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The 12 Dogs of Christmas: Meet Shirley! A Brilliant Girl that LOVES to Learn!

Meet the 8th of our ’12 Dogs of Christmas,’ Shirley! This intelligent and energetic girl has been looking for a forever family for more than 3 YEARS! Could she finally find her forever with you?

12 dogs of christmas

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 EIGHTH 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!

Meet Shirley!

Name of Rescue Organization: Upstate Underdog Rescue (New York)

How long at shelter/rescue: More than 3 years

Type/Size/Sex: Shirley is a pitbull type dog.  We can’t say for certain what her ancestry is, but she must come from a long line of athletic dogs with a talent for learning new things…because that describes Shirley perfectly! She is a spayed female weighing about 55 pounds.

Shirley’s Story:

12 dogs of christmasShirley is one of the original Adoptable Underdogs!  She’s been with us ever since the rescue began three years ago.  We met Shirley at a local shelter where she found herself after being picked up by animal control. She spent a few months at the shelter and she even charmed a family who thought she’d be the right fit for them…unfortunately, they changed their minds and decided not to come pick her up after she’d been spayed. The shelter can be a stressful place for a very intelligent, active dog who is selective in her choice of friends.  The decision was made to make Shirley one of the very first Underdogs!

12 dogs of christmasLikes: In Upstate Underdog Rescue, we say That Every Dog Has A Superpower.  Shirley has a lot of Superpowers, but she is happiest (and really excellent at) doing two things:

1. Shirley Loves Learning! She absolutely LOVES to work her brain and learn new things!  She’s never participated in a class or dog sport in which she didn’t excel–obedience, rally, agility, scentwork, tricks, barn hunt–you name it, she can do it!

12 dogs of christmas

2.  Shirley Loves Being with the Dogs and People She Loves!  Shirley adores playing with her foster brothers!  She plays long, hard, fast, and loud with her favorite playmate so any dogs she lives with need to be tolerant of her demanding style. (Although she’s very respectful of her 16 year old canine foster brother, never jumping on him or pushing him over…except possibly to get a treat first. She likes food, too, after all…) As much as she loves playing hard, she is the first to find just the right cuddling spot with her human, though. She can curl herself into a tiny ball and you’d never know she was there. (She doesn’t even snore!)

Dislikes: Since we believe that Every Dog Has A Superpower, every dog also also has kryptonite. Shirley is no different.

1. She doesn’t like to be alone, especially if she knows that there are things going on around her that she’s missing out on. (This was a big reason she didn’t do well at the shelter. There was too much activity going on all the time that she just couldn’t be a part of. She was never able to settle down and let her true sweetness shine.) Shirley gets to practice being alone more than we’d like since her foster home is made up of dog residents that she doesn’t like. She’s made great progress in this area since first joining the rescue, but she is still not a dog who can be trusted not to “find something to do” if left alone. (Interestingly, the first thing she always goes for when looking for something to chew is a writing implement. We have a theory that she was a writer in a past life, but it’s just a theory. Shirley isn’t telling…) She is crate trained and happily goes in her crate when asked to.

12 dogs of christmas
2. Shirley is dog selective. She is great friends with all the male dogs in her foster home, but does not get along with the female dogs.

3. Shirley has a strong prey drive. When she sees a small, furry thing run past her, the thinking part of her brain takes a vacation and instinct takes over. For this reason, her human needs to be on alert for squirrels, chipmunks, outside cats, etc on walks. Shirley can’t share her home with a cat, and great care would need to be taken if there were small, caged pets (like hamsters or guinea pigs). Although Shirley hasn’t lived with a small dog as long as we’ve known her, we suspect that she’d see a little dog as prey, too.

12 dogs of christmasSpecial Considerations: Shirley can be reactive with other dogs (especially females) and will need slow, careful introduction to any dogs she might be living with. She can not live with cats or small dogs, and great care would need to be taken if there were small, caged pets in her home. Shirley loves to run in a fenced yard, but she’s not the sort of dog you can leave outside alone and figure everything is ok. Unless her person is with her to monitor and call her, Shirley thinks nothing of leaping the fence to investigate something on the other side.

Shirley’s Perfect Family: Shirley’s perfect home will have:

– Sturdy humans! Although she’s come a long way, she still jumps when she gets excited. Her jumping would be too much for people who are easily knocked down, like small children, or someone with mobility concerns.

12 dogs of christmas– A commitment to working with Shirley using positive training techniques! Although we are open to adopting Underdogs out wherever there is a good fit, we would love Shirley to stay close enough to our area in upstate New York to continue to attend classes and receive support with familiar people. (We are open to working with adopters to find trainers in their area, though!). She’s definitely a dog who can participate in dog sports if her family is interested and willing to put in the time.

– Patience and big hearts! Shirley is a wonderful dog, but she’s a work in progress…like all of us.  She needs people who will be patient with her as she learns to fit in with her new family.

– A sense of humor! Shirley’s family will laugh. A lot!

Shirley will soon face another Christmas without a family all her own.

Does Shirley seem like the perfect fit for your family? Here’s how to begin the adoption process:

Anyone wishing to adopt Shirley should first visit Upstate Underdog Rescue’s website and review their Adoption FAQs. Then, fill out a foster-to-adopt application for Shirley. Or, you can contact UUR on Facebook or by email at [email protected].

All of Upstate Underdog Rescue’s adoptions begin as foster-to-adopt situations. We transition Underdogs as slowly into their homes as they (and their humans) need, providing as much support as they (and their humans) need to feel comfortable. Recent Underdog adoptions have had some (or all) of these parts: an initial meeting at a neutral location, a walk (or two) around the neighborhood, a home visit, an afternoon alone with the potential adopters, a sleepover, the potential adopters taking the Underdog to class. When there is agreement that this is a good match, the Underdog moves into the potential adopters home as a foster. We ask that potential adopters take at least two weeks to get to know the Underdog they’re living with before adopting (although, obviously, if it’s clear after a shorter time that this isn’t a good match, the dog doesn’t have to stay).  The foster-to-adopt period can also be extended, if needed. Every dog we adopt out is unique, so every adoption is different. Our ultimate goal is to find people who will love, enrich, and protect our dogs so that they can find their Superpowers. We will do whatever we can to support those matches.

Every Underdog is spayed or neutered, microchipped, and up to date on vaccinations. Our dogs enter each foster-to-adopt situation with everything they physically need: food, bowls, bedding, crate, toys, collar, harness, leash, and medications, etc. We encourage adopters to continue to work with their Underdog in whatever training is most needed and we work with each family to determine what this is. (If money is an issue, the cost of the first training class will be sponsored.) The adoption fee is $250.

12 dogs of christmas

Lastly, we have a saying: “Once an Underdog, always an Underdog”. We take our adoptions very slowly and seriously because we want these to be lasting homes. If there’s ever an issue, however, we want to help!  We want to be part of the discussion if there are issues. We want to be part of the celebrations when there are successes. We have even been included in a few wills to ensure that the Underdog will always have a safety net should something expected happen.

A bit about Upstate Underdog Rescue:
UUR’s mission is to help dogs in Upstate New York shelters who can’t handle shelter life.  These dogs need to leave the shelter, but can’t find a spot in rescue–usually because they have challenging behaviors. We place Up-and-Coming Underdogs in supported foster homes, where they have as much time as they need to decompress and start showing us what their Superpowers are.  When they’re ready, they become Adoptable Underdogs and they officially start looking for their very own humans.  Because of the level of support we provide our dogs and adopters, we are a very small rescue.  We only pull dogs from local, Upstate New York shelters–we do not take owner surrenders.

Will Adoptable Underdog Shirley 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!


For over 30 years, Halo® has insisted on creating only holistic pet foods that rely first on WHOLE meat, poultry or fish – never ANY rendered “meat meal” – making these recipes fundamentally different from the kibble found in almost all leading “natural” pet food brands. Now, the brand has added OrigiNative™ and Non-GMO Vegetables along with Proven Superior Digestibility to that heritage. Plus, when you choose America’s Best Loved Holistic Brand®, Halo feeds it forward (#HaloFeeditForward), donating a bowl of Halo to shelter pets every time consumers buy, in partnership with The Humane Society of the United States, and Halo offers pet parents a money back guarantee, “Feed for 14 Days, Love it or it’s Free! Learn more about Halo’s HOLISTIC. WHOLE. HUMANE. Pet food for dogs and cats at

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