Editorial August 2012 Issue

What It Takes

The gratification of finding a home for a shelter dog.

Back in May, I wrote a blog post on Whole Dog Journal’s website (wholedogjournal.com/blog) about a little dog named Mickey. He was surrendered to the shelter where I volunteer in June 2011; his age was estimated at 5 months. He’s a strange-looking, high-energy mixed breed dog with a docked tail and floppy ears; at admission, the shelter staff guessed he was a Pug/Chihuahua-mix, but as Mickey matured, his legs grew and grew. Today my guess would be a Chihuahua/Fox Terrier-mix. He’s so unusual-looking, and so bouncy, that it took a full six months to find someone to adopt the little guy – and the adoption lasted just three months. To the dismay of the shelter staff, he was returned to the shelter at the end of March; the stated reason was that the owner’s original dog was picking on Mickey unmercifully.

Nancy Kerns

In early May, my shelter participated in an Adopt-a-Thon, with extended hours and lowered adoption fees. I decided to make a mission out of getting Mickey adopted that weekend. I went to the shelter every day for a week, and worked with Mickey on one thing: sit. He’s so frenetic that it puts people off. Few people are willing to look past that bouncy desperation in the shelter kennels and take him outdoors to the exercise yards, where they can get a better idea of what he’s really like. I thought that if I could teach him to offer a sit behind the kennel gate instead, maybe someone would give him a second look.

It didn’t work. I mean, I succeeded in teaching him to offer a sit when you looked at him – which impressed the shelter staff, who regarded him as a short-attention-span-nutjob – but nobody took the bait.

May and June were busy for me, and I wasn’t able to get to the shelter much. In late June, however, I organized an orientation for prospective shelter volunteers, and made several visits to the shelter to prepare. As it happened, I walked through the adoption kennels and chanced to see Mickey. I hadn’t seen him since the Adopt-a-Thon two months prior, and was saddened to see him still in the shelter. But he wasn’t sad to see me! He leaped about barking for a moment, as he always has, but suddenly he recognized me – and he sat. And held that sit, wiggling but solid.

I practically burst into tears. What a good dog! What a smart boy! What self-control! I had to make finding a home for Mickey my mission again.

A couple days later, I was making a planned trip to the Bay Area, and spontaneously decided to bring Mickey with me. I figured I would to introduce him to anyone and everyone I knew in my former home town, in hopes of finding someone who might be looking for an odd-looking, high-energy, but whip-smart little dog. Happily, one of my friends and her family fell in love with Mickey. They needed some time to prepare their home for the arrival of a second dog, so I brought Mickey home with me for a week or so, until I could deliver him to them again.

It’s hard to imagine why this dog has been up for adoption for almost a year when he’s so sweet, smart, and quick to learn. He’s been a good guest, and has learned all sorts of good manners behaviors (waiting at doors, not jumping on laps unless invited, no barking at passers-by). He’s added “down” to his repertoire of offered behaviors. But I’m overjoyed to see him go to a great home – and determined not to (somehow) let any other shelter ward languish in those kennels so long. Best of luck, Mickey!

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