Shy dog rescued from fire finally gets adopted

Shelby Taylor’s cure for the coronavirus blues has nothing to do with daily exercise, learning a new language or picking another show to binge watch. All she has to do is think about her new dog, Frank, and she knows everything is going to be OK.

Shelby and her husband, Matt, first saw Frank when they were on the website of the Best Friends Lifesaving Center in Atlanta. After recently moving from New York, they were eager to adopt a dog to have in their new home. When the coronavirus pandemic became a reality, their search for a dog kicked into high gear. If they had to stay at home, they figured it would give them plenty of time to help a new dog settle in.

Shelby’s first impression of Frank: “I thought he looked goofy. You could tell he had a lot of personality. And he had nice eyes. You can tell a lot about a dog by his eyes.” Besides those big brown eyes and the charming grin, there was something else that made them want to adopt Frank: his story.

Frank the dog looking goofy with his tongue out

Saving dogs from a fire

Every pet ending up at a shelter has a unique story. Frank’s began about two years ago when he was found along with nearly 90 other dogs in a burning home. After being rescued, they were taken to various municipal shelters, but some (including Frank) were brought to the Best Friends Lifesaving Center in Atlanta.

When Frank and his fellow “fire dogs” first arrived at the center, they shared a common trait. All were incredibly shy and cowered in the back of their kennels as if they were trying their hardest to become invisible.

It would take months for Frank to find the courage to trust people. But the team had faith in him and all the others.

Frank the dog with other "fire dogs"

With time, a lot of patience and training, the dogs began to feel more confident around people. Eventually, they began to put their scary past behind them.

Dog’s best role model is another dog

Nancy Payne, a volunteer at the center, spent a lot of time helping Frank and she loved watching his growing comfort level with people. Using treats for motivation, she helped him understand simple commands, such as “sit” and “easy.”

Eventually, Frank felt good enough that it was necessary for the team to switch gears and help him channel the excitement he’d been holding onto for so long. His shyness would sometimes give way to distraction and a tendency to get overly enthusiastic when meeting people. “He would bark and spin in circles so people had a tendency to just walk on by,” says Nancy.

Outside of the kennel, however, Frank was more easygoing and prone to bouts of goofiness, so the team began putting him in play groups. They also started pairing him with confident, relaxed dogs who eventually became his role models.

“Placing Frank in a kennel with a helper dog really made a difference,” says Megan Matchett, center adoption specialist. “He could mimic them and learn ways to behave.”

Frank, Ann and Checkers the dogs in a kennel together

Socially distant adoption

In March when the center closed temporarily during the coronavirus pandemic, hundreds of pets (including Frank) were moved into foster homes. Frank was fostered by Harley Trotter, the center’s intake coordinator, whose home gave Frank a chance to practice everything he’d learned at the center.

Frank proved to be an easygoing houseguest. He was respectful and relaxed, got along well with Harley’s dog and two cats, and if he wasn’t relaxing in a spot of sun by the window, he was acting, well, goofy.

He was still in his foster home when Shelby and Matt first saw him online. They contacted the adoptions team at Best Friends in Atlanta and arranged a home meet-and-greet that would require social distancing.

Frank the dog wearing a bandanna and sitting on a stone patio

Adoption tip: Give shy dogs a closer look

Shelby remembers the moment she knew Frank was the dog they wanted. “When he first saw me, he immediately came over and leaned on me,” she says. “That was it.” That’s the day Shelby and Matt added another chapter to Frank’s story by adopting him. He’s been happily leaning on both of them ever since.

“He’s doing great, but still decompressing,” says Shelby. “He’s following me around everywhere, but it’s been kind of nice.”

Shelby sitting next to Frank the dog on a patio

Now Shelby and Frank spend their extra time at home helping Frank feel comfortable. At first, he was a little leery around Matt, but recently the two took a nap together and Frank gave him a few kisses.

Frank the dog lying next to a Lamb Chop plush toyThey also bought Frank a toy lamb chop that he carries around everywhere and a puppy ramp so he can more easily get up on their bed. Now, Frank sleeps with them every night.

Shelby says that watching Frank’s personality slowly unfold while learning that he’s not going anywhere has helped make staying in place a lot more fun. And when she recalls Frank’s long journey home, it helps her put everything into perspective.

“He’s been through a lot more than I have,” says Shelby. “If he can lie down and take a nap after all he’s been through, I think everything is going to be all right.”

Shelby hopes other people looking to adopt will give shy ones a closer look. “Frank is resilient and so sweet and wonderful, but all this may not have been easy to see at the center,” she says. “Adopting him was one of the best decisions I have ever made.”

Join in on lifesaving. Donate to Best Friends

Best Friends in Atlanta works collaboratively with area shelters, animal welfare organizations and individuals to save the lives of pets in shelters in the region. The Best Friends Lifesaving Center is a hub for animals and a base for local programming and coalition-building to help the metro-Atlanta area in its final push to achieve no-kill, while strengthening the movement in the Southeast. Together, we will Save Them All.

Photos by Shelby Taylor, Nichole Dandrea, Nancy Payne, Harley Trotter and the Best Friends Lifesaving Center in Atlanta