Chance was the first dog ever at Friends For Life to require two handlers with two leads on him to simply walk into the lobby.
Thinking back on his worst times, the image of a wild horse comes to mind, bucking and rearing, trying to pull backwards to escape his collar. In reality, his ferocious-appearing lunging and roaring were really signs of panic.
Chance panicked whenever he saw other dogs, people he didn’t know and, to a lesser degree, bicycles, cats, cars, and … basically anything that moved. Due to his size and the dramatic nature of his reactivity, he was able to drag an adult-sized human down to the ground in seconds.
Chance was found wandering the streets around a local dog boarding kennel. It’s likely that he’d been dumped in hopes that the facility staff would find him.
At about a year old, Chance was entering maybe the most difficult developmental stage in a dog’s life and his lack of socialization and training were apparent.
He still acted quite puppyish, but was now approaching his adult German Shepherd Dog size. The lunging, growling, barking, and jumping completely off the ground can be difficult in the average-sized dog. In a 95-pound dog, it can be downright dangerous.
Is a dog like Chance adoptable?
Not in a traditional Houston shelter. Even the breed rescue that does phenomenal work with German Shepherd Dogs said Chance was too much.
So it was up to Friends For Life to make it work.
Per Melissa, our Behavior Manager, we first needed to find a behavior foster for Chance. Behavior fosters are the saints who partner up with us to incorporate rehabilitation protocols into the daily lives of their foster animals. There is no way we could help animals with all-encompassing fear issues, like Chance, without them.
As luck would have it, Ben Shaver offered Chance a place in his home. Ben is the ideal behavior foster: he follows instructions to a T, always attends appointments and is gifted with (seemingly) infinite patience. We also recruited our team of advanced behavior volunteers to participate in Chance’s training. They attended consultations, transported Chance to and from appointments, and even helped to care for him when Ben and his family were on vacation.
A Bubble of Peace
Bubble of Peace is the symbolic sum of situations when an animal can be calm. When Chanced arrived at our shelter, he had a very small Bubble of Peace.
Then, it expanded to his foster home and yard. In a presence of any unfamiliar dogs, objects or people, Chance’s bubble would burst in panic. Our goal was to very, very gradually inflate Chance’s Bubble of Peace by introducing him to a variety of triggers and ever so gently increasing their level of intensity and proximity.
How fast does a Bubble grow?
The process might sound like a simple one, but in reality, Chance’s road to recovery was long and bumpy. From the time we rounded up Team Chance, it took some 8 months before Chance was able to calmly walk the streets.
While there is still a way to go in his recovery, he now easily meets new human friends and enjoys play dates with other dogs. He has long ago ceased to be reactive to any vehicles and most strangers while out on walks and he is generally charming and a huge pleasure to be around.
Meanwhile, a man named JC had been looking for “the perfect dog” for nearly a year. By the time JC came to Friends For Life and met Chance, Chance was ready to meet him. Turns out, JC was the “perfect person” for Chase — offering Chance patience, consistency and training while giving him chores and praise.
JC adopted Chance and they are the best of friends! JC has taken Chance on buddy road trips across the country and they have a blast together!
And so their story together began and continues.
To those who say that this is a lot of effort to put into a dog like Chance, we agree.
But here’s the paradoxical (and wonderful) thing about this kind of case: it inspires people to step up! The more we do, the more we CAN do because this model resonates with a caring community. People want to contribute to something meaningful and life-changing. That is the power of the No Kill Movement. It is the vehicle through which we can all express our highest and noblest hopes for animals.
The Behavior Team that rallied around Chance and the other dogs we serve are able to address challenging cases every week. Taking the time to solve the puzzle and really “see” the animals who come to us is the key — and the incredibly rewarding experience. The Behavior Team is growing by leaps and bounds.
No one should die because they are afraid.