Seeing the dogs again after being away for two months was helpful because they were just plain happy to see me with their wagging tails and wiggly behinds. Luckily for the dogs, the population had turned around so there weren’t all that many dogs here that I knew from before I left. The new ones that were here were very happy to see me.
When I started here at the CSD my very first foster dog that came home with me was Penny and she was very fearful of people. There was no real behavior plan to implement at the time, but Penny and I grew very close. Because of that experience I now have an affinity for the shyer, quieter dogs that need a little extra love and attention to come out of their shells.
The Center for Shelter Dogs has started piloting a new behavior plan for dogs that are fearful of people. My job here is to work through this plan with the dogs which includes quiet time with people, some basic training, and if they are up for it, some play with toys or tennis balls.
The timing of this project couldn’t have come at a better time. I, physically and emotionally, wasn’t ready to get up and running around with the rowdier dogs just yet so it worked out well for both myself and the dogs that were fearful to just have some time to sit quietly and digest life. They needed me and in a way I really needed them too.
My first candidate for this project was Maria, a little 11 pound dog that looked like a Chihuahua and maybe Dachshund mix. She was found by our Rescue team near a dumpster zipped up in a back pack. When I brought her out of her kennel she was trembling and nervous. Would run away from people and then we had her upstairs just sitting on the floor with her. She finally felt comfortable approaching and eating treats. She would bark if she heard noises. Just spending time with her watching her come out of her shell was fascinating. She was trying to figure us out and see what we were about. The second time I went to take her out she was jumping up, wagging and whining when she saw me. That alone was healing for me because I felt as though I had some part of helping her feel ok in this strange place with all of these noises, people, and other animals.
Next candidate was a little Chihuahua named Princess. She was brought to the Gardner ACO, and was sent to us very scared, trembling in the back of her kennel when approached and she was showing some aggression. When I went in to leash her up she kept running away from me and when I’d attempt to put the leash on she would attempt to snap. I was able to loop leash her and we went on our way where I brought her upstairs to the hallway. Three of us in the department sat on the floor and just tossed treats as we chatted quietly. Princess approached all of us sniffing and eating treats but would run away if we moved at all. The next time I went to take her out she was different. Still sat on her bed and trembled but when I approached to put her leash on she rolled over on her back exposing her belly and wagged her tail once her leash was clipped. It was very cute. She gladly came with me upstairs again and this time was running around the office approaching and jumping up on me. If I moved though, she would run away.
Both dogs were amazing to watch because of their transformation from very scared little dogs to snuggly, approachable, happy, tail wagging dogs!
My experience with Maria and Princess had such an impact on me that I thought long and hard about it, and decided it was time for me to, once again, become a dog mommy. The healing power of these two dogs made it possible for me to bring new life into my home again. Maria and Princess (now named Nina) are such a joy to have. They show nothing but love to my fiancé and I. They make me smile and laugh so much and truly do uplift a home that, for the moment, is so full of pain, grief and sadness.
On a day to day basis I continue to work with other dogs that are fearful of people and I am as grateful for them as grateful as they may be for me as well.
- Laney MacDougall, CPDT-KA