up with English Springer Spaniels and then my father, in the most out of character action any of us can remember, fell in love with a small fluffy puppy at the local pet store one day when he’d dropped in to buy dog food.

This was years before puppy farms were a thing and it was unusual for a pet store to sell animals larger than a fish or a bird. This puppy wasn’t any kind of fancy, designer mixed breed. The pet store owner didn’t really know what he was a mix of. He was just cute and then suddenly, unexpectedly, he was ours.

"One likes to come to work. The other cannot be trusted in the office." Image: Supplied.

Our next dog was another purebred, a German Shepherd, and then when I was 19 and recovering from a bad breakup, I decided I needed to be loved unconditionally and went to the RSPCA to adopt a stray puppy. “If you think you’re leaving that dog here when you move out, you have another thing coming,” barked my mother, who was extremely unimpressed that I’d done something so irresponsible.

A year or two later she had another threat: “If you think you’re taking her with you now that you’re moving out, you have another thing coming.”

It would be quite a long time before my life allowed me to get another dog. I was married with an eight year old and the time was right. We went to the Sydney Dogs & Cats Home and fell in love with a rescue mutt called Harry who was already 18 months old.

Dog day afternoon. Alumni @sydneydogsandcatshome

A post shared by Mia Freedman (@miafreedman) on Nov 27, 2016 at 11:24pm PST

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They say it takes a rescue pet about a year to settle in and I think that’s about right. With Harry, it manifested in him being very timid. He would hide under tables where he felt safe. He didn’t know what to do with a ball - even though he clearly had some terrier in him.

It was the Christmas holidays, and for the first few weeks we were all at home with our new baby, I mean dog. People can lose their minds a bit when they get new animals. Leaving them at home, alone, feels all kinds of wrong. But what will they be doing all day? How will they cope? How will we cope? Why aren’t there New Pet Compassionate Leave Days available in my workplace? If only there was a way I could keep an eye on him. You know, check in via a camera.

Of course now I have a way thanks to Telstra Smart Home, but this technology was still years in my future so we had to just suck it up.

Slowly, slowly, Harry became more confident and pretty soon, he was ball-obsessed and coming everywhere with us, including to work after we moved Mamamia out of the lounge room and into the office. He’s very popular at work. Now that he’s 12, he mostly just naps under desks.

Occasionally, he does a couple of slow laps around the office looking for lunch scraps and naps some more. He adds value in many ways.

Here’s the time we dressed him up in Christmas outfits.

After we got Harry, we had two more human children so that kept us too busy to think about another dog. But about a year ago, our youngest had reached almost the same age our eldest was when we got Harry. So back to Sydney Dogs & Cats Home we went. And there, we found Bella. Here is what happened on that day:

Bella was an entirely different kettle of dog. Oh man. In the pound, where we’d fallen in love with her (we took Harry along to make sure they got on and that sealed the deal for us) she was very timid, sweet and placid. But rescue pets can be like opening a present. You will never find a dog more loving and grateful for you giving them a home but it can take some time to learn about them. With Bella, when we got her home she was high energy and scared of men. We have a couple of those in our house, my husband and eldest son, so that was challenging.

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She was never going to be a candidate for coming into the office so day after day when we’re in there (even Harry comes to work to get a bit of a rest from his high-energy sister), she stays at home. Alone.

Bella. @sydneydogsandcatshome

A post shared by Mia Freedman (@miafreedman) on Nov 22, 2016 at 9:50pm PST

I never knew what she got up to until our house became a smart home. As part of the systems we hooked up, we installed a camera in the laundry (I say ‘installed’, which sounds technical, but in actual fact we just plugged a camera into the wall, pointed it towards the crate where she slept and paired it via the modem).

Now, we could look at her from anywhere via the app on our phone.

This is what we saw:

Bella confidential. Image: Supplied.
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She doesn’t always look like this. When I check in at various times through the day on the Telstra Smart Home app, I also see her sleeping happily in her crate and sometimes ON her crate. I see her playing with her toys and chewing on this plastic chocolate bone thing she loves.

And barking if she hears a noise. She’s a great watchdog.

And it’s not just during workdays. She sleeps in there at night and we also put her in the laundry when we have to go out on weekends. At any time, anyone in the family who has the app installed can check her. We can take videos and photos via the app and often send them to each other with silly captions because that’s what crazy dog people do.

When you're trying to do a video call and you get bombed. @sydneydogsandcatshome

A post shared by Mia Freedman (@miafreedman) on Dec 12, 2016 at 1:41pm PST

So. What’s the moral of the story? Adopt a pet if you possibly can instead of buying one from a store. Be aware that they will need a lot of love and some patience depending on what they’ve been through before you rescue them. And consider using a smart set up like Telstra Smart Home to make sure your doors and gates are closed (you can get texts sent to you if someone leaves them open) and maybe even cameras.

I have a friend who had a camera installed over their gate and when someone did leave it open and their dog ran out, they could quickly go back and look to see which direction she went in. Then they called a neighbour who tracked her down within half an hour.

Peace of mind. Peace of dog.

What are your dogs' personalities like? Tell us their unique quirks below.

This content was created with thanks to our brand partner Telstra Smart Home.

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