Last week, we had the pleasure of taking care of this darling girl for a few days:
Her name is Shasta, and she is working on herself.
When Shasta was dropped off at the shelter by her former owner, she was so frightened and worried that it took volunteers a while to figure out how to gain her trust. She was pulled by Austin Pets Alive, and over time she made a few friends — but only the most experienced, patient handlers were able to make a breakthrough.
Eventually, Shasta moved to a foster home, where she fell deeply in love with her foster mama and doggie sibling, and has been living happily ever since. But this is all part of the problem.
Shasta moves quickly from total “stranger danger” response to over-attachment, skipping that critical emotional state of relative indifference. Every new person is a potential threat, and every familiar person is a can’t-live-without-’em need to Shasta.
With this attitude, it was difficult for Shasta to go out into the world and meet potential adopters — or anybody new at all. So Shasta came in to the Canine Center (where I work) for an evaluation, and a plan was hatched.
Shasta needed to learn that any stranger was potentially a friend who could provide her everything she needs, and regular training and socialization just wasn’t teaching her this important lesson. So Shasta entered a special, three-week “socialization immersion” program to help her make the important connection.
Over the three weeks, Shasta would move between the homes of six trainers/handlers who would follow a strict set of rules and give Shasta everything she needs — food, shelter, toys, games, snuggles, and walks. Just when she started feeling at home and like her new person was her best friend, another new person would show up, ring the doorbell, take her leash, and off they’d go.
Ours was the fifth home she came to, and by the time she got to us, she settled in within a matter of a couple of hours (the first new homes had taken days). By the end of the first evening, we were best friends. I dressed her in a new Sirius Republic “Lily” collar that complements her dainty, sweet self.
Over those few days, Shasta showed me both her most timid and fearful side and her most darling side — the side that hops like a bunny rabbit after a toy, can jump six feet high in sheer jubilance, has perfect house manners, and loves snuggling up with a person more than anything in the world. And then, just like that — a new stranger showed up, took her leash, and off they went.
The purpose of this program is not to torture the poor little gal, but rather to teach her a lesson that regular training was not getting through: anybody can take care of you. Any new person might be your new best friend.
In a few days, we all convene in Shasta’s true foster home for a big party — Shasta, her foster, and everyone who participated in the immersion program. By this point, Shasta will hopefully have learned something new about accepting strangers into her home and in her life — and she’ll have six new friends!
Shasta is a two-year-old adoptable dog in Austin, Texas. To learn more about adopting Shasta, visit her adoption page here.