When I first met lil man Tyco Brown at the shelter, he was very nervous and tried to hide in the corner of his kennel. He’d scoot himself back as far as possible, but at the same time he kept extending his paw out at me, trying to make contact. Once I got him out of the kennel and spent some time with him I could tell he was a lover. He had such a sweet and friendly disposition, but was utterly scared of the world. I scooped him up and took him home to foster.
For the first 24 hours after arriving home, Ty pretty much ran around and cried. Whether he was sitting on my lap (or shoulder), wandering around from room to room, or chilling in a bed…he cried. He was pretty much terrified of the dogs and would run away anytime they approached him. He shivered, tried to melt into the walls, and, you guessed it…he cried. I finally got him to settle down a bit by putting a Thunder Shirt on and hugging him close to me. I could feel his tension and anxiety fade away as his lil body began to relax. He gave a heavy sigh and fell asleep in my arms.
Whenever I bring a needy foster home, I try to balance what their actual needs are with what they can/should be doing on their own. What does this mean? For Ty it meant not treating him like he was a baby. He needed to learn how to navigate through life with a brave face. If I were to constantly cuddle, coddle, and generally treat him as if he were an infant…he wouldn’t learn a damn thing. So rather than walk around with him in my arms, all tucked away and safe from the scary world (as he surely wanted me to do) I had him learn about life by being right smack dab in the middle of it.
Instead of picking Tyco up every time he cried, or letting him hide in my lap when he was scared, I got simply got up and walked around the house with him. This is my usual routine with ‘scaredy cat’ dogs. He’d happily follow me into each room and, once there, would stare up at me in his adorable way wondering what the heck I was doing. He’d look around the room then gaze at me and let a small whimper out. I continued this routine for a while and eventually he started exploring on his on…no more staring contests, no more endless crying.
He became more curious and confident with each passing day and I made sure to give Tyco a ton of praise and affection for his brave behavior. I played tug of war and fetch with his favorite toys, danced on the couch to oldies music, explored the yard with him and discovered all sorts of smells, introduced him to neighbors, and at the end of the day there were lots of kisses and snuggles. Tyco was becoming a more playful, happy guy and figuring out that the world wasn’t so scary after all.
I have to give credit where credit is due and I owe a lot of it to my pack. Tyco learned to be a dog in a lot of ways by simply being around other dogs, as has been the case so many times with other fosters. While he was still very nervous around them, just being in a pack…eating/sleeping/walking with them, watching them play, observing them interact with me…has helped him out tremendously. And even though he’d shy away from them if they approached him, I caught a hint of inquisitive behavior on occasion and had a feeling he’d be warming up to them soon.
And, well, that’s exactly what happened this week. It started out with him cautiously following them around, then allowing them to check him out. Soon he was snuggling up with them in the dogs beds. And finally, this…
I have had so many fosters just like Tyco. Scared, anxious, unhappy dogs who are living life in an awkward way. But if you usea handful of love, a sprinkle of patience, and a dab of devotion, you have the recipe for helping them become the brave beings they were born to be. I have been lucky to witness this amazing transformation many times, and never grow tired of of seeing it. It is one of the most fantastic & rewarding experiences I get out of fostering, and one of the reasons I continue to do it, even when my plate is overwhelmingly full.
Tyco is just one example of the many incredible dogs (and cats) that come through the shelter system. All of them are deserving of a chance to live happy, healthy lives. If you would like more info on how YOU can help, please contact me!