It Takes a Village to Rescue a Neglected Dog
Phillip Finds His New Forever Home—Finally!
It took two long years for Phillip to finally make it into his forever home. His story is just one example of our rehabilitation work but a particularly striking one. It took an immense amount of love, patience, behavioral training, vet care, and support from people like you to fully transform Phillip from a neglected, extremely fearful dog to a more balanced, happy companion animal with a bright future.
Phillip’s story started back in March 2014 when a CHR volunteer was visiting a Maryland shelter to pick up another dog. A shelter representative took the CHR volunteer to look at a fearful little dog that was not going to make it out of the shelter alive due to his excessive fear of strangers. Phillip was balled up in the corner of his kennel and shook and growled when the volunteer tried to enter.
The volunteer learned that Phillip was surrendered to the shelter because his owner had been stabbed to death and the extended family declined to claim him even though they knew he would be euthanized. Phillip was obviously scared out of his mind and bewildered at finding himself in the unfamiliar environment of the shelter. In addition to fear of strangers, Phillip suffered from obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) and separation anxiety, and exhibited post-traumatic stress-like symptoms. He would frequently spin around and around and scream for extended periods.
Wanting to give Phillip a chance, CHR took him into our foster program where he received medical treatment. His multiple behavioral symptoms warranted the use of prescription drugs along with holistic supplements to ease his anxiety. He was also seen by a positive behavior trainer for help with his many behavioral issues. Phillip slowly improved but the damage caused by his past trauma never fully went away. Phillip’s obsessive-compulsive behavior finally drove him over the edge and he bit off most of his tail.
After surgery to stitch his tail closed, Phillip would continually shriek and spin trying to bite off the remaining part of his tail. His blood-curdling shrieks could be heard a block away. We decided to remove the rest of his tail to prevent more damage. After surgery, Phillip was heavily sedated for several weeks so that his tail could heal properly but his spinning and high-pitched cries continued.
We at CHR have never seen such heart-wrenching and disturbed behavior in a rescue dog. It was difficult for us to watch Phillip in such mental agony. There were times that our volunteers wondered if humanely euthanizing Phillip would be the best way to free him from his suffering. However, there was always one question that always came up. What if Phillip gets better over time? So, our dedicated fosters continued to support Phillip throughout his recovery. Several months later, we witnessed Phillip starting to improve.
Over a year into his foster stay, Phillip went from having OCD spinning episodes about 70 percent of the day to just 20 percent. He went from being fearful of people to warming up to strangers who visited his foster home and being a loving little boy. And while at first it was almost impossible to groom him due to his fear of being touched, his reactivity to being groomed has improved with the use of a positive reinforcement groomer who used treats, frequent breaks, and a lot of patience to groom him from head to toe.
Despite these improvements, applicants interested in adopting Phillip came and went because we had to be 100 percent honest about his history and behavior problems. We can’t blame people for not wanting to adopt him because it’s natural to want a well-balanced fur baby to add to their families.
However, after his second year in rescue, we noticed something we never expected to see. The number of problematic behaviors Phillip previously exhibited was reduced by half! We were no longer discussing as many problem behaviors with potential applicants. And, just like that, one day an application came in from a loving couple who had recently lost their furry companion. They thought Phillip was adorable and they weren’t turned off by our discussion of his problems and special needs. They adopted him a week after meeting him.
His new owners know his history and continue to give him his daily medication and holistic supplements. They give him frequent baths to help with his skin issues. They patiently work with him every day on behaviors that need to be improved. His OCD outbursts rarely happen now and only occur in response to specific triggers that his new owners work to minimize.
CHR provided his new owners with a free two-hour behavioral consultation and a treatment plan to prepare them for Phillip’s arrival. His foster parents provided extensive notes on his likes (loves sitting on your lap), dislikes (hates being picked up or riding in cars), quirks (barks when you leave the room), and special needs (frequent baths for skin problems). We encouraged his adopters to continue to communicate with us as needed to tackle any new challenges that might arise in transitioning Phillip to his new home. Phillip may never be “normal” but he has found a loving forever home nevertheless. He is a unique little boy who had a rocky start in life and is now showered with love and attention in his new home and accepted for the special boy that he is. And that is why the volunteers that worked with Phillip do what we do.
It took a village to help rehabilitate this sweet little boy and we cannot begin to thank enough all the individuals involved in his care and rehabilitation: the staff at Crosspointe Animal Hospital, his foster parents, the volunteer groomer and trainer, the dozen or so volunteers who came in contact with Phillip, and our CHR supporters who helped with his medical expenses. It’s this dedication that helps us continue our mission to provide comprehensive, tailored support to every dog that enters our foster program for as many months or years that it takes to rehabilitate and find them a home. Phillip and we at CHR thank you from the bottom of our hearts.
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