How a scared dog found the courage to be loved

A scared dog does very well in his foster home, making great progress in overcoming his fear, and is then adopted into a loving, nurturing home.
By Nicole Hamilton

When you first meet Elvis, you’ll likely notice his fun-loving and sweet spirit. He’s a laid-back guy and 110 percent comfortable in his own fur about 99 percent of the time. He loves collaborating with his canine friend, Bowie. And he’s a big fan of his human family, too.

What you’re not likely to see is how difficult it was for Elvis to become the happy dog he is. For most of us, the road to happiness isn’t always an easy ride, and for Elvis it was a particularly bumpy journey with a few twists and turns. But it’s this journey that makes him even more special to the people who love him. Elvis’ name suits him, because he overcame obstacles like a true superstar.

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 Pet Adoption Center is a lifesaving 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.

Helping a dog build confidence

The adorable, scruffy little dog ended up in an Atlanta municipal shelter, where he was so nervous and frightened that he retreated to the back of his kennel and wouldn’t let anyone touch him, let alone leash him up for a walk.

It was clear that it would take time for Elvis to feel comfortable enough around people to get adopted. But with more pets arriving daily, there just wasn’t enough space at the shelter for Elvis to stay there long-term. Plus, he would need some kind, patient help if he was to start trusting people.

At the Best Friends Pet Adoption Center in Atlanta, Elvis would have all the time he needed to feel at ease around humans and find that new home. Upon meeting him, center staff members could see it was going to take a lot of work to help him get comfortable around people, and they couldn’t wait to roll up their sleeves and get started.

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A dog’s journey home takes a few turns

Elvis settled in at the center, but remained wary of people. And then after his neuter surgery, the not-so-good news was that surgery complications would require that he spend additional time at the veterinary hospital. But like most obstacles, there was a silver lining.

While Elvis healed, he started to let his guard down around people. It’s as if he began to understand that not all humans are bad after all. In fact, in Elvis’ case, the people surrounding him were true lifesavers.

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Though wary of people, Elvis enjoyed the company of other dog

Scared dog learns about love in a home

Elvis’ body began to get stronger, and little by little his heart began to open. With his newfound trust, he began to let the staff get close enough to place a leash over his head. And he particularly warmed up to Laura Linneman, center operations manager, who visited him every day at the hospital.

Once he was cleared to leave the vet, it was decided that the next best step for Elvis would be a foster home. Laura brought him home, and Elvis tested the waters of his trust with her and her husband, Jon. And after two days, he jumped right in.

“Within 48 hours he was already blossoming and befriending our dogs and cats,” says Laura. “He quickly became comfortable with Jon and I, and would even greet us in full puppy mode, tail wiggling and jumping up for attention. He loved playing with our dogs and hanging out with our cats.”

Elvis’s complete transformation could only mean one wonderful thing: He was ready to find his new home.

Elvis was ready to find his new home

One legend deserves another

Sarah and her boyfriend were looking for a companion for their dog, Bowie. When they met Elvis, they fell in love with his sweet nature, and when they learned how hard he worked to trust humans, they wanted to give him a good life in their home.

Elvis proved he had put his fears away quickly in his new place. He made an instant connection with Bowie, and since they speak the same language, Bowie can step in and help Elvis with any of his lingering fears.

Bowie can step in and help Elvis with any of his lingering fears

Of course, like all of us, Elvis still has moments where his fear takes over. Sometimes he must work at feeling at ease and comfortable. But that’s OK, because it boils down to unconditional love.

“It can take years sometimes for rescued dogs to adjust and learn new habits,” says Sarah. “We know we have to be patient with Elvis. We would never try to change him to fit our idea of who he should be. We let him be himself, and that’s good enough for us.”

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Bowie helps show Elvis the ropes

Photos courtesy of Sarah Greer and Laura Linneman

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