Learning to trust again isn't really hard...it's finding a person
with enough patience to teach you. Sarah Thorpe
Scooter (a.k.a. Rotor, Rewind, Buddy)
We all love to see the “happily ever after” Facebook photos of our adorable animals going home with their new forever families. Cookie's (now Kookie) adoption photo below is a great example. But, sometimes, it takes a heroic effort to help an animal who is traumatized by his or her past to be able to have that same happy day.
We are ever grateful for the dedicated and thoughtful staff and volunteers who go the extra mile to help our most distressed animals. Ron Chrisman is one of those people. He is a long-time volunteer who works with our most challenging dogs. He also trains puppies for Guide Dogs for the Blind so he has quite a wealth of experience in working with dogs.
Here is a heartwarming story, in Ron’s words, of one troubled shelter dog who was lucky enough to benefit from Ron’s experience, patience, and compassion.
I first noticed Rotor at the Upland Animal Shelter in January. He was severely disturbed. Initially, he was unapproachable, constantly trembling while huddled tightly in a corner underneath the water bowl.
Any attempt to reach for him was met with snarling, growling, and snapping at the approaching hand. The mere touch of a leash anywhere on his body caused him to cower, shrink away, and bite.
Shelley Foglesong, the Interim Shelter Manager, called and asked if I'd work with him. I began working with him to build trust and confidence. He wanted no part of it, but in time became tolerant of my advances. For a long time, I was the only one who could touch him. As he slowly started to respond, other experienced volunteers joined in the process, and he came to accept their touch also.
After working with him for a few weeks, I decided to change his name to "Rewind" because that was a way of associating him with my efforts to transform and makeover his inner self. He was my "reclamation project."
During this time, Rick Belmonte, one of the shelter’s professional dog trainers, also noted his progress (limited though it was) and encouraged me to continue to push him to his limits. As Rewind and I began to make more progress, it became apparent to me that the kennel environment was not the best situation in which to achieve success in reshaping his psyche.
We had reached a plateau, he was not making any more progress, yet he was not yet deemed to be adoptable. He still demonstrated that "flight or fight" behavior, even when approached by familiar humans. I felt the best hope to reach "adoptable" status would be to work with him outside of the kennel/shelter environment.
My request to give it a try in my home was granted. Within a couple of days at home, he started to blossom and come out of his dark past. With the help of my Lab pup, he began to learn what it is like to be a dog, and how to interact with both humans and dogs. In this loving, but regimented home environment, he began to develop trust as well as confidence.
He quickly learned how to play interactively, eat regular meals, rest comfortably in an X-Pen, and to sleep quietly in a crate all night long. He became curious and enjoyed exploring both in the house and in the yard. His confidence started to soar.
He earned freedom to roam throughout the home and would often hop onto a chair, couch, or bed to curl up for a nap in the sun. Visitors would come by and he often chose to interact with them too.
While at he was at the shelter, a lady named Gina sat outside his kennel and visited him almost daily. It was Gina's daughter that found the stray dog and brought him to the Shelter. Gina asked to adopt him, and was told that she'd need to wait until he was "ready". She thought about naming him "Max", but then decided on "Buddy".
After nearly two weeks in our home, he made enough progress to be considered fit for adoption. We had a successful “meet and greet” with Gina, her husband, and their dog in our home. Gina finalized the adoption the next day and I took him to be neutered the following day.
After one more day in our home to recover, Gina picked up Buddy and took him to his new permanent home, where she renamed him "Scooter". He is aptly named because now he "scoots" everywhere instead of hunkering down and shivering in a corner. Everyone is happy!
My intent was to find the best method for achieving the successful rehabilitation of this severely troubled dog. The in-home experience worked well in this particular case. Whether fostering, rehabilitating, or just socializing the shelter animals, it is always extremely rewarding to be a small part of a truly wholesome outcome for these wonderful creatures. Despite the memories of his difficult past, whatever it may have been, I'm confident that he's on his way to a full and happy life with a very loving family.
As you can see, Ron went the extra mile for Scooter and is a hero many times over in our eyes. We've witnessed Ron's firm but gentle touch on many challenging dogs who may not have been adoptable without his efforts to socialize them. He is a remarkable volunteer and we thank him for everything he does for Friends of Upland Animal Shelter and all the dogs who come through the shelter.
After Scooter’s adoption, we got a note from Gina:
I have to thank the staff for making this possible, Shelley, Cam, Carrie, Josh, Arlene, Alex, Peggy and Josh, plus the entire staff. The person that made this a reality is Ron Chrisman who worked countless hours and fostered Scooter and allowed my husband and me to visit him at his home. Ron and his wife, Shirley, gave this little guy a chance and really worked with him at the shelter and changed this little guy’s outlook on life. Now Scooter has a forever home and we are truly blessed to have him in our family. Thank you, Friends of Upland Animal Shelter, for truly caring for these animals.
Scooter's Happily Ever After Photo with Gina
Thank you Gina for giving Scooter the time and patience he needed to “shake off” his past and for giving him a wonderful, forever home. We are truly grateful and happy for all of you.
Because we know some of our dogs would benefit from being in a home environment rather than the shelter, we are expanding our foster program to include adult dogs. For more information about fostering, please call Jessica Lopez, Shelter Operations Manager, at (909) 931-4363 or send an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org.