When I wonder if it’s worth putting more time into an at-risk dog with behavioral concerns, I just have to think about Wade and I know that it’s worth every second.
There are many dogs that I have a blast working with at Animal Services, some that I grow to love, and then there are dogs like Wade. When working with rescue dogs gets hard, when I can’t help every dog at risk of being euthanized and I start to be apathetic, I remember Wade.
Wade came to my attention as a rescue plea. He needed a private rescue to pull him within a week or he would be euthanized. The veterinarian at Animal Services didn’t feel comfortable handling him because of his fearful and growling behavior. Time is too limited for the medical staff to devote enough time to every scared dog that needs it. One of the staff members at Animal Services took enough time to get these pictures and Wade was posted as a rescue plea dog.
I saw a scared dog trying to defend himself against people who hadn’t yet won his trust in this scary place. I knew that Animal Services didn’t have the time that it would take to bring him out and gain his trust. I thought maybe I could do it, but I wanted a little help.
I contacted animal behaviorist Jon Wedemeyer, of North Florida K9 Behavior Center, and he agreed to come out and meet Wade with me.
Day 1: First Meeting: Wednesday, 2/27/19
Wade was calm but cautious when he came out to the play yard with Chris, one of the kennel techs. Wade tried to hide behind the Chris’s legs and kept his eyes warily on me. After a few minutes, Chris left Wade and I alone in the pen.
I ignored Wade at first. I strolled around the pen, picking up some poop. Wade stood by the fence and looked after Chris. Periodically, he glanced nervously over his shoulder at me.
Finally, Wade walked away from the fence for a bit and considered me. I went to the toy box and began rifling through. I could hear him coming closer, but I didn’t look at him. He sniffed cautiously towards the toys, then trotted away.
I stood up with a toy and moved away from him, then looked back and play bowed towards him, crouching and then springing away. He cocked his head, confused. I went back to the toy bin. He approached me and sniffed the toys as I took them out and piled them next to the box. Finally, I reached out and slowly started scratching his chest. He stiffened for an instant, then leaned into my touch and sniffed my ear.
He was responsive and cuddly after about half an hour more, and gave me licks on the chin and followed me around. By the time I left after being with him for a total of about two hours, he was leaning on me and following me. He let me pick up his paws, touch his ears, and look at his teeth.
Wade was playful and sweet with the dog in the next pen. Having another dog in the pen next to him made him more outgoing with me as well.
When Jon the behaviorist arrived, he had to go through the entire process of drawing Wade out again. It seems that once Wade decided he trusted someone, he was willing to trust that person but it didn’t necessarily sell him on anyone else. Wade hid behind me, circling me to keep me between him and Jon. Wade tolerated being handled and opened up some with Jon by the time he left.
Day 2: Wednesday, 2/28/19
Wade was clearly happy to see the shelter director and I the next day. He was affectionate and playful with me in the yard and didn’t mind me taking the slip lead on and off. I took him for a walk around the property. He walked very well on the leash and leaned on my leg when he was scared.
I took Wade back to the yard and played with him some more. I touched his paws, ears, and looked at his teeth. I picked him up and when he was set down he went off in zoomies around the yard.
I called the shelter director and met her in the parking lot to practice going in and out of the car. Wade jumped right in and sat there happily while I started the car. After that, we walked through the lobby, greeted some people and dogs nicely, and sat and waited our turn for the yard with the tub.
Wade didn’t mind being put in the tub, but he wasn’t thrilled when the water started. He fought to get out, but there was never an instant when he stiffened or gave me a look, much less growl.
After his bath, Wade had serious zoomies! He ran around and around, playing with toys and me and rolling in the grass. He exuded happiness. When another dog, an energetic pit mix named Jackson, came into the yard next door, Wade played with him through the fence and they both clearly wanted to get through the fence and play together.
After my second day with Wade, spending about six hours with him, and doing everything that I’d need to do with my own dog, I felt confident enough to take him home.
Day 3: Thursday 2/29/19
Second Chance Rescue, an amazing organization that saves dogs that would otherwise be euthanized, agreed to take Wade if I would foster him. Paperwork was started and Wade was moved off the euthanasia list.
That’s how it came to be that Wade was saved. He ended up staying at animal services, since his behavior was so greatly improved. This sweet boy just needed some time to open up. He became playful and affectionate with the staff and friendly with strangers. Staff was relieved to change his status to adoptable.
It only took a week for Wade to show himself to be a highly adoptable, wonderful dog, which is good, because that’s how long he had. If only there were more kennels available and more volunteers to help at the shelter, more dogs like Wade would have a chance.
The dedicated staff at Animal Services work their tails off to save every dog, but there are simply not enough kennels for all of the dogs. Every dog that goes into a foster home or that gets adopted makes room for a shy dog like Wade to take the time that he needs to open up.
3/14/18 Day Out
I took Wade for a day out from ACAS. He did great, hanging out calmly while I ate my salad and worked. He loved running in zoomies around the yard and playing with rope toys.
He didn’t seem to mind going back either though. This laid back, playful fellow is pretty ok with anything. He isn’t used to those jangly tags around his neck though! He’s pretty sure those are for playing.
Wade was adopted by roommates who had a big, boisterous pit girl already. The woman had mobility challenges, but hoped that Wade would be calm enough for her to handle.
Unfortunately, Wade’s new family couldn’t handle the energy with two active large dogs in the household. They were also having a hard time with potty training. I spoke with the family throughout the time that Wade was away, and soon realized that they were going to return him.
Wade was happy to see me and the staff at ACAS, especially his favorite tech, Chris, but I could tell that he missed his family. He paced and paced in the yard, looking back for them. I couldn’t distract him or console him.
I felt so guilty as I led him back to his kennel. He stared up at me with his trusting expression, asking with his eyes, “What’s happening?”
Wade didn’t have long to wait for a new home. A young couple saw me playing with him in the yard during the 2nd Annual Artwalk. They hadn’t noticed him when they walked down the rows, but when they saw him playing they liked him.
This is so often the case. A dog fails to stand out in the kennel but steals hearts in the play pen. This is especially true with brindle and black bully dogs, who seem to blend into the crowd.
Wade seemed very happy to go home with his new family. They’ll have the energy to keep up with him and don’t mind working on his potty training.
Wade is the sort of success story that keeps me loving what I do. I am so proud to be part of a volunteer community and Animal Services that works so hard to give even the challenging dogs a chance.