Some animals take more time, effort and patience than your average shelter animal. We think they’re worth it.
At HSSV, there is a revolving door of animals in need of homes. Most arrive at the shelter and leave with their new families after a few days. A few of them, like Lady and Logan, stay with us at the shelter for much longer. These ‘long stay’ animals arrive at HSSV with needs that may take a little more time, effort, and patience than your average shelter animal – but we believe that every animal is an individual, and every animal is worth the tremendous amount of effort it sometimes takes to find them the perfect home.
Lady and Logan both arrived at HSSV as young, under-socialized dogs with little to no training.
Darci is a Behavior Associate and often the first person to meet a dog when they arrive at the shelter. She met both Lady and Logan when they were about four or five months old. “Lady came in very shut down and shy… she was shaking when she was brought in,” says Darci. “The Medical Team couldn’t touch her that day because she was just so afraid of being touched. Logan was the opposite – he was a rowdy boy – exuberant, mouthy, and hadn’t learned any manners. Neither Lady nor Logan had gotten a lot of training or socialization during their time in homes, and they both had unique challenges – Logan’s was more of arousal, whereas Lady was showing more fear-based behaviors.”
Because of their special challenges, the two dogs spent over six months in the care of HSSV.
“Logan’s arousal behaviors were pretty challenging even for staff members,” Darci recalls. “His mouthing was pretty intense. He didn’t have a lot of impulse control – certain things would amp him up and he would end up grabbing.
Lady had three different trial adoptions during her time with us, as she grew up. Because of her fear-based behaviors and especially as she stayed with us longer term, she had started to become reactive toward new people, which was challenging when meeting potential adopters.”
Every week, the Behavior, Medical, Animal Care, Foster, Adoptions and Marketing departments meet to come up with an action plan for dogs like Lady and Logan to increase their adoptability and help them find new homes.
“[This meeting] brings all the departments together to really talk about these dogs and figure out a plan as a team. A lot of people contribute – so I may be the first person working with these dogs, but in the end, everyone is responsible for their success.”
The Behavior Team came up with training and enrichment plans for both dogs. “Our first step with Lady was to build her ‘Circle of Friends’, so we invited staff (particularly the Adoptions Team) to meet with her, take her on pack walks, and do leash exchanges when she was comfortable. The routine of meeting new people every day really helped her learn to accept strangers more quickly.
Because of the intensity of Logan’s arousal, we started with getting him to carry something in his mouth on walks – just so he would have something to focus his energy on. We also incorporated ‘tug with rules’ so he would have that outlet – and so that we could build impulse control. His dog skills were initially pretty terrible; he did not know how to approach another dog politely – so we incorporated him into pack walks and he eventually found some friends, like Shadow, who he could build his dog skills with. During his stay, Logan and I also attended a 6-week nose work class with our Training department to help keep him mentally and physically stimulated.”
One of the key elements was setting up a plan with the Medical Team and [HSSV Veterinarian] Dr. Shearer for both dogs.
In the past we would generally only use medications like Gabapentin and Trazadone, but because of their length of stay Dr. Shearer was able to introduce both Lady and Logan to SSRIs, which made a big difference in both of their behaviors – calming Logan’s arousal and reducing fear-based anxiety in Lady, which made a big difference in how quickly she warmed up to people. [HSSV Behavior Associate] Gee also took Lady on regular play dates with Dr. Shearer’s dog Tilly, to provide enrichment and build a relationship with Dr. Shearer.”
The Animal Care team and Volunteers were instrumental when it came to implementing training plans and monitoring the dogs’ daily behavior at the shelter, providing regular feedback so that treatment could be optimized for each of them. Both Lady and Logan also spent a lot of their time in patient and understanding foster homes, where they had the opportunity to practice their training and socialization in a home environment.
The Adoptions Team spends a lot of time getting to know each dog, so they can best introduce them to potential adopters. “[HSSV Adoption Supervisor] Mel was one of the main people working with Lady and contributed to introducing her to new people, which created a domino effect and slowly expanded her Circle of Friends. I want to give Mel a lot of credit – we’ve both worked a lot with these dogs.”
When attention on Lady and Logan waned over time, both dogs were rebranded by the Marketing Team – Lady became ‘Lady Swifty’ when Taylor Swift visited Santa Clara, which ultimately caught the attention of her current adopters – and Logan was renamed “Ken”, reflecting the popularity of the Barbie movie at the time. His adopters kept the name, and he even has an Instagram account: 0thekenergy0
Support from HSSV continues through the adoption process and even after the dog is adopted, to best set them up for success.
“Both Lady Swifty (now Nike) and Ken’s adopters have reached out to us for post-adoption support, which is expected – but they are both working on it and both love their dogs,” Darci says. “We provided them with a training scholarship, so they’ve been using that, and communicating with me and my fellow behavior team members via our behavior help line. I did have to provide a lot of encouragement in the first weeks because transition always exaggerates behaviors – but they’re both doing great and transitioning really well into their homes.”
With long stay dogs, the greater the investment, the greater the reward.
“All of our successful adoptions with ‘Long Stay’ dogs are people who understand their special needs, have realistic expectations and who understand that it’s a journey – that progress is not going to be immediate, and that there’s going to be a lot of training involved.” Darci says.
“It’s worth it because you get to see progress over time. You start to see them blossom and come out of their shells. It’s very rewarding, but it takes patience, consistence, and routine. If you are willing to go the distance, you will start to see the dog’s behavior change. Ken transformed during our time with us from a dog that no one wanted to walk to a dog that everyone loved to work with. There is a reward in seeing the dog’s behavior improve, but the most rewarding thing is the relationship it brings. Training is a really great way to bond with an animal, through it you can really build a solid relationship with your dog.”
Meet our Diamonds in the Ruff
Our Diamonds in the Ruff are special animals who may need a specific environment or a little more help learning to be the best pets they can be. Many of the animals adopted through our Diamond in the Ruff program come with a free training scholarship and additional support through our behavior help line to help get them (and their new family) started on the right paw.
Meet our Diamonds in the Ruff here – and if you’re ready to embark on a journey that rewards you with a dog’s love, schedule an appointment today!