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Voice lessons: An adopted stray rediscovers her bark

Adopted from a shelter, the stray dog was wary and silent. But as her confidence in her safety grew, a gentle howl ensued.

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My husband and I have been waking up earlier than usual. We want to be sure she is fed and kept clean. We speak to her in cheerful, encouraging voices. We take her for walks around the neighborhood, reassure her when she is frightened, redirect her when she might encounter peril. We imbibe information from books and the Internet about ways to raise her with compassion and consistency.

Our extended family and friends have sent warm congratulations.

No, we are not new parents. Our son is 16. We just adopted Robin, a likely Brittany spaniel/terrier mix, from the local animal shelter. Chocolate brown, glossy coat. Hazel eyes. Ears that can tilt in more positions than we thought possible. A slender 17 pounds. These surface details are endlessly fascinating to new dog owners.

IN PICTURES: Puppies around the world

But advice about raising puppies and cultivating their inner lives and outer behaviors doesn't correspond exactly with what it takes to invite an older dog into one's home – or, in our case, the screened back porch first. And though Robin's tenderness toward us when we met her in the shelter was a huge factor in folding her into our family unit, we have found in even the first few days that she is a dog of many moods.

Wary at first and then gently affectionate with strangers, she is also exuberant and puppylike at times. Eager to please, she might impress us by going into her crate voluntarily, but the prospect of a late-night walk around the house elicits passive resistance. She has been astonished by a large buck who stopped in our backyard, and has tilted her expressive ears when a hawk flew overhead.

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