Anxious hound loves his R & R

Elvis the dog next to Mary inside her house
Life can get overwhelming for Elvis, but sleepovers with friends ensure this hound dog isn’t “cryin’ all the time.”
By Sarah Thornton

We can all use a vacation now and then ― a change of scenery and a chance to escape from the hustle and bustle of everyday life. Even a daytrip can be the perfect way to unwind and reset for the rest of the week. And the same can be true for our furry friends.

For Elvis, a young, energetic hound dog who calls Best Friends Animal Sanctuary his home-between-homes, the noise of his neighbors and the activity at Dogtown can sometimes become a little overwhelming. He gets anxious and wound up in everything around him and reacts by barking, running along the edge of his yard and working himself into a tizzy.

[Building Confidence in Dogs]

Combined with his knack for jumping over a fence (the reason for his extra-tall fencing here at the Sanctuary) and his hound dog habit of pulling on his leash to follow his nose, Elvis’ behavior might seem daunting to potential adopters. But all it takes is some quiet time away for him to relax, roll over and show his cuddly side. And he’s found a pretty good vacation spot at the home of his friend, local volunteer Mary Otjens.

Photo by Molly Wald

Canine comforts

Mary was already a long-time Best Friends volunteer when she moved to Kanab, Utah, just 15 minutes south of the Sanctuary. She opened her home to some dogs needing a little getaway, and she had a special soft spot for hounds like Elvis.

“They’re misunderstood,” says Mary. “People think … they bark and they bark, but they bark for a reason. And once you get to know and work with one, you’re going to want one. They’re just too lovable.”

Mary has been learning about hound dogs since she brought home her first, a senior beagle considered unadoptable and on a euthanasia list. “I fell in love,” she says. “I loved her, and from then on, it was beagles and hounds ― any kind of hounds.”

When Mary heard about Elvis and his anxiety, she wanted to help him. Elvis was already successful meeting other dogs, so it seemed like he’d fit right in with her pack: a trio of beagles, two of them adopted from Best Friends. And he did. From the moment Mary and Elvis pulled into the driveway, he was all tail-wags and loose body language. It was a world of difference from the bundle of nervous energy displayed in his yard.

Elvis fell right into step alongside his new dog friends with polite sniffs and good toy-sharing manners. They played, napped and relaxed together in the living room like they’d been pals forever.

Mary discovered a few things they’d need to work on. Elvis considered countertops and their contents free game. He’d also charge into bushes to pursue mystery scents and straight up trees to chase birds. (Yes, he can climb trees, too.) But, appreciating a training challenge, Mary says that Elvis, overall, was a very good boy.

He was still full of surprises. The very first night he stayed at Mary’s house, the booming noise from a big thunderstorm made him nervous, but not nearly as nervous as Siri, one of Mary’s beagles. “He let her practically sit on him for comfort,” she says.

[Fear of Thunder and Other Loud Noises]

Mary’s other pooch, Susan, had a seizure, a regular occurrence for which she was taking medication. Just as Elvis had helped comfort Siri through the worst of the thunder, he got up and settled down at Susan’s side, head on his paws as he watched over her. When the seizure subsided and she was ready to go outside to walk around, Elvis followed close behind. “He was just gonna be her little brother and take care of her,” Mary says, “He just lay there and watched her. He waited it out. And that’s pretty special.”

Photo by Molly Wald

Very important vacations

After the sleepover’s success, Elvis became a regular guest. Now when he trots in the front door, he goes right over to the toy box and picks out his first stuffy of the evening to toss around and chew on. He and Redford, the family’s third beagle, might play a quick game of tug. And by the end of Elvis’ stay, says Mary with a laugh, it looks like it snowed in her living room.

Elvis has also been able to learn some new life skills on sleepovers, such as being a polite car passenger and not jumping right onto the counter when he’s hungry. “He’s a fast learner,” says Mary. “Now when I do feeding time, he lies there (with the others), and he’s very good.”

Above all else, though, Elvis relaxes. He sits on the bench swing in the backyard, flops down by the couch in the living room and piles into bed at the end of the day with the rest of the household. Sometimes he can get worked up and fixate on a particular smell in the yard, but when Mary brings him back inside, he can move on and get back to enjoying himself.

After soaking up all the calmness, Elvis returns to the Sanctuary feeling refreshed ― each time a little bit further along his path to a more permanent getaway: a home all his own.

Photo by Molly Wald

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