This page is dedicated to sharing stories of dogs that with help of a dedicated owner was able to make it through a hardship; such as struggling with aggression or ending up in a shelter. In my line of work I get see amazing success stories everyday. When owners take the time to understand their dogs needs any dog will have an opportunity to blossom.
While there are inevitability road bumps along the way with raising any dog these stories are here to remind you that success is possible.
We also welcome story submissions!
“Zoey’s” story a rescue with separation anxiety-sent to us by her foster mom Megan.
“Zoey was my first foster dog with Chihuahua & Small Dog Rescue in Colorado. For her first couple months in the rescue she had been with a different foster home who adored her but were struggling with just one thing that kept Zoey from being adoptable: separation anxiety. They did not leave her alone, ever, in order to prevent her from panicking. Her first couple weeks with us we made some progress but it was slow going. Any time she was left alone she would panic. Then I left town for a long weekend and despite my husband being home, Zoey was inconsolable the entire weekend. Zoey was not experiencing just isolation distress, but separation anxiety linked to one specific person (in this case, me) and it didn’t matter if there were other people, pets, or distractions for her. If I was not with her, she panicked. When I returned home she had rubbed most of the fur off the side of her nose from biting at the crate bars and after recording her behavior during an absence she was definitely at risk of breaking her teeth out. Any dog who is so anxious the are hurting themselves it’s worth talking to a veterinarian, or better yet a veterinary behaviorist, about medication. I spoke to the rescue director and we agreed to talk to the vet.
Zoey was started on two anxiety medications, one of which was fast acting but didn’t stay in her system very long, and the other which would take 4-6 weeks to fully take effect and would stay in her system to provide a constant benefit. Over the following weeks she remained her fun, sweet self without being groggy or loopy at all but the anxiety was dwindling significantly. After a few weeks I recorded another absence. While she was still anxious there was a very noticeable improvement. Previously she was latched onto the bars, yanking, barking constantly, panting hard, and seeking escape within minutes of being alone. Now she was still barking and panting but it was intermittent, she was taking short breaks and resting, and she didn’t put her teeth on the bars- and this was before the longterm meds and fully kicked in! She was taken off the short term meds after another week or so, which were then only given rarely (less than once a week, if that) as a “boost” if we were going to be gone for longer periods of time. After she had been on her medication for about 2 months she was doing so well that she became available for adoption.
I swapped Zoey back to the rescue director so that she could attend every adoption event. Zoey adjusted very well to staying with the rescue director and over the next couple months as we waited for the right family for her, she was gradually weaned off her meds. In Zoey’s case it seemed that the meds were like a reset button in a way, allowing the training to take hold much more quickly and allowing her to relax enough to realize that it was ok to be alone sometimes. She did find the right family for her who understood her separation anxiety and the progress made, and she is completely weaned off her meds and doing great the last I heard.”
“Chance” the Thera- Pit – sent to us by his two legged guardian Marla.
“Chance lives with our family in Lakewood, Colorado along with another pit bull named Willow. We have been a therapy team for almost four years. Due to living in a state with some of the most stringent BSL laws currently in place, I have devoted my advocacy efforts to educating the public and providing community outreach to other therapy teams that would like to utilize pit bulls. This involves being a resource for anyone with pit bull related questions, therapy or otherwise. I believe that having Chance out in the community as a breed ambassador is the most effective way to change people’s perceptions of pit bull type dogs. We continue to try and change people’s minds one visit at a time while providing comfort, joy and healing utilizing the incredible human animal bond.
Chance came into our family by accident. We had just suffered the loss of our dog Cisco, who had been a wonderful support to our female pit bull, Willow. Willow is deaf and relied on Cisco to help support her with cues in the environment. Willow was devastated at the loss of her companion. A shelter volunteer arranged some play dates for Willow at her home near the shelter. We were not ready to adopt another dog, but wanted Willow to continue to have some socialization. Chance had been at the shelter for two weeks and desperately needed a break from that environment. He had been picked up as a stray and was very nervous at the shelter. The volunteer received permission to bring Chance to our home for a visit, and he and Willow played nonstop until they were both exhausted. As the volunteer loaded Chance into the car he kissed her on her cheek, and I happened to see it. The rest, is history.
Once Chance joined our family, we wondered if we had made a mistake. He was unruly, and he and Willow wrestled, played, chased, chewed, and tackled each other constantly. Chance was not neutered and had no previous training. He loved to chase the kids, and destroy furniture. So, how did I know he was supposed to do therapy work? He told me. Anytime anyone on our home feels sad, feels alone, or is sick, Chance is right there. He is incredibly eager to please, and a whispered call of his name has him kissing you. A gentle touch of your hand, and he melts into you. A tear gets you a goofy smile that lights up the room and an “I love you” can make a whip out of his tail. Our journey to therapy work was one of the most difficult paths to follow. We needed help, training and support. Chance started with group obedience, which was very distracting and difficult for him. We had him paired with me in a class that was just too large. We realized it and moved toward more individualized training. He needed work on focus, understanding, and especially being around other dogs. We eventually moved on to a Canine Good Citizen class, which was especially helpful as it really taught us how to work as a team. From there we did a therapy dog class and learned a bit more about the things we needed continued work on. We then passed our Pet Partners therapy evaluation and went on to also pass the Alliance of Therapy Dogs evaluation.
When Chance was a new therapy dog I realized that he really loved children. We have a school in our neighborhood that is diverse and has a variety of needs from special to socio-emotional. I arranged to begin visiting there and went twice. After two very encouraging visits I received an email stating that we would have to discontinue our visits due to the fact that several parents were uncomfortable with a “pit bull” at the school. This solidified my resolve to continue to show Chance in a positive light. Our visits are sometimes different than other therapy dog teams. We often answer questions about pit bulls. I frequently hear things like “ it is all about how you raise them.” I try to educate as much as possible, since how they are raised is not necessarily the defining factor. If that were the case, none of our stray or abused pit bulls would be able to be rehabilitated. There have been other instances when people have not wanted to interact with Chance based upon how he looks. Our mission is to continue to spread the word about pit bulls, Chance is a true representation of what pit bull type dogs are meant to be, so we love acting as ambassadors. I hope to continue to help decrease the negative stereotypes surrounding these wonderful dogs, and in the process eradicate BSL. We were fortunate to land at a school that unconditionally accepted Chance, regardless of what he looks like. They were able to see past his appearance to who he truly is, which is a loving family member. We visited there for two years until the school closed and have now found another school that accepts him for who he is. I feel blessed that he can continue his work with children.
As a guardian of a pit bull we have to work harder to be responsible to help overcome negative ideas, thoughts and stereotypes. In terms of therapy work it can be more difficult to find places to visit with our dogs. Some facilities will now allow us, but others scrutinize us more harshly than others. The best advice I can give is stay with it, never act disrespectfully, and always try to share the positives. Not only about your dog, but the “breed” in general. Most of all, let your dog do the work. Pit bulls are incredibly loving by nature. They often will win someone over without me doing anything at all.”