Layla, former Vick dog, works on overcoming fear and anxiety

Layla the Vicktory dog gets special (and maybe unusual) help, involving parrots and a ThunderShirt, to overcome her anxiety and fear.
By David Dickson

Third time's the charm, as the saying goes. And Layla is counting on it. Layla is the third Vicktory dog (dogs seized from the property of NFL quarterback Michael Vick) at Best Friends to move in as an office dog at the Parrot Garden. She's hoping her own happy ending will turn out as incredible as it did for the two before her.

Feathers and fur: Parrot Garden helps Vicktory dogs

The Parrot Garden — the parrot part of the Sanctuary — has developed an impressive track record of helping the Vicktory dogs. Oscar and Squeaker, the first two Vicktory dogs to head over to parrots, moved in as part of a plan to give them get more exposure to a home-like environment.

Thanks to the efforts of staff there, as well as staff from around Best Friends, both Squeaker and Oscar passed their Canine Good Citizen tests and ended up in foster homes. "It takes a village to find these dogs homes," says parrot caregiver Kevin Johnson. A village, indeed. From caregivers around the Sanctuary, to the medical team, volunteers and more, each one of these dogs has an army of people eager to help in any way possible.

Slow and steady to help nervous and shy dog

For Layla, though, there's a chance it may take longer before she's ready for a home. And that's OK, too. She can move at her own pace. While the other Vicktory dogs were bashful, Layla has her own unique hurdles. "Layla is more of a nervous shy," explains Kevin.

Oscar, for example, used to avoid eye contact and hide in the corner until he became more confident. Layla, however, already enjoys being petted — even solicits attention constantly — yet she'll also have moments of anxiety when she just sits there and quivers. It's as if she doesn't feel confident in her own skin.

With Layla, the goals are simple. The first order of business is to help her feel comfortable and safe. Then and only then will they worry about teaching her skills so she can find a home. "If it takes six months, a year, it doesn't matter," says Kevin.

One hug at a time: ThunderShirt to calm dog's anxiety

One strategy might be to give Layla a ThunderShirt, a snug shirt that would allow her to feel like she's always on the receiving end of a hug. They're designed to help dogs feel safe in thunderstorms, but they're also great for everyday use.

Layla may even get double bang for her buck on this count. She's grown close with Kevin, as well as parrot manager Jacque Johnson. The dog trainers think that if Layla wore one of Jacque's or Kevin's own T-shirts as a sort of ThunderShirt, she'd receive a double benefit: a constant hug from a shirt that smells like her favorite people. Paradise!

Along the way, everybody at the Parrot Garden is going to make sure her office stint is as relaxing and enjoyable as possible. "Once she is comfortable, then we'll start the training," says Kevin. At that point, Layla will be ready to prove that three is her lucky number.

Photo by Molly Wald

Read more about the former Michael Vick dogs.