Doggie Diary: Natalie Morales Gets to Know Her New Rescue Dog

10/21/2011 at 04:15 PM EDT

Natalie Morales Gets to Know Her New Rescue Dog
Natalie Morales (center) with her family and new dog Zara
Courtesy of North Shore Animal League America
Natalie Morales, co-host of the TODAY show, recently adopted a rescue dog named Zara. After a considerable amount of time spent without a dog at home (though two cats have kept the journalist, her husband and two young sons company), Morales has been reacquainting herself with the life canine.

While training the young pup comes with its challenges, Morales has reason to be patient with Zara. The look in her grateful dog's eyes is enough to forget even the biggest accidents.

What are your stories of getting to know your new pets? Let Natalie know in the comments below.

Friday, Sep. 23
We brought Zara home today from North Shore Animal League, and she took to the kids immediately. She is super sweet but a little shy still. She is completely overjoyed at having a family at last; we can tell by the way she constantly seeks approval and affection.



We don't know much about her history except that she was saved by North Shore from a kill shelter in Georgia, where she was about to be put down. We know she doesn't have much training and it's clear potty training is not going to be easy. We were told by the trainer at North Shore to crate-train her, but we made the mistake of letting her familiarize herself first with our home, which she then baptized by pooping in our master bedroom and then peeing in our kitchen. The work begins now.

A few hours later, Zara fell fast asleep in her crate. She is just so happy she seems to have a permanent smile on her face. We all feel like our family is complete now (though our two cats probably disagree). Surprisingly, the cats just avoid her and there has not been a real dog-cat showdown as of yet.

Saturday, Sep. 24
Training 101: Zara will not pee outside at all. I walked her about eight times today and kept her outside a lot, but she clearly has been in a cage or indoors most of her life. I think she's a bit overwhelmed by the great outdoors. She does love to go on walks, but there is just way too much to do and see. She is learning how to be more assertive and even greeted the cats with a few barks (first time we've heard her "voice"). We had a block party with dozens of kids and she seemed to be in doggie heaven with all the attention. Zara is amazing with all the kids and has such a gentleness about her. Everyone comments on how sweet she is. She will love living in our neighborhood where she is already becoming our street's mascot.

Sunday, Sep. 25
Training 102: Not much progress on her peeing outside, though thank goodness, she made another poop outside. I know this will take time and lots of patience. Zara does have another bad habit and that is jumping up on people. She clearly loves people so much – it's like she wants to embrace them and just wants them to love her back.

I signed her up to work with a trainer. The trainer gave me some really great pointers on crate training and potty training. I feel so sorry every time I get her home and put her back in her crate, but I'm hoping she gets it soon.

One thing I noticed about her is her need to be protective of my little one already. The shelter said they believe she has some border collie in her, and I can see that in the way she is around Luke. He fell down while we were running with her, and she ran right to him and kissed his face, then waited by his side until he got up. She reminds me a lot of my dog growing up. Duke was a Shetland sheepdog and he was always by my side and very protective. I'm happy to see Zara has those same instincts to protect her new family.

8 p.m.: Breakthrough! Zara made a pee outside! We threw her a mini party and gave her lots of treats and love.

Monday, Sep. 26
My family reports she went outside in the morning and made a poop and pee right away! Yeah! I feel like I have another child right now as I've just been through potty training with Luke. Seems like Zara is a fast learner.

First two weeks of October
Unfortunately, I was traveling for a week and missed a lot of Zara's training, but she is coming along nicely. She hasn't had an accident in the house in over a week and is really a loving, sweet dog. We are working with a trainer to keep her from jumping and to teach her other good behaviors, but overall, she is a perfect dog and perfect addition to our family. The kids love her so much and Luke, who was a little scared at first, plays with her all the time and realizes she will never hurt him. She has never so much as bared her teeth or even barked at the kids. Quite the opposite, in fact – she is even more protective of them with each day. The other night, Josh was screaming because he stepped into a cold shower and Zara went running to him to make sure he was okay.

One thing I'm learning from Zara is that it's important for all of our family to be consistent. My son Josh loves to play dance with Zara, but then she thinks it's okay to jump up on him. So we are all having to get a little training ourselves, too, to figure out what she needs from us to help her succeed. She still does not seem to love peeing outside, but she does what she needs to do, fortunately. She now also goes willingly into her crate at night when we say it's time to go "night-night." She still whines a little and complains when she hears the kids still up and about because she wants to be with them.

Zara also has had to wear a cone this last week around her head because her spay surgery scar had a little infection. A week of antibiotics and cone-wearing seems to be working, but poor thing – it really is the cone of shame. It is quite funny, though, to watch her as she tries to sniff the ground or get through doors with her cone head.

I think a lot about what would have happened to Zara had we not adopted her. I know a loving family would have seen her and probably adopted her, too, but she is now such a part of our family. The only ones who seem to still be in shock are my two cats, but even they know when the coast is clear (when Zara's in her crate), and they don't get in each other's way all that much. She has added so much to our lives already in just the past three weeks. My kids are excited to come home and see her or have her there at school pick up. On weekends, we like to take her for really long walks and I've even started adding her to my runs (which she loves). She really does seem to wear a permanent smile on her face, if there is such a thing ...

I read an amazing book (which I highly recommend for all you animal lovers – but be warned: major tear-jerker!), called The Art of Racing in the Rain, which really makes you think about what your dog would say if he/she could talk to you. And I swear, just looking into Zara's eyes, I can see and hear a constant stream of thank you's.

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