It’s the holidays! The time of year for families to gather together to celebrate traditions, share old memories, and make new ones. This year, as you surround yourself with family and friends, both two-legged and four-legged alike, remember there are millions of dogs in shelters, patiently waiting for a family of their own.
For some, this won’t be their first, second, or even their third Christmas without a family of their own.
It’s our Christmas wish that every dog in rescue would find a home for the holidays, so we’ve selected 12 special dogs from around the country that have been overlooked time and time again. Some are senior dogs, some have special needs, and some are passed over for reasons we simply can’t understand – but, they all deserve to spend the holidays with a family of their own.
We’re calling this the 12 Dogs of Christmas! The Dogington Post along with our friends at Halo® Purely for Pets® have joined forces to introduce you to 12 needy dogs in hopes that they’ll finally get noticed…and maybe get a home for the holidays!
Name of Shelter or Rescue Organization: Nobody’s Dogs Foster & Adoption Network (partnered with Dancing Dog Rescue and Recovery Ranch)
Age: 2-3 years
How long at shelter/rescue: 8+ Months
Type/Size/Sex: Catahoula/Mastiff mix (our best guess!) – Large (very long-legged too) – Female/spayed
Angel’s story is best told by her foster mom, Julie Hill:
On April 7, 2017, a large, terrified, loose dog was pursued and darted by Animal Control in Houston. They lost track of her, but fortunately a Good Samaritan saw her running along the feeder road, followed her and was able to rescue her. The needle of the tranquilizer dart had bent and not delivered its full dose, and the dog was running around with the dart imbedded in her chest/shoulder area!
The finders called me, asking if I could help, and I said “yes.” I told them to bring the dog to me. The plan was to surrender the dog to the shelter the next morning, and then network her for a “rescue tag” and transport to Colorado for adoption.
Upon receiving the dog that evening, I quickly realized she was 100% deaf and had some vision impairment. Not wanting to take the chance of her being euthanized in the shelter due to her special needs ~ PLANS CHANGED. That night, this dog who had such a will to live, was named ANGEL. And, unknown to myself, an unexpected and long journey had just begun.
Angel very quickly developed an attachment to me to the point that no other person could pet her. With me one-on-one, she was perfectly fine and developed such a fun and silly personality. I just couldn’t figure out WHY she couldn’t transfer that fun personality and trust to someone else. I tried to help her, and did all I knew to do. In order to adopt her out, I knew she had to learn to trust someone other than myself.
On June 19, 2017, Angel and I headed to Austin, Texas to meet with a highly recommended trainer/behaviorist to be evaluated for their program. My heart was so full of HOPE that Angel was finally going to get the help she needed, but it did not go well. The facility was large and open, there were many distractions / reactivity triggers, and Angel was guarding me so forcefully that that the trainer/behaviorist couldn’t get within ten feet of her. Angel acted out so badly that the trainer recommended euthanasia.
I left Austin with a long trail of tears as Angel and I headed back home to Houston. She had no idea how few options we had.
A dear friend of mine and a true animal advocate from Colorado, Stephanie Weber, was a supporter and advocate for Angel and myself from day one. Daily she would see videos of Angel that I’d send to her – some happy, some not so much – and she would see things I didn’t see, and ask questions I wouldn’t think to ask. She talked me off that “ledge” several times and seemed sure that we could find someone who could reach Angel.
A few weeks later, we were able to get a commitment from a local trainer/behaviorist who specializes in Deaf/Blind dogs, to meet and evaluate Angel. The outcome of that meeting was a little better, but not by much. The trainer and her companion could get within five feet of Angel, but that was all. Her professional recommendation was still either euthanasia or a lifetime “sanctuary” placement – but not an owner or home of her own for Angel. Another “professional” trainer/behaviorist to recommend that Angel be KILLED.
When you have two nationally-known trainers/behaviorists who can’t get within five feet of a dog, and they both recommend euthanasia, is there really light at the end of the tunnel?! After all, I’m not a “trainer” or “behaviorist” – I just love dogs, and I could see Angel developing JOY and loving life (especially rides in the truck, walks in the park, playing in the water, and getting “puppachinos” at Starbucks).
I kept going back to what I knew to be FACT: This girl is perfectly “normal” with me. Angel is funny, smart, loving, adventurous with an amazing will to live. But when we were together around other people, they only got to see barky, disconcerting, “redline” Angel.
There had to be someone who can reach her!
At the beginning of August, 2017, I stumbled upon a post on Facebook about a local dog trainer. I watched his page and liked what I saw. I was still a little hesitant, but interested. I did not share my thoughts with my Colorado friend, Stephanie, until a few days later – AFTER she private messaged me about a dog trainer in Houston that she had stumbled upon and wanted me to check out his Facebook page. Well , it was the same guy!
This trainer and I chatted and scheduled a time to meet. He wanted to see and meet Angel. With Angel in tow, I drove out to his facility. At this point, I had no expectations. I wasn’t going to get my hopes up, only to be disappointed again.
I walked Angel out to where the trainer was in his secure area, and we started to walk around. TOGETHER. As we walked, Angel was NOT REACTING. We kept walking. She kept not reacting. We kept walking. Eventually, he then took the leash from me. We kept walking. He stopped walking and petted Angel. HE WAS THE FIRST PERSON, OTHER THAN MYSELF, TO PET HER IN FOUR MONTHS!! He then removed her muzzle…and she was FINE. Then, she did it!! Angel started GIVING KISSES!! I couldn’t believe my eyes!! What does this man have that Angel could so dearly trust him so quickly?!
Within ten minutes, Maurice Gassiott at Gray Wolf Canine Rehabilitation had Angel giving him kisses. Then she was playing with him and the water in the water bowl. Maurice also gave us HOPE that this girl could have more than death or being one of many permanent “sanctuary dogs” at a rescue facility.
The following week, Angel moved to Gray Wolf Canine Rehabilitation to start her 30-day “board & train” program with Maurice. It was like sending a kid to the first day of school! She IMMEDIATELY began making huge strides in behavior with both people and other dogs. Clearly, Maurice was connecting and knew just what Angel needed.
After a week of school, Angel did go back to her foster family to ride out Hurricane Harvey. Quite soon, we started to see regression to her pre-training behaviors, although the moving around, the flooding in the yard, and the unsettled weather (plus all the other dogs in all. the. time.) no doubt created extra stress. For his part, Maurice spent that week out by boat, truck, and on foot, saving people and pets from the terrible flooding through any means he could find. He was especially useful in situations where terrified animals needed to be calmed enough to be brought to safety.
But, now, Angel’s doggy adventures at “school” have resumed – she quickly picked up where she had left off – and we are excited to share this journey with you!
Likes: WATER!! Running water, still water, garden hose water, lake water, creek water, pool water, sprinkler water, water bowl water – ALL. THE. WATER. And running, running, and running some more – especially if trainer Maurice Gassiott is riding his inline skates behind her! Keeping her favorite people “safe” by barking loudly to frighten away intruders. Bouncy leather couches, plastic bowls, truck tires & bumpers. Learning that being in control feels good. And “puppy whip” at the fancy coffee shop!
Dislikes: Surprises, cats, strangers, new situations, lack of structure, any perceived chaos, people or things that she cannot identify due to possible low vision.
Special Considerations: Angel is completely deaf and may have some visual impairment, possibly consistent with the “double merle” gene. She can be extremely reactive, with ferocious barking and poor leash manners, when startled or in a new situation. She can be good with other dogs, if given proper and slow introductions.
Angel’s Perfect Family: Angel’s perfect family will provide the following:
• A very physically active owner – running, biking, boarding, skating, etc.
• An owner who has the financial resources to pay for training and/or professional dog sitting, vet that comes to the house if needed, etc. – this will not be a dog that can have somebody stop by twice a day or that you leave with friends while you’re gone for the weekend.
• An owner who does NOT travel a lot – kind of a homebody.
• An owner who has the flexibility with work to be at home, or telecommute, or take time off, etc. – this dog probably shouldn’t be left crated for a whole work day.
• Owner must be committed to appropriate vest and/or muzzle use. Owner must not ever use abusive training methods like shock collars because she won’t know what hit her.
• Prefer owner in a stable partnership or confirmed single, not one who is dating, because not everyone will mesh with Angel.
• Need owner who intends to be childless for duration of Angel’s life. If owner has children who visit periodically, must be able to provide a location and be willing to confine Angel before guests arrive.
• Owner should probably be a homeowner. Must have securely fenced yard. Home size and layout must accommodate an Angel-isolation area, and owner must be willing to use it when guests or workers are around.
• Owner must have large dog experience. Special needs dog experience (not necessarily deaf dog) such a rescue, reactive, difficult breed (wolf hybrid, etc.), important.
• Owner must be committed to Angel’s training – would they be willing to fly to Houston once or twice for hands on training? Would they be willing to have Maurice come orient in their home? Would they be willing to pay for regular video chats with Maurice to fine tune things?
Nearly anyone can learn to be a great dog owner, even for a difficult or special dog. It takes will, and consciousness, and the willingness to NEVER PUT A DOG IN A POSITION TO FAIL and ALWAYS DO WHAT IS BEST FOR THE DOG, while putting human needs second.
Angel’s owner must be committed to securing professional support from a trainer or behaviorist, as well as maintaining some contact with Nobody’s Dogs regarding her progress. Her current trainer (board & train) is Maurice Gassiott at Gray Wolf Canine Rehabilitation (Spring, TX). I strongly recommend talking to him about Angel. Maurice gave her a chance and a life when two other professional trainers / behaviorists recommended euthanasia due to her reactivity.
Although Angel is currently located in Houston, we care most that Angel is in EXACTLY the right fur-ever home, as we know that she will be a challenging pup for the owner who is willing to alter their life to accommodate her needs, so anywhere in the US (or Canada!) is great! There are many safe transportation options, and Julie has even offered to personally deliver Angel if needed! She is the most awesome and committed foster ever.
HOWEVER – the adopter will need to be committed to some transition work with Angel’s trainer, Maurice Gassiott, who is in the greater Houston area. What might this “training transition” look like? An adopter might drive or take an inexpensive weekend flight or two to Houston to meet Angel and get some one-on-one work with Maurice. For the right family, there is the potential to fly Maurice for a quick trip to the adopter’s home in order to help with the post-adoption transition. Maurice is also able and willing to provide training support via video conference and email/private messaging as well.
An adopter may also want to transition to a local trainer if they are far from Houston, and Maurice can give them an assist there as well. We really feel that his work has saved Angel’s life quite literally, since we were months into her care and had more than one “professional” recommended euthanasia as an option for her. Maurice figured out quickly that what Angel really needs is NOT euthanasia, but structure, confidence (in herself and her handler), and an absolute TON of exercise EVERY. SINGLE. DAY. Think of your “crazy runner friends” who have the 13.1 & 26.2 stickers all over the car, and MUST get in their daily run so that they can function well in the rest of their lives – YEAH, Angel is the dog version of them!
We will do whatever is needed, wherever is needed to put Angel in best situation to “learn to dog” and have a fabulous life that makes up for anything that happened in her world before we met her – no more dragging pieces of wire and chain around her neck as she runs the streets with a tranquilizer dart in her shoulder, no more fearful reactivity and feeling that she is alone in the world. The most important thing to us is an adopter who will:
• NEVER put a dog in a position to fail – that is, don’t allow situations in which a dog has choices that could have bad outcomes (escape, fear bite, etc.)
• LISTEN to the dog – most dogs will “tell” (or show) its humans what they need, how they’re feeling, what’s coming next. Now that we know Angel better, she has very definite “tells” so that her handler can support her or modify her environment / experience to allow Angel to succeed at being a great dog.
• NEVER, EVER give up on a dog – most dogs never give up on humans, even when the humans deserve. Once a dog has given up on our species, we have to work extra hard, 24/7, to bring them back to a place of trust in their guardians – and the dogs stumble along the way on that return trip. The humans have to be steadfast.
Angel will soon face another Christmas without a family all her own.
Does Angel seem like the perfect fit for your family? Here’s how to begin the adoption process:
First, get to know Angel and follow her amazing story on Facebook right here.
Will Angel finally find her forever with you?
The great folks at Halo Pet Food have a mission to change the way companion animals are fed and farm animals are raised…for the better. With that goal in mind, if you adopt one of our “12 Dogs of Christmas,” they’ll send you $100 worth of food and treats for your newest furry family member!
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