In late 2015, my friend Anne and I came across this guy on a website. He was sitting in a shelter and they considered him to be a pug mix. Doesn’t really look really puggy but we decided to put him in the pug rescue anyway. When we got to the shelter, they said that he was aggressive towards other dogs and crate aggressive and very very stressed. He had been in that environment for over a month and he was missing tons of hair and very fearful. We knew that it would be a process but thought we were up for the challenge. He was going to be fostered at Anne’s house. When dogs come in without names, we have to name them and since Anne and I are both VCU Basketball fans, we named him after men’s head coach, Will Wade. Coach Wade moved to Anne’s house and as we do with all fearful dogs, he was given his own space to relax and decompress until he was ready to interact more. As happens from time to time, Anne’s house wasn’t the right fit for him. This has happened before where my house wasn’t the right fit and Anne and I have been able to swap dogs. She has active, happy, social dogs and I have old, sleepy, grumpy dogs 🙂 So, I picked him up and brought him home.
Wade was given his own room at my house which is actually my laundry room that has a door access right to the yard. He didn’t have to see anyone. I went into the room, opened the back door and he would go out and come back when he was ready and I would shut the door again. He did NOT want me to touch him…so I respected his wishes and didn’t. For the first maybe 6 weeks, he basically slept the entire time. I took him to the vet a few times because I was worried he was really sick. We think he was stray for most of his life and after bloodwork, exams, etc., our vet said he was probably just actually tired and to give him more time. Six weeks later, he seemed to perk up some. I would sit in the room with him and read or work on my laptop each day for about 30ish minutes to get him used to being in the same space as me and eventually, he would do quick little drive bys to sniff me or let me put a hand on him briefly. After 3 months in that room alone where he would slowly start to tolerate me, but only me, we started letting him in the yard with the other dogs. He did 1 outside break a day with them and worked up to going out with them 4 times a day. He didn’t like them at all but got to a point where he would tolerate them. We were finally at full yard integration with the main crew at about 5-6 months into his time with us. So…it was time for the next step.
At this point, he moved rooms from the his space to the main room downstairs where a few other dogs slept at night. The door was open to the upstairs so he could have come upstairs but he didn’t. After a few weeks of being on edge, he finally realized those other dogs didn’t really care that much about him either way and he settled in. Eventually he made a best buddy in Bosco, and started laying near him. Bosco is my least threatening dog and most of my fosters have gravitated towards him at one point or another.
He kind of plateaued here for a while. He settled into a comfortable routine and while he did growl at you when you came down stairs, that was usually just for show. I could pet him, pick him up, cut his nails, give him meds, etc.
For the first 9ish months, vet visits were a challenge. We have the MOST patient vets with the most caring staff ever and he still had to wear a muzzle at first because of his biting. He wore the muzzle, growled, bit and acted like his original self even after he had made a lot of progress at home. I was worried this would always be the case.
In December of 2016, he had been with us for a year. I didn’t know how much progress he was going to make beyond where he was but we also decided to adopt him and keep him ourselves. He went with us to a hotel for Christmas where we stayed near my parents house. Todd was really worried about this trip with him. Oddly enough…he did GREAT! It seems like it was just the disruption he needed to get over that final hurdle. He did the elevators, allowed random people to pet him, slept comfortably in a dog bed near us at night and made it a few days without any growling whatsoever.
Yesterday he went for his final medical procedure, a dental, before we officially adopted him. I took him in and because of his history, I carried him back to get him settled and also got him his medication and gave it to him so he didn’t bite anyone else. I left him there for his treatment, knowing that they could handle whatever came their way with him and they would love him through whatever rotten behavior he might display. You can imagine my surprise when I received this picture via text:
I actually teared up when seeing it! He was being so friendly, allowing them to pick him up, pet him, love on him and he wasn’t growling at all. It really showed me just how far he had come and I was so happy for him!
Time really is the best healer for many of these dogs. If they are given the space and time to come around and people, like the awesome people at River City Vet Hospital, are able to see passed the gruff exterior, these fearful dogs can really make progress. I can’t wait to see what is in store for Coach Wade! He can now ride in a car, go to the vet, meet strangers, eat new foods, play in the yard, snuggle in a dog bed…the sky is the limit!
Love you buddy!