Building Up Brooks

January 5, 2023


Tonya L. and her husband, Tony, have a soft spot in their hearts for animals who need a little extra love and care. When they heard about the ASPCA Behavioral Rehabilitation Center (BRC), they knew that’s where they would find a dog who needed them—a dog like Brooks.

Springing into a New Life

In Spring 2021, the ASPCA assisted with the rescue of nearly 30 dogs, including puppies, from a property in Hamilton, Alabama. The animals were living in poor conditions where their basic needs were not being met. 

“It became apparent that these dogs not only lacked clean water and a safe place to rest their head, but also appeared to be fearful and hesitant,” recalls Jasmine Holsinger, Senior Manager of Placement Partnerships, who was on the scene during Brooks’s rescue. “Some were barking at us, others hid in their enclosures, while a few just stood and stared at us blankly.”


Brooks was found in an outside enclosure with floors covered in dirt mixed with urine and feces, and water bowls had what appeared to be algae growing in them.

In safety of the arms of ASPCA responders, Brooks and the other dogs were on their journeys to brighter futures.

On the Right Course

When surrendered by their previous owner, they were relocated to a temporary shelter for care and evaluation. After his rescue, Brooks showed the potential to be social with people and dogs but needed time and a specialized program to help reduce his fear and anxiety. 

Brooks’s fear wavered between mild and extreme during his initial evaluation. ASPCA Behaviorists knew that with the right care and treatment he had the chance to blossom and live a happy healthy life as a beloved pet. 

He was transferred to the BRC where he took a while to settle into his new environment.


“When Brooks first arrived at the BRC, it was very obvious that he had not been socialized with people or in different environments,” says Monica Body, Lead Instructor for the ASPCA Learning Lab, and formerly a Behavioral Specialist at the BRC. “Brooks would retreat and hide behind his crate when a person approached his kennel. He wouldn't take high-value treats offered to him, often turning his head away in fear if you extended your hand toward him. It was obvious, based on Brooks's fearful behavior, that he had not experienced anything remotely close to a loving pet home.”

Monica and the BRC team worked with Brooks daily to curb his flight risk and gently demonstrate that humans can be kind—and often have a hand full of yummy treats!


“As Brooks progressed in the program, he started really enjoying his walks outside,” recalls Monica. “During one treatment, he stopped mid-walk and put his front feet on me, giving me a big silly grin and leaning in for deep scratches. From that point on he started developing wonderful, affectionate relationships with his familiar people.”

While Brooks had made incredible progress at the BRC, transitioning to new home would be a challenge for him. Brooks needed an adopter who would give him the time and patience he would need to settle into a new environment.

Time to Settle

When Tonya and Tony heard about the BRC, they made the decision to make the more than 12-hour round trip to meet a recent BRC graduate to add to their family. While meeting the dog they had originally planned to adopt, BRC staff also brought out Brooks. 

“As soon as I saw Brooks, I fell in love,” says Tonya. “His personality showed through to me.”

Tonya and Tony chose to adopt Brooks and were very pleased to hear that the other dog had been happily adopted a couple of weeks later.

They had experienced working with a fearful dog before. Eight-year-old Carbuncle had medical issues and was fearful, but Tonya and Tony adopted and cared for him until a year later when he was diagnosed with kidney disease, and they made the difficult decision to put him to sleep. They currently have a Husky named Sweden, who had been mistreated and under-socialized and they hoped Brooks would make a good companion for her. They were right—the pair have become best friends!

“Now Brooks is a very precious part of our family,” Tonya tells us. “He follows me everywhere, loves when I come home, loves going for walks, can't wait till I wake up, etc. He is snuggly, gives me kisses all the time, cuddles behind my back when he needs comfort.”  

“Brooks is a fantastic case of a dog who had the curiosity to engage with people but had never been given the chance to socialize early on,” Monica reminds us. “Through our specialized fearful dog rehab program, Brooks caught on quickly that people could provide him with all his favorite things.”

Brooks certainly has his favorite thing in life now—a loving family.