Monday, January 2, 2012

A New Paige


2011 truly outdid itself in striving to be memorable … We finished the last two weeks of the year with 33 adoptions, bringing December's total to 90 new forever homes found! Many thanks to everyone who adopted for making the holidays so good to our animals.

Congratulations to rabbits Matilda and Cobalt on beginning the new year in a new home! Congrats also to kittens Pumba, Simba, Timone, Gerard and Pumpkin.

You won't believe the list of cats who received the gift of a new family this season: Gandolph, Molly & Dini together, Liberty, ORCHID!, Patriot, Luna, Douglas, Bayleigh, Aune, Dusty, Gwen, Abu, Rafiki, Geranium, Lil' Miss, Lolita, and Minnow.

Seven dogs of all shapes and sizes found new homes in the last two weeks, which was a big relief after a rather slow month for dog adoptions. Congrats to Cinnamon (Hound mix), Tommy (Schnauzer mix), Chance (Pomeranian), Hershey (Rottweiler), Paco (Teacup Chihuahua), Suri (American Bulldog mix), and … our featured adoptee this week … PAIGE!

Paige is a three-year-old black, white, and brindle Pit bull/Collie mix with soulful eyes and pom-pom ears. The sister of Alfie (you can read about Alfie here), Paige came to us through a humane investigation--one of six dogs we seized from a neglectful situation. She had clearly already birthed several litters of puppies in her young life, and seemed to have received little exposure to the world.

                                                                      Paige's former home.

All of the dogs were severely infested with fleas. Paige also had an ear infection, a few broken teeth, and some scars. Later we would discover a mass in her mammary gland that fortunately proved to be benign. We had it excised at the same time she was spayed.

The six dogs were so undersocialized that our humane investigator literally had to carry them from their enclosures, and it seemed to us that leash-walking was a totally unfamiliar concept to them. To meet them at this time, it was hard to imagine these pitties as well-adjusted companion animals who could join the ranks of formally trained dogs who knew how to "shake" and "roll over."

Paige had the advantage of seeming the most world-saavy of the bunch, and was obviously a friendly dog at heart. Yet, she was very wary of meeting new people. In fact, one of the vet techs who met her during her excision surgery fell in love with her, and took her home on a foster-to-adopt basis. Unfortunately, the tech had a scare when Paige wouldn't let her boyfriend on the couch (she growled and snapped at him), and Paige came back to us.

A concerning incident, but we were not ready to write her off. Instead, we kept working with her--tried to make the experience of meeting strangers positive and fun for her. And Paige got better and better at it.

Just before Christmas, I received a call from a woman named Donna who had a couple of questions about the available dogs on our website. Donna informed me that she and her husband had very recently lost their beloved Mindy, an Aussie mix whom Donna had rescued from HSCC as a puppy and trained to be her service dog. Mindy was incredibly intelligent, she told me, and they shared a very special bond. Her passing had left a yawning hole in their lives. She knew that Mindy could never be replaced--and that maybe they'd never meet another dog as intelligent or intuitive as Mindy. But they were ready to look.

Donna was especially interested in finding another Aussie mix, but inquired about Paige, who was exactly the size of dog she was looking for. I told her about Paige's background and the incident with the vet tech's boyfriend. I also told her how sweet and snuggly Paige was. Donna said that she needed a dog who would be alright with cats, and fortunately we had evidence that Paige could live harmoniously with cats. But Donna needed a service dog. Could Paige--who had spent the first three years of her life in neglect--ever develop the skills or temperament required of such a purpose? Donna didn't seem phased by the question--she had experience working with undersocialized dogs--and I could hear in her voice a growing excitement about meeting Paige. She said she'd come in right after Christmas.

No sooner did I say goodbye to Donna, then I found out there was already another application for Paige that was nearly finished. I hoped Donna wouldn’t be too disappointed if Paige went home with someone else. Incredibly, the applicants did not follow through with scheduling an introduction between Paige and their dog, leaving her available for another adopter! Donna and her husband David came in last Tuesday, and it all went very well.  Canine supervisor Robyn Lane could tell that this couple was very knowleageable about training dogs, and it was certainly advantgeous for Paige that Donna is retired and can spend most of the day with her in their quiet home. Paige went home with Donna and David that very day.

I called Donna today to ask her how it was going with Paige. "Oh, we couldn't be happier," Donna exclaimed. "It's like she was made for us!" She told me that before the adoption, she'd said to her husband, "What if we adopt a dog that isn't an Aussie, and a week later find an Aussie who seems better for us?" She worried about that. "But," Donna continued, "we have absolutely no regrets. We were meant to find Paige."

Donna shared stories of Paige mistaking herself for a lap dog, snuggling, and enjoying shopping trips. She's doing just fine with the cats, and recently covered their oldest cat with kisses, something the cat probably only tolerated because she couldn't see it coming (she's nearly blind)! And meeting new strangers? Donna and David have already introduced Paige to lots of new people, and with the help of biscuits for the really "scary" men, Paige has warmed up nicely to all.

But … will Paige make for a service dog? Donna is convinced she will. She's very smart, and learns quickly. In less than a week, Donna has taught her to "come," "stay," and "lie down," and Donna is sure that she nearly understands "brace"--holding still to allow Donna to use her to catch her balance. "Most dogs require a year or two of training to become service dogs," Donna said. "But I think Paige might beat that."

And what of the connection between Paige and Donna? The sort of bond Donna experienced with Mindy? A strong bond is also integral to her service training. That question was answered for Donna just yesterday, when she asked David to feed Paige her breakfast. David did it all just right, but when he put the bowl down in front of Paige, she refused to eat. "Let me try," said Donna. She picked up the bowl, asked Paige to sit, and then put it down in front of her again. Paige immediately began to eat. Clearly, a deep loyalty is already forming.

"Mindy's death left such a hole," Donna said. "Paige is helping to fill that. She's so different from Mindy … but just as amazing. By the way," she added, "We decided to keep her name. Because she's a new Paige for a new chapter in our lives."

                                                                 Paige in her new home.

Donna and David are offering Paige a new chapter in her life, too. From the depths of neglect and a total lack of development of any skills or socialization, to one of the highest purposes a dog can have ... Who says "old" dogs can't learn new tricks?

Paige's story offers an excellent opportunity to mention that the Association of Pet Dog Trainers have named January "National Train Your Dog Month," to emphasize the importance of socialization and training for all pets. Hundreds of thousands of pets are relinquished to shelters each year because their owners find the animals' behavior unmanageable. Most of the dogs who are relinquished to us have little training, and dogs who have less training are less attractive to new adopters. Paige was extremely fortunate to find a family who had the experience, patience, and lifestyle that matched her needs. Could you help us spread the word about the importance of training dogs? We offer classes here at the shelter for puppies and adult dogs! You can also check out the APDT's website for free webinars on dog training:


That's the good news this week.

A very happy 2012 to you all. May it bring just as many (or even more!) good tidings as 2011!


Director, Development & Outreach

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