Withdrawn dog experiences love and acceptance

Fifteen dogs come from a situation where their caregiver was overwhelmed and couldn't care for them properly. One dog was especially withdrawn.
By Christelle L. Del Prete

Ricki the dogWhat a difference a few months make. In April, when little Ricki the dog arrived at the Sanctuary she was so shy and timid she couldn’t even look at anyone. The tiny terrier-type dog would sit hunched in a corner of the room, or curled up in a ball with her face turned toward the wall. It was a heartbreaking sight. Out of 15 dogs who came to the Sanctuary from an overwhelmed caregiver, Ricki was the most dispirited and withdrawn.

The dogs had been living with a person who, though he loved the dogs, was unable to provide proper care or socialization for them. The dogs didn’t know how to interact with people or each other. They’d never done normal things like go for walks, and they needed some time to adjust to their new surroundings in Dogtown.

Medical care for dogs

Ricki desperately wanted to make a connection with people, but she was too frightened to try and didn’t know how to begin. So caregivers immediately began working to bridge that gap – to help her and the others overcome their fears and learn how to be happy, confident dogs. That way, they could enjoy giving and receiving the love they deserve. 

The first order of business was making sure the dogs were feeling good physically. Each one was checked out, and their medical conditions were treated. Next, Dogtown staff devised a feeding plan to fill the dogs’ hungry bellies — carefully. Ricki and her friends had been surviving mostly on bread and were underweight. They had to get used to nutritious foods and regular feeding routines. Of course, they got to enjoy fun treats in between, like Kongs stuffed with peanut butter. And, since they were no longer living in cramped confines, they had room to move around, stretch their legs, and interact with the other dogs on their terms.

Best dog friends and roommates

Little Mama, Ricki, and Buddy the dogsLittle Mama and Buddy, two of the other rescued dogs, became Ricki’s best friends and roommates. Little Mama, a 12-year-old girl with a scarred but sweet face, and Buddy, a reserved senior boy, quickly formed a bond with Ricki. The three follow each other around their room and large play yard. And they are all helping each other become braver and more social around people. 

Ricki has made so much progress that she’s now leading the way for her roommates. She hid her face in the corner until she relaxed enough that her curiosity got the better of her. Soon, she began to pace in wide circles around people, dance up for a quick sniff or a pet, and then dash away again. But Dogtown caregivers were patient. They have plenty of experience with dogs from backgrounds like Ricki’s, and they knew she would come around in time. After caregivers spent hours sitting with her and the other dogs, Ricki finally grew brave enough to crawl into their laps for hugs.

Taking cues from a dog

Now Ricki is much more comfortable around new people. Though she’s still a bit cautious, it takes her no time at all to come up and say hi to visitors. And if she dances away again, chances are good she’ll come right back.

Buddy and Little Mama are watching, taking their cues from her. “If I take a blanket out into their yard, and lie down on it,” says caregiver Shauna Saling, “Ricki and the others will sidle up next to me.” It’s just one way of bringing these formerly neglected dogs closer to people, and thus closer to finding homes of their own.

Great news, Little Mama has an adoption application, but Ricki and Buddy would still love to find their forever homes.

Click here for information about adoptable dogs at the Sanctuary

Photos by Molly Wald and Mark Morgan


Caring for Pets