Fiona’s Journey: From Fearful Hiding to Frolicking on the Beach

February 17, 2022

Kenji, a beautiful, chocolate-colored Lab-mix, was returned to the Humane Society of Charlotte (HSC) shortly after she was adopted due to her fearful behavior in her new home.

Back at HSC, Kenji continued to hide in her kennel, losing the confidence she’d previously gained in their care.

While Kenji enjoyed being around other animals, she was severely fearful of unfamiliar places and people, behavior that suggests she may have been rescued from neglect or hoarding. Kenji was so fearful that at times she needed to be carried—wrapped in a towel—outside to go to the bathroom or elsewhere in the shelter.

Although Kenji’s past was unknown, her path to a brighter future became clear. HSC reached out to the ASPCA Behavioral Rehabilitation Center (BRC) in Weaverville, NC, the first facility solely dedicated to specialized care and treatment for extremely fearful dogs

Starting Something New

At the BRC, Kenji’s rehabilitation journey began. Our behavior experts crafted a plan to help Kenji overcome her anxieties and fears so that she could find the right home. Because she loved being around other dogs, our team paired time with helper dogs with something that Kenji was not yet comfortable with—like walking with a new person.

“Kenji's comfort and confidence began to grow as she began playing with other dogs, especially in our outside yards. She even would take dips into the kiddie pool,” Jenny White, ASPCA Behavior Rehabilitation Specialist, explains.

Slowly, Kenji’s fears lessened. Her playful personality shone brightly around other dogs, whether they were romping in the play yard or snuggling on a comfy bed.

After months of treatment, Kenji was ready to find a home with a patient family who could help continue her journey to recovery.

Who’s That Puppy in Your Inbox

When Rebecca C. and Matt K.—two dedicated ASPCA Guardian monthly members—opened an ASPCA News Alert email, a smiling photo of Kenji caught their eye.

“We already had two dogs and had been discussing adopting a third for quite a bit of time,” says Rebecca. “We originally were going to wait a little longer, but when we saw Kenji featured in the ASPCA newsletter, we knew we had to meet her.”

The couple got in touch with the ASPCA and soon were meeting Kenji for the first time. They brought one of their dogs with them and spent time in an outdoor area where our team introduced them to Kenji.

“We could tell she was fearful of us as new people in her world,” explains Rebecca. “When we took a walk with her, she walked cautiously, occasionally trying to pull away, and not liking when we would walk behind her.”

Meeting brand new people often proves an ongoing challenge for dogs like Kenji—even after successful rehabilitation. The team explained that although Kenji would need some time to adjust to a new environment with new people, she had learned to engage with familiar people at the BRC.

Hearing about Kenji’s sweet disposition Rebecca and Matt knew they could be the patient family she needed. They were confident that with the help of their dogs, Kenji could feel comfortable and right at home with a new, loving pack.

Jenny was a great resource for Kenji’s new pet parents, reaching out often to check in on how things were going and always available to answer questions or provide guidance.

With time, patience and resources from the BRC, Kenji began to adjust to life with her new family—who renamed her Fiona—marking a new chapter in her life. No longer was Fiona hiding under beds, afraid of the world, but embracing what it had to offer, diving in paws first.

Feeling the New Fiona

“Today, Fiona has so much more confidence!” Rebecca tells us. “She is playful and energetic, loves to go on walks and play outside, and to engage in play sessions with our two other dogs. She is also a big cuddle-bug.”

About a month after her adoption, the family took a trip to a beach house in the Outer Banks of North Carolina. “We feel like she became a different dog on that trip—she was so happy and confident on the beach, playing in the sand and water. She definitely brought some of that confidence home with her!”

Rebecca and Matt continue to introduce Fiona to new people and places and are thrilled by her continued progress in their care. She has transformed from a skittish, timid pup into a cherished pet. Our team is equally delighted with every Fiona update, celebrating that another once-fearful dog has found new life and love.

“She has already brought so much joy to our entire family—humans and canines alike,” Rebecca marvels. “She is such a sweetheart. We can’t wait to see how she continues to grow, change and flourish in the coming weeks, months and years!”