By David Dickson
Too much of a good thing is almost never a good thing. For example, if you ate nothing but your favorite treat or candy for three days straight, you most likely wouldn’t want to touch it on day four (if not sooner). For Nugget the dog, her good thing that she got too much of was meeting new friends.
The social butterfly
Nugget came to the Sanctuary when her family could no longer care for her. Right off, she loved meeting new buddies. “She was extremely social to both people and dogs,” points out Best Friends dog trainer Tim Molina. And hey, if new faces are your thing, Best Friends is an excellent place to be. She was able to meet and get to know all sorts of different friends.
After a time, though, Nugget started showing signs of being overwhelmed by all the activity around her. With some animals, the busy happenings in a sanctuary-type setting can start taking a toll. “She was in a high-traffic area and got a lot of exposure,” Tim explains.
Rest and relaxation
Before long, Nugget reached a point where she didn’t want company any more — especially from other dogs. Trainers and caregivers could tell she needed a change of pace. As a solution, she moved over to Maggie’s Mercantile, a dog building at the Sanctuary where dogs are allowed to live alone while they work through whatever might be challenging for them.
“The idea here is that we give her a chance to decompress,” Tim says. “It’s an extended spa trip, if you will.”
The decompression is working. Nugget loves catching a few extra Z’s throughout the day. She also greets caregivers and trainers happily whenever they enter her play area. “Nugget is one of the sweetest dogs,” Tim says. “When she sees you, she makes you feel like you’re the most special person in the world.”
Life at the ‘spa’ has been exactly what Nugget needed: a chance to get away from it all and wind down. And now, she’s very nearly ready to start meeting new dogs again. Nobody wants her to live alone forever. Deep down, she truly does love playing with other dogs, as evidenced by her early days.
That said, the plan is to go slow and easy. No throwing too much too fast at Nugget. They’ll start off by bringing just one other dog on a playdate to Tara’s Run, an agility/training area at the Sanctuary that offers dogs plenty of room to run and have a great time.
Step by step
“We’ll find a dog who loves to play,” Tim explains. While it may take a few attempts to find the right dog she can agree to play with, Tim is confident they’ll find one who can help her be her old self again. From there, trainers and caregivers will build slowly with other introductions.
Nugget’s experience is not unique. Other dogs at Best Friends have had similar difficulties adjusting to all the excitement around them. Yet with this decompression technique, and then slowly introducing more playdates, dogs like Nugget have stayed happy — and found homes — all while learning incredible social skills. “We’ve had huge success with this strategy,” Tim says.
In time, Nugget is sure to remember that meeting new friends is a good thing after all.
Nugget may not quite be ready to meet many new people yet, but there are hundreds of other dogs at Best Friends who simply love visitors — the more the merrier. Please consider volunteering at the Sanctuary for your next vacation.
Photos by Molly Wald