Reunited Rescue Dog Siblings: Do They Remember?Published March 22, 2013
Victoria Schade / Do Not Reproduce
Adopting a rescue dog usually involves many unanswerable questions. What did my dog’s parents look like? How did she end up in the rescue pipeline? Did she have any siblings? When we adopted Olive we only knew that she came from a shelter in Kentucky, and that she had a sister. I was lucky enough to see a photo of her sister – they called her Patti – but I wasn’t able to meet her on the day I picked Olive up.
I often thought about Olive’s sibling, the only link to her history. On a whim I got in touch with the rescue organization in the hopes that they could connect me with Olive’s sister, and within hours I had contact info for the other adopter. They were only an hour away! I exchanged photos with Patti’s people (they renamed her Molly) and after some calendar juggling we finally managed to pin down a date for a reunion. I was ridiculously excited. Would they recognize each other immediately? In my experience dogs’ memory reserves seem limitless. I often run into dogs that I trained years before, and they react to me with such joy it’s as if we’d just seen each other the day before. Would Olive and Molly have a similar reaction when they reunited?
I felt like I was waiting for my prom date to show up on the big meet-up day. When Molly and her people walked through the door at the store Olive ran over as she always does when greeting new people and … and… not much happened. She inhaled Molly deeply, more so than for other visiting dogs. Molly sniffed back, and there seemed to be a slight spark of “you seem familiar,” but there was no beautiful moment of recognition and reunion. I was a little bummed out.
The two definitely looked alike, with the same funny faces and under-bites, but there were distinct differences as well. Olive was much taller and sturdier. (Read: chubbier.) Molly’s tail was long and curved over her back, and her ears folded down at the tips instead of pointing straight up like Olive’s. Molly’s people don’t groom her, so I was able to see what Olive would look like fully grown in, although I doubt Olive’s coat would look as tidy as Molly’s. Olive had a distinct junkyard dog look prior to her first groom, while Molly’s fur made her look like a cute scruffy dog from an advertisement.
Molly and her people stayed for about an hour. The sisters basically ignored each other while we compared canine notes, but I can’t blame Molly for being intoxicated by the sights and smells in the store instead of Olive. We struggled to get them to pose side by side for pictures, not because they didn’t want to be close, but because Molly didn’t know how to sit like my little trooper! (Olive showed off all of her tricks like “sit up” for her sister, who was suitably jealous.)
In retrospect it makes sense that these two didn’t have a moment when they met. Their early lives were probably a competition for resources – mom, food, warmth – and then who knows what sort of stressors they endured before they ended up in that Kentucky shelter at six weeks old. What we anthropomorphized would be a heartwarming reunion was probably just a recognition of a brief shared history and nothing more. Now I realize that the reunion was more for me than for Olive, but I don’t regret setting it up. It was fascinating hearing about Molly’s personality traits, and seeing their physical similarities (and differences).
We plan to get together again so that our husbands can see them in action. (I was relieved to hear that Molly's Dad was as nerd-excited for this as my husband!) Who knows? Maybe the next time we meet the girls will forge a new friendship based on the present and not their brief shared past.