Lucky Goose: Shy pup finds his person

Heather holding Goose the dog
Goose was scared and needed heartworm treatment when he first came to Best Friends, and now he’s living the good life.
By Andrea Pitts

Goose was a bit of a lone ranger when he arrived at Best Friends in Northwest Arkansas from Little Rock Animal Village. The eight-month-old pup was afraid of every person and dog he met. Still, the team could tell that underneath his shyness was a sweet dog.

They hoped that with a little patience and time in a foster home, Goose could let his guard down so interested adopters could see his gentle, sweet personality.

Then, during a routine health exam, the Best Friends veterinary team discovered Goose had heartworm disease. This new diagnosis placed another hurdle on the road to a happy home life for Goose.

[Heartworm Disease in Dogs and Cats]

Nicole Smith, Best Friends foster coordinator in Northwest Arkansas, says that some people find the idea of helping a dog through heartworm treatment somewhat intimidating. The treatment protocol includes injections of powerful medication, and the dog’s activity must be limited for several weeks to prevent life-threatening heart blockage as worms die off. It’s natural for foster volunteers and potential adopters to wonder how on earth to keep a puppy from running during the treatment period.

Luckily for Goose, a Best Friends foster volunteer named Heather wasn’t intimidated at all by the heartworm diagnosis or Goose’s shyness. The more she learned about him, the more she wanted to foster him for as long it took to go through treatment and get adopted. Little did either of them know: Their relationship would soon develop into more than a temporary arrangement.

Sparks fly between foster volunteer and dog

Heather had just signed up as a foster volunteer with Best Friends when she read an email featuring dogs at Best Friends needing a place to stay until adoption. Her heart skipped a beat when she scrolled down and saw Goose. Staring back at her was a nearly identical picture of her dog, Kollin, whom she had recently lost to cancer.

Heather first decided it was best to allow herself more time to grieve for Kollin before hastily asking to foster a dog so closely resembling him. Yet, seven days after she first saw Goose’s picture, Heather still constantly thought about him. She finally gave in to her nagging thoughts and called Best Friends.

The team talked to Heather about Goose’s upcoming treatment and what that would entail. They also talked to Heather about his shyness and how he was still slowly working on building confidence. After discussing Goose’s needs with the team, Heather felt she could provide him with a loving home where he could relax and recover from treatment. In fact, Heather just happens to run a day care for dogs with all kinds of different needs and personalities.

To make matters even better, three dogs who are part of her permanent pack are naturals at recognizing when and how to interact with a shy dog. From their first meeting, it looked like Goose had found just the right person (and dogs) to help him find his home.

“From the moment I picked him up, we had a connection,” says Heather. “He knew I was meant to be his person. It was like fireworks.”

Helping a dog through heartworm treatment

Heather took it slow during their first week together (and before Goose started treatment). “I let him approach me and sleep wherever he was comfortable,” she says. “And I gave him a ton of motivational treats.”

Goose’s trust in Heather grew quickly and, before long, she decided it was time to expand his horizons by taking him to the doggie day care. After Goose responded well to early dog introductions, she let him off leash and closely watched his body language.

As Goose slowly relaxed and began to run around with the other dogs, Heather was both surprised and elated to discover that doggie day care was a hit for the once painfully shy pup. “He absolutely loved it,” she says.

[Loving a shy dog: An adopter’s story]

Watching Goose’s fearful approach to life melt away with the help of his new canine friends, Heather decided he was meant to be part of her family. She called Best Friends that afternoon and requested to officially adopt him. Goose was finally home for good.

After a few fun-filled days at the doggie day care, Goose began the injection phase of his treatment, which required him to lie low and limit his physical activity. Fortunately, he could still visit the day care every day while still following doctor’s orders to rest. Instead of running, he enjoyed downtime with Heather while she worked in the front office.

Lucky Goose

It’s been four months since Goose first went to live with Heather. He’s finished with treatment and has the all-clear to take part in every bit of the action at doggie day care. As for his shyness, that’s in the past, too.

Goose loves to jump in the pool and cause playful mischief in any way possible. Heather says he hasn’t yet met a dog he doesn’t care for. “And he’s just happy as can be when he's running around with his brothers, sister and school friends.”

As Heather looks back on memories of her dog who passed away, she recalls the times they would run around and play together. “I’m grateful Kollin helped me find a perfect angel,” she says. “It’s a true match made in heaven.”

Make a lifelong friend

Shy or outgoing, healthy or with a medical condition, homeless pets are just waiting for a place to call home and someone to be their friend.

Adopt a pet near you

Read more

The shy (dog) leading the shy

6 unexpected benefits of fostering a dog during heartworm treatment

Adoption update: Shy dog finds confidence in her new home