Persistence and resilience only come from having been given the chance to work through difficult problems.Gever Tulley
Two truckers on a long-haul through Houston from Georgia spotted a small, scared black-and-white dog under a bridge. “We just couldn’t leave her,” they said.
She was carried into Friends For Life in the midst of the Volunteer Appreciation Party – which meant the doors to the shelter were open later than they usually are. We took one look at her and knew she needed us. We knew it was meant to be that our doors were open for Maddi to find sanctuary.
Seeing Past “Unadoptable”
She was completely emotionally shut down. She would never have passed a behavior assessment at a traditional shelter. Maddi would have been labeled “unadoptable,” and quickly moved to the euthanasia list. At Friends For Life, 75% of the animals we have sent to loving, forever homes would have been on that “unadoptable” list. But we know they can find homes.
The Behavior Team’s Got This…Oh, wait…We’re Going to Need Backup!
Our behavior team has worked through cases like Maddi’s before. They’ve given shy, scared, abandoned animals the opportunity to shine and find their forever homes. This time, though, they were scheduled to attend a behavior seminar in Utah – two days after Maddi came in. Working through texts, calls, and thorough instructions, the behavior staff walked behavior volunteer Faith through helping Maddi trust her.
Faith would become Maddi’s first human friend at the shelter. But before her first human friend, Maddi made a cat friend. Buddy is a FFL mascot cat who “free roams” in the back of house. Buddy is very old and recently had trouble with one of his eyes and had to wear a cone for a while. Buddy is the universal friend. He loves making friends and doesn’t have a “species-ist” bone in his body. He welcomed Maddi.
The story as told by our volunteer, Faith:
Maddi is a shining example of a resilient dog who overcame her fears and who now, thanks to FFL, has a second chance. Maddi was found under an overpass on I-10. When she arrived at FFL she was terrified of people, underweight and covered in fleas. The following is an account of my journey with this wonderful dog who trusted me to walk her to freedom. I want to make sure I say that in no way did we walk this journey alone; Atalie lovingly mentored me every step of the way, and I am grateful to the incredible staff at FFL for cheering me and Maddi on.
Getting to Know You
The day I first laid eyes on Maddi she was cowering in the corner of her kennel and was shivering in fear. She spent a lot of time eyeing me suspiciously and watching every move I made. I was careful to move my body very slowly so as not to scare her and to use calming signals. I spent 2-3 hours a day reading to her and tossing yummy treats to her. She slowly began returning my calming signals – blinking and yawning. This lasted for almost two weeks.
Want to Sit Over Here?
At the end of the second week Atalie taught me how to lay low in the kennel and toss treats behind Maddi instead of to her. This technique would allow Maddi to choose to come close to me or not. I was amazed! On the second day of doing this Maddi came up to me, sniffed me and sat next to me. By the end of the week she had kissed me on the nose and was wagging her tail as soon as she saw me. She never did return to her “cowering corner.”
Walk this Way
On week three Atalie and I discovered Maddi’s love of toys. Atalie devised a game where Maddi could chose to come out of her kennel to get her toys or not. The idea behind the game was to show Maddi that the world outside her kennel wasn’t scary. This game was enhanced by many dedicated FFL staff whould would say “hi” to her and toss toys to her as they went by. She did indeed learn to become comfortable and confident around people.
Maddi had not been outdoors since her first days at FFL. Our goal was to get her to go outside, but that would mean traveling down a noisy hallway, past many cats, and out into a parking lot. Atalie and I placed ourselves in the parking lot with her favorite toys, tossing food, and play bowing to her and though it took two weeks Maddi did go out into the “wild” of the easement. Atalie and I watched as she raced up and down the easement, through the backyard and we couldn’t stop hugging and crying.
Today we took Maddi to her new foster home. It was incredible to see Maddi running in the grass, playing with toys and exploring. She will be well loved and cared for. My hope is that she will continue to enjoy her new life and all the freedom it will bring.
Persistence and resilience are at the heart of the Friends for Life organization. Take time to volunteer, foster or adopt and you will see that this place makes miracles happen every day.