UPDATE!! Trust/Sam's person, Susan, left a wonderful comment on this post. Be sure to read it to get all the latest information about Sam in his forever home!
Welcome to another installation of our Success Series! Every Friday for the next several weeks we will post the story of a pet who has found their forever home through HSEC. If your animal was adopted from HSEC and you want them to be featured on the blog, contact us here: email@example.com
|Hiding in his crate|
He would not come up to the end of his run or let a leash get slipped over his head. He would not solicit play or attention, and in the play area he paced restlessly. If I crouched submissively, making myself small, looking away with my hand stretched in the opposite direction with a piece of cheese balanced atop my palm, he eventually might risk approaching. A delicate brush of his snout against my hand, and the cheese would be gone. By the time I looked, he would already be on the other side of the yard.
And that was a good day.
I have long been drawn to the underdog, and Trust was as under as a dog could get. So naturally my husband and I decided to foster him. The week before we were scheduled to bring him home from the HSEC facility, he got off leash in the play yard and I couldn't get him back. For almost an hour we tried coaxing him in - me, my husband, other volunteers, staff - while he hovered nervously just out of reach. I was only able to reach him by belly-crawling toward him, inches at a time, until finally I slipped the leash over his head.
We took him home. For two days he wouldn't eat. We had to carry him in and out of the house for bathroom breaks (but he was so terrified inside our house, he never once had an accident). He hid in his crate. On day three, a hot dog finally convinced him to break his fast. I was just beginning to understand what I'd gotten myself into.
After a few weeks, Trust found himself a new safety spot, in the corner next to the couch where I work (I work from home). He would curl up there, small as he could get, only surrendering to sleep when he could no longer hold his head up. Then one day, I felt something brush my hand as it rested over the edge of the couch. I sat forward to look. Trust and I stared at each other. He licked his lips and yawned, a nervous behavior that he performed almost constantly. I started working again, and felt the nudge again. This time I didn't move.
Trust was pushing his head under my hand. Cautiously, I scratched. When I stopped, he bumped his head against my hand, more insistently. Wanting more scratching. Wanting attention. It was the very first time I had ever seen him show interest in me, much less a desire for affection.
I cried. (I cry a lot in this story.)
|Trust learns that toys are fun to destroy|
As people who adopt or foster these difficult, unsocialized dogs know, their progress can only be tracked in months or years. Even by the time Trust left us, he still couldn't do a basic "sit" (too afraid of the standard training method which involves raising the hand over the dog's head). There were rooms in the house he still wouldn't enter. He also wouldn't jump in and out of the car by himself, and while daily walks had improved dramatically, he was often driven to utter panic at something as simple as a car going by.
Video taken about six months after entering foster care - from refusing to approach us to wagging his tail! Note how he licks his lips and nervously paces up and down the stairs, still anxious about approaching me.
When the HSEC staff suggested I bring him to an adoption stand at PetSmart, I was skeptical. A noisy environment with constant unfamiliar stimuli and dozens of people shoving their hands into Trust's face. How on earth could that go well? But I had underestimated him. For one thing, unsocialized dogs raised with other dogs are comfortable interpreting doggy signals. Surrounded by dogs who were comfortable around people, Trust wasn't as freaked as I expected. He hugged my leg, but he would take treats from me, a sign that he wasn't shutting down.
|A moment in the sun|
Then he put his head under her dangling hand and nudged her. Pet me. And she obliged, sucked in by the honey softness in his liquid brown eyes.
For the first time I saw a future for Trust outside our house or the HSEC facility. In his willingness to go up to this total stranger, his hopeful soliciting of affection, my sweet little Trustman had demonstrated a courage and resilience that many humans can't match.
I cried. Again.
Almost a year after we began fostering Trust, he was adopted from the facility. My phone number was given to the adopters. None of us were sure if this would stick. Then, a few weeks later, I got a call. Trust was now called Sam, and his new owner wanted to tell me how great he was, but I sensed something more in her voice. "You know, it might take some time for him to get comfortable with you," I said. "You have to be really patient. Sometimes he can be really frustrating."
The woman let out her breath in a rush. "Thank you for saying that," she said. "Sometimes I just don't know what we're doing wrong. I just put my head down on the table and cry."
"Well, it's not you, believe me," I assured her. And we talked for a while about him - I recommended a thundershirt, which had worked wonders for our nervous chocolate lab - then she hung up. I fretted for days that he would be returned to the facility.
I got another call weeks later. It was Thanksgiving, and she left a message. "I just wanted to tell you that Sam is like a different dog. He's just the most wonderful dog. He's a part of our family. We love him so much."
Yes, I cried.