A lot can happen in a week. The Dodgers won big and made it to the World Series. I ate big and gained two pounds. Most importantly though, the two dogs I wrote about last week won even bigger since my column ran. Fasten your emotional seatbelts, and get ready for some serious feels – because I have two pieces of great news to share with you!
Remember Stan, the beautiful, yet incredibly shy German Shepherd mix I wrote about? Guess what? He finally found a home! But not just any home. Stan hit the pet-lovin’ jackpot with this family for sure.
When Stan’s new mom heard about him, she decided to come visit him at the shelter. He seemed completely terrified and wouldn’t come out of his den. So, she met with Izzy, one of our adoptions counselors to see if Stan could come out of the kennel for a little social time. Izzy told her that Stan was so shy and uncertain, he wouldn’t follow on a leash – and had to be carried from point A to point B. He hadn’t been bathed in a while because he was too fearful to be safely groomed.
After hearing how fearful of people he was, this wonderful woman decided she’d approach Stan more slowly and let him get used to her over time. She came to visit him every day for the next four days, standing outside his kennel softly talking to him and trying to put him at ease.
Finally, Izzy worked it out to let them visit Stan inside the kennel. Still afraid, but genuinely curious, gentle Stan’s soulful eyes met theirs…and from that moment, it was love. Absolute, soul-soaring love. They adopted Stan, and took him home where they sat him down and just talked him. For hours and hours. They talked to him, patiently letting him get used to their presence, tone of voice, and reassuring encouragement. Slowly but surely, he let his guard down more and more, and even let them give him a bath!
By day 2, he was eating well and exploring the yard. Despite still being fearful of loud noises or cars passing, he’s come a long way in trusting his new family and building confidence.
While at the shelter, no one ever saw him without his tail between his legs. For the first time in months (perhaps even longer), Stan is wagging his tail. The email his new family sent us detailing his progress had our staff in tears. To know he’s had such a dramatic improvement in less than a week is amazing – and a wonderful reminder that there are good, earnest and caring people out there willing to take on the responsibility of a pet who may need a little extra love and patience to thrive.
Stan found that. Along with his fabulous life makeover last week, he got a new name too. Now he is known as Marley.
And he is loved.
Stan isn’t the only one who had a dramatic improvement last week. Norman, the dapper Lab/Pitbull mix whose stress level at the shelter was causing him to lose his appetite is now being fostered by one of our staff members, Joan.
When I wrote about Norman the first time a week ago, things were not looking good for his health. He wasn’t eating, and his weight loss was getting to a critical stage. If we didn’t get him eating within a couple of days, he’d quite literally starve himself to death.
Joan stepped in and offered to foster him for a week or two temporarily to see if getting him out of the shelter and into a home environment would somehow eliminate his stress and stimulate his appetite. If that worked, it would buy us some more time to find a more long-term foster situation so that Norman could build more confidence, get his weight back to normal, and have a better chance at adoption.
I’ll be honest. None of us were very confident it would work. In fact, we sort of expected that it wouldn’t. But that wasn’t going to stop us from trying.
So, Joan has been taking him home with her at night after work, and during the day he hangs out in other staff member’s offices where he gets more interaction with people and a quieter environment away from the kennels. She’s even sent daily update emails to the staff and volunteers to keep everyone informed about his progress.
A few things happened very quickly after Joan stepped in to foster him. The first, and probably most important, he started eating. Within 4 days, he had gained a steady 5 lbs. We figured out that when he’s around people and feeling safe and stimulated, he actually loves to eat!
We also figured out that he bonds well with people. In fact, he’s what we call a “Velcro dog.” Because he would love nothing more than to be velcro’d to a person’s side, content to just be quietly nearby. So much so, Joan has taken him with her to run errands around town, and he loves every bit of it! He’s been to the pet store, sat quietly in the lobby to wait for a car oil change, had lunch at a trendy vegan restaurant – a perfect gentleman the whole time.
Not only did we figure out that being with people gets his appetite back, but in the process, we learned just how great he is as a companion animal. He’s going to make an awesome pet to someone at some point, and thanks to Joan (and all the other staff members and volunteers who have helped in the process), he is on his way to beating doggy-anorexia.
A lot can happen in a week. For a homeless animal that is scared, stressed, and uncertain, a week in loud shelter can be jarring and traumatizing. Animals are beautifully resilient, though. So for dogs like Marley and Norman, a week of just being loved is all it takes to move on from trauma to do what they do best: live in the moment with pure joy and gratitude.