Written by Marcia Hale of Oregon
One day, an email from a local animal welfare group appeared in my mailbox pleading for someone to consider fostering “Chicken Dog.” The picture attached was of a frightened, long-haired reddish shepherd mix dog. “Chicken Dog” was at the local Humane Society and her time was running out. She’d been picked up three months before but had made no improvements in her socialization skills. She cowered, shook whenever someone came near and avoided eye contact with everyone and everything. She was deemed unadoptable.
The story shared by the rescue group was that “Chicken Dog” had been rescued a year before from a hoarding situation. Her mother and other two siblings all lived in a large dog crate up to 20 or more hours per day. When rescued, the “puppies” were around 9 or 10 months old, which meant that four 50 pound dogs were in one large crate. She gained her name because as she rode away from the hoarders on the lap of one of the rescue crew, she would not stop shaking. She was afraid of everything then, just as she was now. She escaped from her foster home within minutes of being placed and had been on the run for a year.
I Went to the Shelter to Meet Chicken Dog
I had rescued another older dog and felt my dog, who loved everyone, would enjoy having company. So I headed to the shelter to meet “Chicken Dog.” I went to her kennel, at the end of a long run, surrounded on all sides by loud, barking, jumping dogs. Chicken was all alone and cowering in the corner. If she could have evaporated into the air, I’m sure she would have. I quietly let myself in and she immediately tried to squeeze herself as small as possible, hugging the back of the cage. I sat down just inside the door. I talked quietly to her, didn’t look at her. Every few minutes I quietly slid my body a little closer. It took about half an hour to scoot the 6 feet or so to be within arm’s length of her. When I could reach her, I gently touched her fur with my fingertips. Another few minutes and I was able to put my hand on her shoulder. She was shaking so much I just wanted to hug her and tell her it was okay. Finally after another few minutes I slipped a leash around her neck and got up. She didn’t fight, she just seemed to limply acknowledge that I “had” her. I led her out to the fenced yard where she let me pet her, sort of. Mostly she spent time trying to find a way to escape. I determined that I could not leave her to die and clearly no one was going to take her unless they knew what they were doing. I wasn’t sure I knew what I was doing, but I knew I was at least willing to try.
The next day I brought my dog Wren to meet her. Wren loved everyone and must have said Chicken should trust us, because Chicken calmed down a little. We agreed to adopt Chicken and were told to come back the next day to finalize everything. When we picked her up, we were told that she had a vicious streak and had frightened the vet techs when they tried to microchip her. All I could see was a lonely dog who was desperate to get out of the pound. She reluctantly got into the car and we headed home.
Once home, she and Wren explored the big backyard together. They had one territorial dispute, which Wren quickly resolved with a quick nip. Since I had the lovely Wren, I decided that Chicken was not a good bird name for this sweet dog so I renamed her Robin as her coloring, deep copper red with black and gold highlights and a touch of white here and there looked like the coloring of a robin. She was so beautiful, and as it turned out a Rhodesian Ridgeback/Australian Shepherd mix. She always has a slightly “bad hair” day along her backbone where the distinctive whorls found on the ridgebacks are even more pronounced with her longer hair.
I’m not sure if Wren clued her in to her good fortune or if she trusted me because I patiently introduced myself to her, but she quickly became “my” dog. She still does not warm up to people, especially if I am in the room, she sticks right by me never taking her eyes off of “her person.” She remains shy, but with me she is animated, playful, and without a doubt, one of the sweetest dogs I have ever had. Robin is nearly 13 years old now, she’s a little slower, doesn’t see as well as she once did, but is still my shadow.
Wren passed away peacefully in her dog bed several years ago, Robin nearby. I’ve experienced some pretty heavy ups and downs over the last few years, but my constant joy and support has come from my sweet Robin. I am forever grateful for opening that email so many years ago and deciding to take a chance on a “chicken” dog. I am also grateful that her original rescuers recognized her on the humane society’s website and put the word out that she needed help.
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