Life is just ducky for once-shy pup

Alex on the floor with Ducky the dog
Find out how Ducky’s dedicated adopters took her from fearful to free.
By Christina London

Have you ever seen someone carrying a dog in a backpack? Not a tiny pup, but a 30-pound dog? It may have looked a bit unconventional, a big backpack with a fluffy black-and-white head poking out. But Ducky’s adopters were willing to do whatever it took to bring this sweet girl out of her shell.

Ruffled feathers

Two-year-old Ducky came to the Best Friends Pet Resource Center in Bentonville, Arkansas, from a shelter several hours away. When she arrived, Ducky the dog was, well, a scaredy cat. We don’t know what happened in Ducky’s past, but this frightened pup kept her tail between her legs and her sad eyes pointed downward.

Best Friends’ goal is for all shelters to reach no-kill in 2025. That means animal welfare organizations working together to give each pet what they need to move out of the shelter and into an adoptive home. In Ducky’s case, she needed time in foster care to de-stress — and that’s exactly what she got. Both of Ducky’s foster volunteers gave the same report: She was very nervous but also one of the sweetest dogs they’d ever met.

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

When the time came, Ducky didn’t have to wait long for a family. Alex and Madelyn fell in love the moment they saw her. They learned all about her from Best Friends staff and knew they could give her the time, patience, and understanding she would need to thrive.

“I had to pick her up because she wouldn’t leave the car,” says Madelyn. “I felt so bad.”

Speaking in gentle voices, the couple started introducing Ducky to a world that seemed overwhelming. At first, everything was scary: furniture, stairs, even looking out the window. (And don’t get started on balloons.) But Ducky’s family gave her all the time she needed to gain confidence.

Ducky was especially fearful of the outdoors; there were just so many unknowns. Madelyn and Alex discovered that Ducky felt safe and secure inside a backpack. So Alex would don a custom red backpack with Ducky’s name on the side and head outside.

Ready to take flight

With time, Ducky mustered up the courage to go out into the world on her own four legs. It was a milestone when Ducky took her first walk downtown, her people strolling alongside beaming with pride. From her first romp around the yard to her first trip to the pet store, every “first” was cause for celebration.

Soon, Ducky was excited to explore, sticking her speckly nose into everything she could find. She began to see that things weren’t that scary after all. Lots of outdoor adventures awaited her. In the park, she padded along trails, waded in the creek, and even saw her first deer. A recent highlight was her first camping trip with her favorite humans and doggy best friend. Watching her play chase in a wide-open space, you’d never believe it was the same dog who used to be scared of her own shadow.

[Big life for a much-loved-adventure dog]

Today, things that were once scary just roll off Ducky’s back. Duckaroo, as she’s sometimes called, knows she can count on Alex and Madelyn to keep her safe. This once-shy pup went from fearful to free thanks to a family who was by her side encouraging her every step of the way.

Let's make every shelter and every community no-kill in 2025

Our goal at Best Friends is to support all animal shelters in the U.S. in reaching no-kill in 2025. No-kill means saving every dog and cat in a shelter who can be saved, accounting for community safety and good quality of life for pets. 

Shelter staff can’t do it alone. Saving animals in shelters is everyone’s responsibility, and it takes support and participation from the community. No-kill is possible when we work together thoughtfully, honestly, and collaboratively.

Silhouette of two dogs, cat and kitten

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You can help end the killing in shelters and save the lives of homeless pets when you foster, adopt, and advocate for the dogs and cats who need it most.

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