Since Remi left us last June, we had a dog shaped hole in our hearts. Every time we saw a dog on the street happy with its person we knew a dog would be with us again. We’ve found that Polish dog culture is very friendly, dogs are allowed on trams (with their own tickets) and in most restaurants, and it seems like there are pet supply stores on every block. Dogs here are also very well behaved – many is the time we’ve seen little dogs waiting patiently outside stores for their owners to return.
We asked our landlord if it would be okay to adopt a dog. He replied that as long as we got a dog that is suitable for an apartment, we would be okay. He then sent us bus directions to the shelter.
So we decided to go out to the local animal shelter with our friend Karolina just to ‘take a look.’ The shelter is just outside the city so the animals have a taste of country life. The kennels are big and clean and the staff was friendly with us and the animals.
The shelter is lovely and we met all kinds of dogs. Big dogs, purebred dogs, huskies, spaniels, shepherds. Dogs that barked and dogs that cuddled. They have all sorts of animals. There were cats in their own play areas, a collection of birds, and even goats in a shed behind the main shelter.
We were just looking, of course. Then we were just asking a few questions. This one was bad with cats, another one was a little bit aggressive. But then they suggested we meet one they were calling Wookie. A fifteen kilo dog with a shaggy face and brown, silver, and black fur.
They told us he was a Polish Lowland Sheepdog (now, we are not so sure), great with kids. We remembered seeing him on our walk. He was a dead ringer for Benji, the super-cute animal star of the 1970’s, and when we met him he was quiet and friendly and cuddly, all prerequisites.
We put him on leash for a trial walk. He kept pace with us, and ran alongside, and stopped to sniff other dogs but didn’t give anyone a hard time. We even walked him by the outdoor cat play area, and he paid them no attention. We considered taking a night to think it over, but Karolina helped us remember that if it was a good fit we shouldn’t wait, someone else might take him home first. It wasn’t long before we realized he was a keeper, so we borrowed a leash from the shelter and took him home.
And while we did ask our landlord for permission, we forgot to ask our cats. Ching took to Watson pretty quickly, allowing herself to be groomed with some serious head-licking action, but Clark spent much of the first week sulking around the house and hiding in the bedroom closet. Eventually, though, the new roommates warmed up to each other, and now they often nap on the couch together, though sometimes they have sibling rivalries for our attention.
It took us a few days to think of a name. There was Wookie, of course, and Benji. There was Muppet (he’s totally a muppet!) and Charlie and a few others. But he started turning his head at Watson, and he’s a pretty good investigator, so that’s the name that stuck. Since then, Watson has settled in to domestic life. He sleeps a lot, plays with his hedgehog doll, and likes to play fetch at all hours. He’s something of a ball aficionado – squeakers are his favorite, but anything that rolls is worth a chase.
We have taken him to training. Polish dogs are very well behaved, so we wanted Watson to fit in. Training takes place in one of the local parks, and our trainer is very helpful and kind. After a few sessions where we struggled with motivation (Watson isn’t very food motivated, but does respond well to catch), Watson finally figured out what sit means. Since then he progressed to stay and stop. He’s even an obedient enough walker that he doesn’t usually need a leash – he just needs to know there’s a ball nearby and he’s happy to walk next to us. He keeps his eyes on us and stays a few inches away.
He’s also a good traveler. He’s come with us by car to Krakow and by train to Warsaw, and he’s a pretty brave adventurer, happy to sit on the floor and keep us company. To travel by train we just buy him a dog ticket for about 5 dollars. We hotels and airbnb both welcome pets, and Watson has received great reviews after our stays. Watson doesn’t go into museums, but he does like to look at the monuments, go to cafes, and play in Poland’s luscious parks.
Watson has made friends on the tram, they sniff politely and pass on by. We have yet to have an incident. Amusingly, we have also seen cats, wearing harnesses and leashes out for walks and on the trams.
Above all else, he’s a people dog, eager to sniff and be cuddled. He’d love to meet you, so come on by and welcome him to the furmily!