As I was napping this past Saturday, my phone dinged.
I looked over and saw that the message was from a recent adopter who had chosen one of our long time shelter dogs (against my better judgement).
I was biased in this situation because this particular dog is one of my favorites.
Boomer used to have a DANGER sign hanging from his kennel, and everybody tiptoed around him.
When I first started volunteering at the shelter, I did the same...
until I saw our former president lean down at his kennel to pet him.
His response to her made me stop in my tracks.
His butt started wiggling from side to side, and that tail was going 90 to nothing.
His ears relaxed and his eyes softened. She reached in his kennel, and he kissed her hands.
She knelt down and whispered soft, gentle murmurs to him about what a good boy he was and how much she cared for him.
As she stood up to move to another kennel, Boomer stuck his paw through his kennel at her as if to say, "Wait, don't leave just yet...please Mrs. Debbie...just one more kiss."
I've been around dogs my entire life. I've never been frightened of them, but I do know there's a certain amount of mutual respect involved in a canine/human relationship. I own a 106 lb. German Shepherd as well, so I think I'm pretty experienced.
Growling and snarling are warnings. They are not signs of a "bad dog."
The dog is communicating with you that he/she is not comfortable and you are moving too close too fast.
But, when I saw Boomer communicating with Debbie in a very different way, I decided then and there that I would also earn his respect.
I respected Boomer.
I listened and responded patiently to his cues.
It took some time, but I did it.
However, Boomer is still a dog who needs special handling. Anyone new to the shelter has to earn his trust. He's not aggressive, just scared to death.
"Was that thunder??"
I was out of town when his adoption took place.
I didn't know about it until all was said and done.
I called the family and talked with them about Boomer, his needs, his behaviors in the past, his likes and dislikes, my success and failures with him, etc. I wanted them to have full disclosure.
They kept him for 5 days.
I met the mom at the shelter 30 minutes after she messaged me.
They tied Boomer outside. (Against our adoption policy)
He had gotten tangled in the tie and bit the dad when he tried to untangle him.
I listened to the mom's story, asked lots of questions to help us continue to work with Boomer, gave her an adoption refund, and thanked her for returning him to us.
After she drove away, my youngest and I gave Boomer lots of love, kisses, hands-on time with plenty of bacon treats.
Then, we took him out to the yard so he could run around and re-mark everything.
"I'm back suckas!"
"Hi, Mom. I missed you."