Home
Shirley Zindler
Print|Email|Text Size: ||
Amber Turns the Corner

During one of my morning walks through the shelter kennel, I noticed a swelling in the belly of a little stray dog. I stepped closer and she growled and showed her teeth. “It’s ok doll,” I soothed, offering a treat. She continued to growl and I opened the kennel and came in and sat on the floor. She retreated to the far side of the kennel while I sat quietly for a few minutes, hoping to gain her trust. No such luck. She flicked her lips up to show me her teeth every time I so much as glanced her way.  From my vantage point on the kennel floor I could see the definite signs of pregnancy. The enlarged mammary glands and distended belly suggested that she was within a week or two of delivery.  Poor thing must have been terrified.

Each day I tried to make friends with the little dog. So many of these little dogs calm right down once they see that they aren’t hurt. Not this girl, she was only about 8 pounds but if she couldn’t get at me she grabbed her blanket with all the ferocity of a rabid grizzly and shook it till I thought her little eyes would bug out of her head. Within a week she delivered 5 puppies so I decided to foster the litter thinking mama would come around away from the shelter. At home I settled her into a cozy kennel in my garage. It’s got a dog door to a small private yard so she didn’t have to deal with my dogs or the people in the household. I named her Amber, for her golden coat and big amber colored eyes and each day I hand fed her canned food, in hopes of bringing her around. She gave me a hostile stare while gobbling the food but then as soon as it was gone she would try to bite. I sat with her for hours, tried every possible delicious treat I could think of, cooked for her etc. Nothing. Not one iota of improvement. “You’re a tough little nut aren’t you,” I said softly as she glared at me.

As the weeks went by, I was fascinated and disturbed by her behavior. Even a completely feral dog I had once rescued grew to trust me after a few days. The feral dog never ever wanted to be touched but she took food cheerfully and followed me around with a wagging tail and a big doggy smile. I left Amber’s puppies alone as much as possible, hoping to avoid stressing her out even more but every few days I would cover my hand with a towel and reach in and pick up each baby for a moment and examine them to make sure they were healthy and gaining weight. Amber would grab the towel in her teeth and shake it violently, snarling horribly the whole time.

After 5 weeks of Amber being a terror I approached her kennel one morning and got the surprise of my life. I stood in stunned silence for a moment as Amber wiggled and wagged and greeted me happily. I felt a strange sense of the surreal. I opened the kennel door and reached in and picked her up. It was obvious that I was perfectly safe as she licked my face and wiggled happily in my arms. I’ve had dogs that came around really quickly in the past, some even going from snarls to cuddles in minutes but never one who spent 5 weeks trying to sever my jugular and then decide I’m their best friend the next day. With a sense of amazement, I cuddled her for a few more minutes before leaving her with her babies and heading to work.

Not all dogs come around but once Amber made the switch, I probably could have done anything to her without being bitten. Her puppies were all adopted quickly but Amber was more of a challenge as she was still a terror with some new people.  It took a while but I finally found an amazing home with my friend Luann, who is a dog trainer. Amazingly, Luann started agility with Amber and she turned into a total dynamo, racking up agility titles right and left. Amber now lives the life of a beloved and adored companion, sleeping on the bed and cuddling with Luann when she’s not doing agility.

 

 

Print|Email

Shirley Zindler is an animal control officer in Northern California, and has personally fostered and rehomed more than 300 dogs. She has competed in obedience, agility, conformation and lure coursing, and has done pet therapy. Zindler just wrote a book The Secret Lives of Dog Catchers, about her experiences and contributes to Bark’s blog on a regular basis.

CommentsPost a Comment
Please note comments are moderated. After being approved your comment will appear below.
Submitted by A Spaniel's Tail | July 13 2014 |

That was a really lovely story - Got a little tear reading that :-) Pretty Amber!

Submitted by Betty M | July 19 2014 |

What a wonderful story. Your patience and respect for this vulnerable dog paid off! I wish everyone could be as patient and kind, glad she found a good home!

Submitted by Lynne | July 19 2014 |

Perhaps it was pregnancy hormones? Interesting that she decided to be friends about a week before she would want to wean them. Glad you did touch the babies.

Submitted by Pat | July 29 2014 |

I have a friend that has adopted three dogs from the pound over the years and all three are top dogs in agility. Two of them are chihuahuas and the other one a kelpie. Tons of love and care go a long way. Great story about Amber. Beautiful girl!!

Submitted by martha epler-kurtz | July 29 2014 |

What a sweet story my heart is smiling that Amber found a loving home... what a sweet angel she is!

More From The Bark

By
Shirley Zindler
Sophie (right) reunited with her family
By
Shirley Zindler
By
Shirley Zindler
More in Shirley Zindler:
Justice—and a Home—for Patty
A Bag of Tricks Helps in Dog Rescue
A Sweet Good-bye
Lost Dog Recovers From Tick Attack
Going the Extra Mile
Learning Dog Social Skills
More Lessons from Hernando
Lessons from Hernando
Saving Abandoned Pups