Second chance for senior shiba inu mix

After a lifetime of waiting, a senior shelter dog finds a home.
By Christelle L. Del Prete

ChiChi, the seven-and-a-half-year-old shiba inu mixSome homeless pets have quick and easy paths to loving forever homes. For others, that journey takes much longer and includes several stops along the way. Such was the case for ChiChi, a seven-and-a-half-year-old shiba inu mix who spent most of her life in a shelter.

Luckily, ChiChi was pulled from the shelter by Acadiana Animal Aid (formerly Lafayette Animal Aid), a Louisiana-based Best Friends No More Homeless Pets Network partner. Although ChiChi was safe, the organization wasn’t able to provide the special care the dog would need to get ready for a home of her own. And because it was going to take time and special training for her to get there, she was brought to Best Friends, where she would get that chance.

Help for a shy shiba inu

When ChiChi arrived at the Sanctuary last spring, she was afraid of being handled and when she felt threatened by quick movement, she would panic and snap at people. She also guarded her food and was temperamental with other dogs.

In short, she needed help. But, as Dogtown co-manager Christine Vergallito explains, “ChiChi’s behaviors aren’t uncommon in our world.” At the Sanctuary, many dogs are working through those very same challenges.

Because Dogtown trainers and caregivers have plenty of experience working with dogs like ChiChi, they knew just how to help the dog overcome her fears and become more social and approachable. And that was important, because these had been the lifelong obstacles standing between ChiChi and a home of her own. .

Able and willing volunteers

First, they worked on gaining ChiChi's trust so she wasn’t so afraid of people touching her. Though it wasn’t long before ChiChi was comfortable with her caregivers and trainers, dealing with strangers continued to be a big challenge. So Dogtown trainers set up a training plan to help her become more comfortable with them.

Since ChiChi was already doing well with her trainers and caregivers, the plan relied heavily on the help of friendly strangers in the form of patient, understanding Dogtown volunteers. Because ChiChi wears a purple collar (which in Dogtown’s three-tiered collar system means she can interact with volunteers 18 years old and over), dozens of volunteers were able and willing to lend a hand.

Gaining some trust

Those volunteers helped ChiChi make up for lost time and taught her things a dog needs to know if she’s going to be part of a family. ChiChi learned name recognition by repeatedly hearing volunteers call her name and then getting treats when she looked at them.

They helped ChiChi feel more comfortable with people petting her, and they taught her how to take treats gently, instead of grabbing them from people’s hands with her teeth.

Soon ChiChi began to enjoy walks, and she learned to sit nicely when asked — even if it was on the trail in the middle of one of her beloved strolls, when she’d rather be running around after exciting scents.

Every little step got her closer to the ultimate goal: a home.  

ChiChi, the senior shiba inu mix, now has a loving familyPerfect match

In situations where she once felt fearful, ChiChi began to relax more and more. As the months passed, she blossomed into the accepting, loving little dog she always was inside. Her hard work definitely paid off. Using her newfound skills and confidence, ChiChi won the hearts of a couple visiting the Sanctuary. Finally, she finished the long journey to finding her very own home.

Get Involved

  • Bring hope and healing to more animals like ChiChi by supporting our work.
  • In celebration of Adopt a Senior Pet Month this November, we’re asking you to tell us about a senior pet in your life. Share your own story about what makes senior pets so special. You’ll be helping more of these wonderfully wise and lovable animals find homes of their own. We’ll be selecting a handful of our favorite stories and sharing them on Best Friends’ website and social media pages.

Photos by Best Friends staff and courtesy of ChiChi's adopter


Dog Caring for Pets