Written by Paula Ford of North Carolina
It has been almost two years since I received an email plea for help with six dogs who had been dumped by a rescue organization at a home. These animals had been at this home for three months without having received any veterinary care, socialization, or training and had learned how to escape the yard in search of social interaction and food. Neighbors had made numerous complaints with local Animal Control and the email I received had news that without intervention, Animal Control would be on site the following day to seize the dogs from the home. Did I mention that I was in my car, heading out of town for the weekend, and this situation was occurring about four hours from where I live?
I was determined that the reckless and irresponsible “rescue” of these dogs by a rescue group was not going to result in their inevitable death should they be seized by Animal Control. After many calls by myself and others, we had four of the dogs spoken for by other rescue groups, but two dogs remained without rescue. The decision to personally rescue the last two remaining dogs was an easy one, although I already had four rescued dogs at home. Without rescue, one of the dogs — Wilson — would surely have been labeled “feral” and euthanized right away due to his fear aggression. This decision proved to be one of the best, yet most challenging rescue decisions I’d ever made.
When I went to pick up the dogs the next morning, one of them (Shadow) was fairly social and would allow human touch; the other one (Wilson) really was all but feral. After quite some time of trying to get close to him, he had to be cornered and given no place to run except into a crate. These two dogs were very underweight and had numerous parasitic infections, as well as conjunctivitis, that would have to be treated.
After weeks of receiving treatment, their health was improving and they had started to gain weight, but Wilson (re-named Peanut) was still unapproachable. We slowly introduced our four dogs to Shadow and Peanut who watched closely, and with curiosity, as we interacted with our dogs, playing and training in the backyard. We never tried to overtly interact with Peanut, choosing instead to allow him to warm up in his own time. We would talk to him but never reach out for him to try to catch him or look directly into his eyes. It took several months, but Peanut finally decided that we were safe and he began to cautiously approach us.
The Dogs Showed Peanut How To Trust
Almost two years later, Peanut still has “spooky” days when he shies away from an outstretched hand and he is still extremely leash reactive, but most of the time he is playful, interactive and loving with us. I credit my “core four” dogs with the majority of Peanut’s progress, as they showed him it was safe to be touched by us. We had to meet Peanut at his comfort level and agree to his terms of interaction, rather than trying to prove to him that we were safe. (More Photos Here)
Peanut now loves to snuggle up next to me on the couch for a nap and is the picture of health. Shadow and Peanut are integral members of our family and our pack, and they have taught this rescuer a great deal about rehabilitation of nearly feral dogs. Peanut has made more progress than I ever really thought possible and is a testament to the ability of dogs to learn to trust again. He teaches us daily that trust can be re-learned and that forgiveness is possible. While I physically rescued Peanut and Shadow, our own dogs were the real rescuers here, as they taught Peanut and Shadow to trust again.