Jan 14, 2009

Who's the Boss?

Boss, Mia's temporary playmate for 6 weeks, finds a new home By Cathy Scott (Reprinted with permission from Best Friends Web site) Boss the Chihuahua faced a sure death sentence if sent back to the pound for misbehaving after he was adopted by an elderly person in an assisted-living home. Terrified of wheelchairs and walkers, 2-year-old Boss was “terrorizing” residents at the Las Vegas facility, where he’d lived for just two months, according to the home’s manager. He had to go. The day before he was to be returned to the shelter, however, a plea for help was issued from Oli Lewis with Sin City St. Bernard Rescue, who heard about Boss’s plight. Lewis couldn’t take in a small dog because of the enormous size of her St. Bernards, so she called me and I picked up Boss at the eleventh hour and took him home to foster. Boss was given his name because he was, to put it mildly, bossy. He was terrified of large dogs, new people and, especially, wheelchairs and walkers. When he was in what he perceived to be a frightening environment, his way of coping was to lunge, bark and bare his teeth. Sherry Woodard, Best Friends’ animal behavior consultant, evaluated the tiny dog to help me guide him past that behavior. When told that Boss was affectionate and sweet toward his 85-year-old former person, Woodard said, “That is who he really is.” The other behavior, she said, was a defense mechanism. Woodard suggested that Boss be allowed to get used to his foster environment, away from the noisy assisted-living home, and just be allowed to be a dog. His elderly person’s reaction when he barked had been to hit him. When he first met Woodard and barked at her, he didn’t get a reaction, other than positive words. Woodard described him as clearly confused and trying to cope in the environment he was forced to live in. Luke, Boss and Lydia In his foster home, I gave him reassurance and affection coupled with regular walks, a few hikes, trips to PetSmart and Petco, and rides in the car to drive-through restaurants – all to help him acclimate to new things and new people. Slowly, his fear disappeared and Boss became a happy, playful dog. Even better, six weeks after leaving the assisted-living facility, Boss has found a forever home with a family in St. George, Utah. He’s an example, Woodard says, that pet behavior can change with time and positive training, which is one of the goals of a No More Homeless Pets campaign to find pets forever homes. “Defensive behavior based in fear is so common in the dogs I meet,” Woodard says. “They need help to learn how to enjoy their opportunities for relaxing and enjoying a better life.” Today, Boss has that new opportunity for a better life with teenagers Lydia and Luke and their father, Dan Oliver. When Boss arrived at his new home, he was happy to be there, wagging his tail and looking up at his new family. The first thing they did was to take him shopping for a winter jacket. “He’s going to be the best-dressed dog in Utah,” Oliver says. Photo of Boss by Gary Kalpakoff Photo of Luke, Boss and Lydia by Dan Oliver

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