I adopted Welles in January 2009. He was the opposite of outgoing – he was shut down in the shelter, barely acknowledging me when I visited with him, but when I scratched the right spot on his cheek and he leaned in slightly, the deal was sealed.
Right from the start he was a difficult dog — he struggled mightily with reactivity to lots of daily life stimuli and later, separation anxiety so bad he dug through the wall of my apartment in no less than five times. In a lot of cases, this would have been a setup for failure. But thanks to the variety of services and truly amazing trainers in the behavior and training program offered by AHS, Welles and I almost immediately began obedience classes and were set on the right path to deal with his challenges and help him gain confidence.
We started classes literally fenced off in the corner of the training room, practicing attention around the innumerable triggers (dogs, people, sounds, movements, etc.). We ended a few years later with Welles earning his Canine Good Citizen title and starting some basic Rally before we moved to Seattle. Ten years from adoption, Welles is a different dog — still reactive, prone to anxiety, and, at times, difficult to manage — but he is living a happy, healthy life and with a little management, stays home comfortably while we are at work and is able to meet a variety of other dogs happily and even lives with a second pup now!
Our second dog (a 2-year-old Golden) has improved his confidence even more, to the point where they have several neighborhood dog friends whose yards they insist on visiting during most of our walks. It may seem tiny to a lot of people, but seeing Welles calmly walk up to another dog and wag his tail never fails to surprise and delight me. He has a few doggie friends he even offers to play with although he’s now (at estimated 12 years old) arthritic and losing most of his hearing.
I know we wouldn’t have gotten this far without the good start assisted by AHS, so as I’m thinking back on how far he’s come these last ten years, I recognize we owe a huge debt of gratitude to AHS for both saving him and ensuring we were set up for success.