A Beautiful Display Of K9 Kindness, As an Abused, Neglected, Starved and Abandoned Hound Bounces Back
Meet Boone, a 2.5 y/o, M, Intact, full-blooded Bluetick Coonhound that was found on the side of the road, emaciated, very underweight with hips plus all ribs protruding completely, and very dehydrated. A vet-check found worms, ear mites, fleas, ticks and weight loss due to starvation and dehydration, he was otherwise OK with no injuries.
We fostered Boone to help him heal him physically and take care of his emotional/behavioral needs. Boone was almost completely shut down the entire first week he was with us. He was very weak, lethargic and would sleep almost constantly, laying on his new bedding and pillows. He would look up occasionally, but would only get up and venture from his bed in order to eat, drink or go outside briefly to go to the bathroom. When he stood, he showed very fearful body language, he would cower, his tail had been bobbed and there was no tail movement at all, just pointing straight down, he was easily startled and very reactive to any noise or fast movements, noticeably hand-shy. None of this surprised me, given his situation and condition when found.
Going into the second week, Boone started showing more energy, and began getting up to briefly explore his new surroundings, but he would tire quickly and go back to sleep. He began to notice the dog Shelby and the cat Oscar that are here, and although he still moved very slowly and skittishly, you could see he was definitely beginning to feel stronger, build trust and confidence and was coming out of his shell.
Our dog Shelby was very gentle around him, and she is usually a very rough and rowdy personality type dog. She would occasionally prod him to play, but he showed no interest at all for the first two weeks he was with us. We continued to focus on feeding him to get his strength and some weight back on him, get him through his course of meds, and make him feel safe and secure.
Shelby occasionally kept working her magic on him and slowly, very slowly, but surely, Boone started to interact with her and attempt to play. It was obvious from his body language that Boone had been used, or had attempted to be used, as a hunting dog only, and most likely kept alone in his own kennel outside, with no real socialization or playtime with other dogs.
So, it didn’t surprise me at all when we had given them both bones to chew on that Boone gave a guarding growl at Shelby when she came over to investigate his bone, in fact I was watching to see if it would happen. Shelby is not a dog to back down from any other dog, but she did exactly what I thought she would, given her gentle treatment of Boone so far, she simply walked away and sat next to me to give him space to eat his bone.
Not wanting to frighten him or break what little trust he had built up, I gently corrected him with a “Boone… eh, eh…” in a non-judgmental, non-angry, but surprised and sad sounding voice and three raised fingers, to let him know that was unacceptable behavior. He looked surprised, then quickly put his head down, started nibbling on his bone again and then did one of the most beautiful things I’ve ever seen a dog do.
Boone got up with the bone still in his mouth, came over to Shelby who was sitting right next to me, and with the bone hanging out of his mouth he presented it to her to take from him, as if to say he was sorry for being so rude! He kept putting it right next to her mouth for her to share with him, Shelby gently grabbed it and held it and then they both pulled on it together, turning it into play!
This was truly touching to watch, and they ended up in a rather animated, vocal play session after that!
Boone has continued to rehabilitate and has almost completely come out of his shut-down, withdrawn behavior now, and is really a new dog. He is still very timid at times, but his self-confidence and trust in humans are building every day, he is a happy dog now. He has never growled at Shelby again. One gentle correction, done the right way, is all it took.