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Daisy Gets her Chance

The 4-month-old Rott mix pup huddled at the back of the shelter kennel, alone and terrified. She had recently been surrendered by her owner, who had loved her in his own way, but he was elderly and when his dog delivered an unexpected litter, he wasn’t able to place all the puppies. The shelter had already signed him up for a free spay for mama, but this puppy had never been off the property, never been on a leash and had never been away from mama and littermates. She had no coping skills for anything new. The other pups had adapted fairly quickly and were soon wagging their tails but sensitive Daisy was shaking and growling. She refused to come anywhere near people and although the shelter staff was kind to her, it was obvious that she wasn’t going to respond in that environment.

Daisy was transferred to our rescue group, Dogwood Animal Rescue Project, and when shelter staff tried to put her in a crate for transport she panicked. She was frantic and trying to bite and staff got The Big Five of ickyness. Pee, poop, vomit, drool and anal glands. Truly a sad case. Our rescue does not choose to take in or place truly aggressive dogs, but in many cases they just need time to trust and feel safe. Not every dog comes around, but we felt that Daisy deserved a chance.

When Daisy arrived in her foster home, she glared at us from her crate, a growl rumbling from her chest every few seconds. Carsick drool hung in ropey strings from her lips, and vomit and stool covered the bottom of the crate. We sat quietly nearby, avoiding eye contact and speaking softly to her. Eventually she softened up enough to sniff a yummy treat held her way before retreating into her crate again. Over the next half hour we watched her finally choose to take a treat, then crawl a little closer and even allow a scratch behind the ear.

As the minutes ticked by, Daisy gradually began to feel safe and she wormed her way closer and closer to myself and two other volunteers who waited on the floor with treats and gentle caresses. She started making eye contact and leaning toward our touch. She took a few more treats, easing closer with each offering. One of our volunteers is a wonderful girl of 11 years of age, with a calm demeaner, endless patience and lots of experience with rescue dogs. I closely supervised the interaction to keep everyone safe but it was obvious that the child was a natural and Daisy felt comfortable. It was so rewarding to watch Daisy’s confidence grow, and when she finally climbed into the waiting lap and flopped over in complete surrender, she let out a sigh of relief.

Watching a terrified dog realize they are safe is one of the most beautiful feelings in rescue. I’ve been working in shelters and doing rescue for 30 years and it never grows old. It’s what makes up for all the sad terrible things we see and keeps us going through the hard times.

Daisy has since been crate trained, learned to walk on a leash and has become a delight in her foster home. Her foster mom says that after that first rough day, she’s been the easiest foster she’s had. She’s available through dogwoodanimalrescue.org

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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.

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