Equestrian PR Office Dogs: Pumba

September 13, 2018

In March of 2016, I decided it would be fun to start fostering dogs.

My family’s Golden Retriever that had been living with me in Florida had passed away in November 2015, and, particularly with a busy horse show travel schedule, I didn’t think it was the right time to have another dog of my own.

Fostering and helping rescue dogs get adopted seemed to be the perfect solution! I envisioned a steady rotation of them; I could get my dog fix, and I probably wouldn’t have each dog for more than two or three weeks, right? Yeah right; we all know where this is going.

Enter Pumba – or rather, at that time, “Dolly.”

"Dolly" shortly after I adopted her and she became Pumba (and celebrated her first Cinco de Mayo...)

I’d expressed interest in fostering through the Palm Beach Shelter Dog Project, which helps dogs at Palm Beach Animal Care & Control find homes, and in early March, they asked if I could take Dolly. I’m not ever one to turn down a dog, so I said yes – despite internally questioning this dog that I was about to take home.

See at the time, given the preference of the type of dog I would foster, I would have chosen a Golden Retriever, or a Saint Bernard, or a Bernese Mountain Dog – or well, just any big dog and not a pit bull. (I know, I know; that sounds terrible. It’s not that I ever thought pit bulls were bad dogs, it’s just not what I envisioned myself with.)  

Clearly any dog that tolerates wearing dog leg warms has to be a saint. 

But alas, here was Dolly, a chunky, smelly pit bull with skin conditions, and what my fiancé has affectionately (not that affectionately) dubbed an “undercarriage” that hung quite low to the ground due to likely overbreeding. When I picked her up from Palm Beach Animal Care & Control, she had just been spayed and was still slightly sedated, so someone had to help me get her into my car.

When Dolly and I got to my apartment in Wellington, she still had not yet fully woken up from the sedation, and I found myself carrying a 60-pound, smelly pit bull in a stereotypical, chain-link collar up the three flights of stairs to my walk-up, no elevator apartment. At that moment, I was a) thankful for CrossFit and b) not optimistic about the future of our relationship.

Cable knit sweaters are very slimming for the fall. 

I’ll skip over the details of how she woke up from her sedation and pooped in my bedroom, or how her skin was so itchy that she rubbed it on everything until it bled. I’ll just jump ahead to about week two or three of our relationship in which I realized I was really starting to like this dog.  

She’d received several baths, medicine for her skin, a purple, non-studded collar, and the knowledge that the apartment was not for going to the bathroom, and suddenly I realized she was possibly the sweetest, most easygoing dog I had ever met.  

About that same time, I realized that part of the easygoing, non-reactiveness may have something to do with a lack of hearing... While vacuuming around her one evening, I was struck by how she didn’t even wake up or flinch. And then I started thinking about how she didn’t wake up to greet me when I came in the door or when I called her name. In fact, she only woke up when I touched her, and then she’d jump up and be startled awake. Sure enough, Dolly was deaf.

Pumba at WEF shortly after having her left eye surgically removed.

As I’m making these discoveries and growing to love Dolly, she’s supposed to be getting adopted – but it’s not going well. She had some interested parties; only to find out their farms or apartments wouldn’t allow pit bulls. (Turns out, mine didn’t either, but that’s a story for another day…) I’d kept telling my roommate that Dolly would be out of the apartment by the middle of March, but by the time April 1 rolled around, there she was, still lounging about the apartment – and now with full reign of the bed for sleeping as well.

Then, she was the featured “pet of the week” in the Sunday newspaper, and suddenly I was getting phone calls about her. However, instead of setting up times for prospective adopters to come meet her, I caught myself impulsively responding with “I’m sorry; she’s already adopted.” I wasn’t planning on it, but I’d fallen in love with the pit bull and realized I didn’t want to let anyone else have her.

So, Dolly became Pumba (my re-name as I felt it more aptly fit her appearance that resembles that of the warthog from the Lion King), and now, more than two years later, she is the best office dog I could ever ask for!

As I’ve accidentally already written more than 800 words just on the first month of our relationship (kind of obsessed with her…), I’ll refrain from sharing all of the stories of her daily work-from-home or horse show endeavors! However, since her adoption, in addition to being deaf, she also became blind in the left eye, and in December 2017 had to have her left eye surgically removed. I would say it hasn’t slowed her down one bit, and it hasn’t, but she never had much speed to begin with! ;)

When she’s not in a horse show media center – or venturing solo to the VIP tent at the Winter Equestrian Festival (WEF) as she did one day this season after which I found her being fed pieces of bread by the VIP tent staff because “she looked hungry” (She is always hungry, but she has always eaten. Don’t let her fool you.) – she can be found sleeping and snoring loudly next to my desk, getting her five to 10 minutes a day of exercise, or being mistaken for a pig. (It’s happened twice).  

The 4-1-1 on Pumba
Hometown: Lititz, PA
Favorite activities: sleeping, eating, napping, snacking
Least favorite activities: things that involve actual activity
Best trick: sleeping a lot
Worst trick: snoring loudly enough to awaken even the soundest of sleepers
When she’s on her best behavior: sleeping, snuggling, snoring, eating, being the cutest
When she’s on her worst behavior: eating cat poop out of the cat litter box *insert vomit emoji*