Her luck was running out. His luck was starting out bad. Their paths were never meant to cross but they did, in a place made for second chances. She taught him how to live and he brought purpose back to her life.
Sound like a romance novel? I think so too, but it actually describes a wonderful encounter this week at our Center with an easy going senior female dog and a shy, shut down male puppy. Here’s their story.
A young stray dog, maybe three or four months old, was caught in a trap set by Anniston Animal Control. The county shelter was full, so it stayed in a kennel out back while the officer searched for some organization to take this mostly feral and completely terrified animal. The League for Animal Welfare agreed sight unseen to take it in and try to help. They named it Lucky, but he seemed anything but. He cowered in the back of his cage and snapped at anyone who tried to pick him up. Although still a puppy, he was large, some type of hound or terrier mixed with something huge, like Dalmatian or St. Bernard. Refusing to make eye contact, he curled up in a corner and pushed his head against the wall. When it was the League’s turn to send dogs to Encore in early March, they asked us if they could include Lucky and see if we could do anything to help. We worked with him for a week and made the slightest bit of progress, but no real breakthrough, and then it was time for new dogs from Calhoun County.
Enter Carly, a Catahoula Leopard Dog/lab mix, dropped off as a puppy in 2008 at the Animal Shelter on Parkwood – now the Calhoun County Humane Society. We’ll never know what dogs are thinking or if they have hopes and dreams. But Carly probably wanted someone to adopt her, as she saw people walk through the shelter looking for their next pet to brighten their lives and their homes. She loves people and can’t get enough of petting and belly rubs, and she’s smart enough to realize that overworked shelter staff can’t spend lots of time giving her that kind of attention. So she probably watched and waited and wondered why she, a large, brown and black dog in a sea of other dogs, never got chosen. Months turned to years. Arthritis crept into her hind legs and she put on a few extra pounds that she didn’t really need. She became a large, brown and black, senior dog and her chances for adoption or rescue have grown even smaller. If dogs can think, Carly probably thinks she is a “lifer” and the kind but busy shelter workers and the utilitarian kennel with concrete floor is as good as it is going to get. When it was Calhoun County’s turn to send some dogs to us at the Encore Enrichment Center in mid-March, they included Carly on the list so she could get a break and some exercise and just maybe some visibility to let people know what a great dog she is. What no one anticipated is how much Carly would help a young dog in real need.
Our small staff at Encore talked a lot about Lucky when he went back to the League after his time here. We didn’t want to go another two weeks before he came back, as he would probably regress. And he seemed so depressed, we knew it would be better if he could continue to have some specialized attention. So while we normally bring in four dogs for training, we brought in five the week of March 12. We had Carly, Astro, Beans and Abbey from Calhoun, and picked up Lucky from the League as well.
With each new group of dogs at Encore, we conduct an evaluation on Day 1 to learn more about their temperament and behaviors. It helps us plan what activities to focus on to help them do their best while they are here. We noted what a delightful senior dog Carly was, with a constantly wagging tail and goofy trot. She will plop down with great joy when someone pets her and expose that chunky belly for a well deserved rub. She seemed calm around the other dogs and comfortable in her new surroundings.
Contrast that with Lucky, who even when outside in the yard just ran in panic to a corner of the fence and lay down. He wouldn’t walk around at all, inside or out, and his front paws were starting to show signs of muscle weakness from lack of exercise to build strength in those growing limbs. At our staff meeting that day Tom suggested to Charley and me that we let Carly and Lucky meet to see if it could spark some light in Lucky’s dull eyes.
We brought Carly out on leash to the smaller section of fenced play yard where Lucky was cowering. She lumbered up to the pup, showing some interest and giving it some sniffs. Then she found something more interesting to sniff on the ground and walked away.
Lucky looked at Carly, and it was as if the clouds just lifted. He stood up, and quickly followed her. She sniffed the ground. He sniffed the ground. She walked the fence line. He walked the fence line. She peed. He smelled her pee. For the first time, his jaws opened in a smile and his eyes lit up as he looked at his new best friend. And Carly was so patient! She nuzzled him at times, and ignored him at others so she could walk up to Charley for petting and treats. Lucky watched her and he started to walk up to Charley, too. It was a real breakthrough for him to approach people and take food from them.
Thanks to Carly, Lucky is learning behaviors that should help him overcome his fear of people and places. He has a long way to go. But we are very encouraged that with time, patience, and support from a well balanced easy going dog, he will find his way to a safe and loving forever home and family.
And Carly? Well, we don’t know if Lucky’s luck will rub off on her enough to find a family to adopt her and care for her in her last few years. She paid it forward by helping a young pup. Time will tell if someone will pay her back.
Carly and other great dogs are available for adoption at the Calhoun County Humane Society, FB page @CalhounCountyHumaneSocietyAL.
Lucky is not ready for adoption yet but will be soon at the League for Animal Welfare, along with other wonderful dogs.
At Encore Enrichment Center, we work with shelter dogs to make them more adoptable. We love what we do and look forward every day to helping dogs overcome issues and become great family pets. If you’d like to help, we could use donations of any amount. Donations help pay the bills and buy treats, toys and equipment. Please check out our Donate Page on our web site, www.encoreenrichmentcenter.org