Tag Archives: shelter dogs

You’ve Got A Friend

Seventeen months a shelter dog

Written by Terri Florentino & Mary Sweda

It was a warm night on the 1st of August when the police officer pulled into the parking lot of the local shelter. In the back of the police car there sat quietly an enormous, fawn colored, mastiff. She was an older girl, evident by the gray fur that covered her jowls with eyes so large, dark and soulful it was as if you could see right thru to her soul.

“C’mon old girl,” the police officer stated as he reached in to the back seat of the patrol car to pick up the leash that was already secured to the dogs collar.  “You’re such a good girl, I’m sure someone will be looking for you,” he said as he lured her from the vehicle and took her for a brief walk around. As they approached the overnight holding area for stray dogs the officer bent down next to the gentle giant and stroked his hand across the top of her head, she leaned closer, if just for a moment, appreciating the gentle touch. The officer stood up, put the secure combination into the lock and opened the door of the emergency night drop. “Good luck to you old friend,” he smiled as he led her into the kennel area and secured the door behind him. There she laid in the dark, alone, scared and confused.Maude13

Early the next morning as the sun rose the rays of light found a way to creep between the bars in the window and shine down on the old girl. Those soulful eyes peered up towards the light just as the door flung open. “Well now, what have we got here?” the staff member stated with a smile as she bent down to greet the gentle giant. The dog immediately stood up, stepped back and let out a great big defensive bark.  The young lady backed away, slightly startled by the dogs aggressiveness. “Eeeasy girl, I know you’re scared, settle down, it’ll be OK.”

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After some yummy treats and gentle persuasion the old dog made her way out of the night drop. She was moved to a secure area within the shelter that is not readily available to the public. There she would wait for her family, who would never come.

The old girl quickly became fond of one staff member in particular, her name’s Cyndy.  She primarily cares for the dogs that are kept in the temporary housing area. She’s patient, caring, gentle and kind. There’s also a devoted volunteer, her name is Marisa. Several times a week she’d come to the shelter to walk, brush and give her treats and love.  “You’ll need a name,” Marisa thought, “How about we call you Maude?” The old girl stood up, leaned into Marisa’s leg, glanced at her with those great big dark eyes and looked as if she had a smile on her face. “OK, Maude it’ll be then.” “What do you think if we call her Maude?” Marisa asked of Cyndy. “I think that’s a perfect name,” Cyndy smiled as she bent over, threw her arms around Maude’s neck and gave her a big squeeze. For the first time since her arrival at the shelter Maude wiggled her bob tail. Cyndy and Marisa laughed in amusement as Maude’s entire back end wiggled to and fro with delight.

 Cyndy with Maude

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Maude was eventually moved to the adoption area where she quickly gained a fan club of volunteers, yet still no home.

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One couple in particular, George and Mary visited Maude often. In their own words this is their personal experience with her.

George and Mary,

It was almost a year ago when we first met Maude. We had seen her image posted on Facebook, along with her heartbreaking story.

This became a personal crusade for Mary. 

I was always terrified to enter a shelter. I didn’t think that I could face seeing the homeless animals and feeling that heartache, but her story, that face, those eyes would not let me turn away.  I also remembered what my brother Nick always said, “It’s not about you Mary, it’s about those less fortunate. The sadness and discomfort you feel for a short time will be temporary, nothing compared to the joy you can bring them each time you visit”.

So, I showed George her photo, and off we went.  When I first met Maude, she was in the main area of the shelter with the other dogs. I was able to walk right into her cage and hug her. She didn’t resist one bit, and I didn’t want to let her go. Since that day, George and I visited her 3 to 4 times a week. She was always so loving, such a snuggler!  Maude had such a goofy side…dropping and rolling with no warning on walks…really funny expressions..and boy she could be stubborn! She always cracked us up!  What a joy! For George, he made a best friend, he fell in love.  No matter how hectic his schedule, he made time for Maude nearly every Saturday and Sunday. He treasured his time with her…we both did.  It tore us apart not to take her with us every time we visited. However, Maude needed to go to a home absent of other animals and their two labs made that a practical impossibility.

Mary and George with Maude

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In the meantime,

A joint in her right front leg was swollen; it was causing her paw to curve to the right. She’d been this way since she was dropped off at the shelter.  “We’ll need to have her leg evaluated by a veterinarian,” advised the executive director of the shelter, so an appointment was made. We feared the worse, praying she did not have cancer. An x-ray, biopsy and bloodwork were performed. Thankfully her bloodwork was normal, the x-ray showed severe malformation to the right carpus and the biopsy concluded that no cancer was present. In fact under the microscopic interpretation new bone formation was present. Perhaps she was injured? We’ll never know for sure. We’re all elated that she didn’t have cancer.

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 Prayers were answered!

We prayed for that one person out there to give her the home she deserved.  Finally it happened.  Ed, the executive director gave us the call that she would be going home…sooner than we thought or were prepared for.  And we both cried…happy for her, so sad for us.  She had become like our own. But we knew it was for the best…and now she is the one and only with a great new family. She was always loved at the Griffin Pond Animal Shelter, but now she has a home of her own.

Maude with her new family

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The gift,

Maude has given us a gift…she has led us to what is now such an important part of our lives…The Griffin Pond Animal Shelter.  We just walked several beauties this past Sunday, they all with their own  stories.  But no matter how sweet, no matter how many, there will never be another Maude.  She will be forever in our hearts.Maude10

The Moyer Menagerie, Part 3

Just Like A Feral Cat

By Terri Florentino

It was evening by the time Tillie and I pulled into my driveway. I would introduce my pack one at a time after Tillie and I had some time alone to take a walk and get better acquainted. I opened the back of my truck to find the little pup cowered in the back of the crate, trembling so badly her teeth were chattering. I wasn’t sure if she might react fearfully and attempt to bite, so I moved slowly as I reached into the crate. She continued to quiver as I clipped the leash onto her collar as she turned into a tiny ball in an attempt to make herself as small as possible. I couldn’t recall ever dealing with a dog that was as petrified as this little girl. It was a good thing I had a secure hold on the leash, as I picked her up out of the crate and gently placed her on the ground she immediately defaulted to her flight drive and attempted to scurry away. Her social skills, at best, were similar to that of a feral cat. I attached a 30ft line to her collar hoping some distance between the two of us might help her to relax and feel less threatened. There was almost never any tension on the line, 30ft wasn’t even enough to take off the edge. I decided to let my dog Scout out for a meet and greet. He was such a gentle soul, I Continue reading

Congratulations to our BCI Writer, Terri Florentino

Northeast Woman!

Animal advocate: Salem Twp. woman turns childhood passion into a way of life

Photo: N/A, License: N/A, Created: 2014:04:03 12:59:07

MICHAEL J. MULLEN / STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER Terri Florentino, hospital manager at Abington Veterinary Center, with dog-in-training Angelina, left, and two of her own border collies, Mirk and Echo.

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Nala, Part 1

“I Want Her Back To The Way She Was!”

by Terri Florentino

“I want her back to the way that she was,” Mike said. He gave her firm, strong shoulder an affectionate thump. “She was always so sweet, lovable and happy. I don’t know why she’s acting this way.”Nala2

Nala was beautiful, solid black and built like a Labrador retriever with a splash of Rottweiler. Most people would have found her intimidating. She was a big dog, solid, well muscled, and strong. However, whenever she’d wiggle her little nub of a tail, the lower half of her body swayed back and forth like a talented hula dancer. It was her eyes that I remember the most. They were large, round, and dark but her expression was soft. I never felt threatened. In fact as I sat in a chair, she sat in front of me, gazing into my eyes. I felt her sorrow; something was wrong. I slipped my hands underneath of her strong jowls and pulled her head up to mine, our foreheads touching. I moved my hands up behind her ears and massaged with my fingers, and her head relaxed in my hands. Eventually I gently placed her head in my lap and continued to massage her head and neck. She pressed her head into my lap, her body, for the time being, completely relaxed.

 “She’s my son’s dog. He’s busy during the summer so she comes to live with us for a few months.”

“Who’s us?” I asked.

“Myself, my wife, son, and three other dogs.”

I asked about the other dogs and Nala’s relationship with them.

Nala1“Nala was a gentle giant. She was always so kindhearted with the small dogs.” The terrier mixes are littermates who are getting older, so they didn’t bother much with Nala, “especially since she’s gotten so intolerant and grumbly with them.” He also talked about a three-year-old male sheltie mix. “Mac is outgoing. He’s a great dog, and we’re running partners. He and Nala always got along just fine. In fact they would often have a great time running around and chasing one another. Now whenever Nala gets aggressive Mac jumps in to intervene. I’m concerned those two might get into a fight if this behavior continues.” 

Mike’s son had adopted Nala from the Griffin Pond Animal Shelter in December 2012, when he was home from college on winter break. There was not much information on her, except that she was a stray, listed as a Labrador Retriever. He felt an instant connection to her. She was remarkably gentle and kind. About the time I met her, she was approximately five years old.

Nala now completely relaxed and obviously tired. She lay down on the floor at my feet. I was relieved that she was resting comfortably. “What’s she doing that worries you?”

Mike sighed and folded his hands, staring down at the sleeping dog. “In June of 2013 my son tried to lift her into the bathtub. She snapped and bit his hand. That was so out of character for her.” He shook his head in disbelief. “For a split second, she was a different dog. Of course he wasn’t angry with her.” Mike sat up straighter and ran his hand through his hair. “He figured that she must have been in some sort of pain. That was basically the beginning of the downturn in her personality.” Mike’s brow puckered in worry, but his gaze never left Nala’s sleeping face. “She started growling at us if we disturbed her in any way. She lunged to bite us when we tried to get her off of the furniture. The whole family was bewildered. We hardly knew our sweet Nala anymore.” He paused, looked away for a moment, and blinked. “She used to love to take walks, but now when we try to put the leash on her, she growls. We’re afraid she might really hurt someone. We don’t understand what’s happening with her.”Nala7

Most behavior problems follow a similar archetype. After listening to Mike’s story of Nala, I couldn’t connect the dots. There was no clear pattern. “The first thing I’ll suggest for you to do is rule out that there isn’t something medically wrong with her. I recommend that you schedule an appointment with your veterinarian before we start any formal training.”

He nodded. “We’ve done that. It’s coming up soon.”

“Good. In the meantime everybody in the family should keep a leash on Nala at all times. That way, if she should threaten anyone, they can safely get control of her. Otherwise, just let her be as much as possible. Try not to do anything that might aggravate her. Let’s see what the veterinarian has to say before we start any training.”

I left the consult perplexed. I couldn’t shake the sinking feeling that something was terribly wrong. As I drove home, I kept remembering the strange and urgent way she gazed into my eyes. It was as if I felt her pain. Thinking about Nala was literally haunting me. Nala