The New Norman

When I first met Norman, a chow-golden retriever mix, at the shelter, he gave me the meanest death stare ever, like he would chew my head off if the fence wasn't between us. I took an instant dislike to him. Call me Mrs. Compassionate.

But the next time I saw him, I fed him a few morsels through the fence, and we came to an understanding. He understood I wasn't going to hurt him, and I understood he had been through a lot, which I could tell by the way he'd flinch every time I put my hand out to pet him. Being head shy, some of the shelter workers wouldn't even remove his lead when they transferred him from the night kennels to the training center yard. He'd been known to nip at them when they reached for his neck area.

In the little training center yard, Norman was away from the noise of the kennels and could see people come and go. There was lots of practice opportunity for him to get used to people and dogs coming up to the fence without him going ballistic. Slowly, thanks to the diligence of the shelter's training director, Norman started coming around.

After two months of building trust and working on obedience, we felt Norman was ready for dog interaction. I brought Cabana to the shelter last week, and with Norman in a muzzle, we introduced the dogs. Cabana was a bit weirded out be the muzzle, I think, but she play bowed and tried to interact with him. We kept the session short and ended on a very successful and promising note. Two days later, I brought Cabana back to the shelter. Norman knew her now, and because he was so happy and relaxed, I felt like I could handle both dogs on a walk.

It was all going very smoothly, until we passed a building that was undergoing construction. There was the whirring of electric saws, roofers were hammering, and Norman was beside himself with fear. I had to use all my might to pull him back from running into the street as he tried to get as far away from the distressing sounds as possible. I gathered the dogs, and we sat for a while on the bench in front of the building. I wanted Norman to see that the sounds weren't anything to be afraid of. After just a few minutes, perhaps due to Cabana's example, Norman calmed down. The reward of seeing this kind of progress is addictive.

Yesterday, I invited Norm over to our house for a few hours, so I could see how he did in a home environment. He was surprisingly fantastic! He didn't bark, didn't jump on furniture, was fastidious in his potty skills, and he adored Cabana. They would have played non-stop if I had let them. Cabana barked at him a lot, which I felt was her way of correcting him--he probably NEEDED a lot of correction. But I had him on leash, and she could have gotten away from him at any moment but chose not to.

Norman came into the shelter undersocialized, untrained, and pretty much unadoptable. After a few months at the shelter, through the dedication of staff and volunteers, he's ready for a home. It's a rehabilitation success story that happens one dog at a time, and it's why I've become a shelter dog addict.

Casey  – (October 9, 2012 at 10:00 AM)  

That's grreat that you've worked so much with him! Shelters are incredibly skeery places, and no dog is at his best there. :(

Vader's Mom  – (October 9, 2012 at 10:33 AM)  

What a great story! Go Norman!!

2 Punk Dogs  – (October 9, 2012 at 6:54 PM)  

That's awesome! So glad you all took the time to work with Norman, he's such a cutie! Cabana is beautiful too; it's great you have her to help socialize Norman.

Kari in Vegas  – (October 9, 2012 at 9:13 PM)  

Norman sure is handsome!

Stop on by for a visit

therufusway  – (October 10, 2012 at 7:09 AM)  

I love stories like this! Norman seems like quite a catch now, and it's thanks to the hard work of all the people that believed in him. So great!

Min  – (October 10, 2012 at 5:56 PM)  

Cabana is such a good role model! I wish Bella had a Cabana to learn from!

Dexter  – (October 13, 2012 at 3:58 AM)  

Cabana is a great training. I am sure that she is helping him feel calmer and not so scared. Beautiful post.

Mango Momma

Blueberry's human  – (October 15, 2012 at 12:54 PM)  

That is a great story! Thanks for taking an interest in Norman and helping a fella out! I love the spots on his tongue!

Not everyone would use their own dog to help another dog out - so thanks for that! I often use Blueberry as a "guinea pig" when someone on a walk or at the park is trying to socialize their own dog. Blueberry has a calming effect on most dogs so I usually say yes.

Thanks again for going the extra mile for these dogs!

Becky  – (October 15, 2012 at 7:32 PM)  

Wow. I have learned so much about this whole process through you. It is extraordinary to me what you do and truly going the extra mile. Love your inspiring stories.

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