Dog mom gets a home of her own
When Duke, Duchess and her puppies were surrendered to the Walker County Animal Control shelter in north Georgia, it was already full. There was no room at the inn for the for another mom dog and puppies. But there was room for her at the Best Friends Pet Adoption Center in Atlanta. Duke could come too, and the dogs could have as much time as they needed to get adopted.
Duchess was an excellent dog mom, who doted over her eight puppies. When they were old enough to be spayed and neutered, they were all adopted in a snap — as puppies tend to. Duchess was a good mama through it all, allowing strangers to pick up, hold her puppies, and then take them away one by one as they were adopted.
Once all her puppies were off starting their lives with new families, Duchess was spayed, too. Finally an empty nester, she was ready for a new home of her own. Then her friend Duke was adopted, and it was clear Duchess missed being a part of a family.
From mom dog to office dog
To help Duchess feel better, the staff let her spend the days in an office where she would be surrounded by people. She would share an office with Nichole Dandrea, Best Friends social media community manager. And while this mother dog wasn’t much help with filing or in meetings, she made up for it with her personality. “She was a perfect office mate and a total love,” says Nichole. But Duchess couldn’t stay an office dog forever and the team set about looking for additional ways to help her get adopted.
They selected her for a Mother’s Day photoshoot, where she was a perfect lady at a table set for tea and (dog) biscuits. Then one day after seeing her photo online, Noelle and her boyfriend, Dee, visited the center to meet Duchess. The week prior, Noelle had said goodbye to her beloved dog, so she was hoping a new dog could help heal her heart. And with Duchess that was entirely possible, considering how readily she gives motherly affection.
Giving a dog a second chance
Noelle and Dee spent time getting to know Duchess that day, but there was one problem: Duchess was tentative about Dee and showed it by growling and barking at him. They decided to meet other dogs, but Noelle couldn’t stop thinking about Duchess. “Something kept tugging at me,” she says. “Something told me to give it another try.”
Nick Walton, a dog behavior lead for Best Friends, worked with the couple for about an hour that day, helping Duchess learn to trust Dee and teaching Dee how to communicate with Duchess using cues the dog already knew.
When Duchess began to wag her tail as Dee petted her, they knew they made a breakthrough. That day, Noelle and Dee left with Duchess, who finally got what she had been waiting for — her very own home.
A mom dog goes home
These days, when Noelle takes Duchess for walks, the dog leads Noelle back to the house on her own. “She knows this is her home,” says Noelle.
Of course, like most transitions, some of Duchess’s early moments in her new home were bumpy (if not messy), like the day Noelle and Dee came home to find some of their belongings on the floor in shreds.
Duchess doesn’t do that anymore, probably because Noelle and Dee used these situations to better understand her and help her overcome what they’ve determined is separation anxiety. “I’m like her emotional support person,” says Noelle. “She wants to be with us at all times.”
Now Duchess loves to soak in the tub, sit and relax in the window near the front door, and go on car rides with Noelle — preferably to her favorite place, PetSmart. And at night, she likes to sleep pressed up next to Noelle and Dee.
Duchess has indeed found her family. But Noelle has found family, too. Lately, she finds herself missing Duchess when Dee takes her out without her, so she’ll call him. “I tell him to bring her back,” says Noelle, laughing. “We love her. She’s like our kid, and we’re her family.”
Photos by Christina Lynn, Sarah Ause Kichas and Best Friends staff