July 20, 2017

Hooked on a Feeling: A Fearful Puppy’s Journey

“They are looking to be loved and cared for just like we are. The unconditional love that puppies like Hook offer is irreplaceable.” – Rachel C. of New York, NY

In late January 2017, we were delighted when a transport brought a dozen adorable puppies to the ASPCA from a partner shelter in Mississippi. The puppies were brought to us in the hopes that by relocating them, they would have a better chance of adoption. One of these puppies was Hook, a five-month-old Australian Cattle Dog-mix with an unclear history. Just by looking at the sweet puppy, no one at the ASPCA Adoption Center doubted that the handsome boy would attract many adopters. However, it became apparent early on that Hook’s history had included limited interactions with the outside world, and with people. This lack of socialization left the poor puppy extremely fearful and kept him from coming out of his shell.  

Luckily for Hook, the Behavior team at the Adoption Center didn’t plan on giving up on him. They knew that with lots of patience, behavioral training and, eventually, the right adopter, Hook could become the beloved pet he was meant to be. He was no less deserving of a loving home than any of the other, more social puppies.

Though it was sad to see such a young dog in a constant state of fear, the Behavior team worked extremely hard to give Hook the right tools to overcome his fears and eventually learn to trust. Soon after his arrival at the Adoption Center, it was decided that Hook would be placed with a foster so he could learn what it is like to live in a domestic setting with human companions. During the time with his foster family, Hook struggled to adapt. Household noises scared him, he couldn’t go outside—his fears still dominated his interactions.

However, in this time, his foster noticed Hook displaying small signs of social behavior, like playing with toys or leaning in for affectionate pats and scratches. These seemingly tiny signs were significant indications of progress and when he returned to the Adoption Center in mid-February, the Behavior team felt confident that given the right adopter, Hook was ready to go to a permanent home.

Around the same time, Rachel C. had made the decision to adopt another dog. Her longtime furry friend, Monster, was declining in her old age, and Rachel wanted her to have companionship since she could no longer go to the dog park. After spotting Hook, Rachel decided that an introduction between the two dogs was necessary. This interaction was what sealed the deal and changed Hook’s life for the better.

Hook and Monster. Best friends fur-ever!

The two got on immediately, and it turned out that Hook’s fears of going outside subsided when he had a larger dog, like Monster, at his side. “They were great companions for one another and served each other's needs perfectly,” Rachel tells us.

So Rachel made the adoption official, and at the very end of February 2017, the once-fearful Hook made a brave leap into the arms of his new family. The love and support from both Rachel and Monster truly helped Hook become the young dog he is today. He even goes to the dog park every day now! “He has made lots of new friends and his past life of distress and sadness seems to be far gone,” Rachel says.

Sadly, Rachel and Hook said goodbye to Monster over a month ago. “Hook was by her side until the very end,” Rachel tells us. Though the passing of Hook’s mentor and companion was a sad part of his journey, the long-term effect that Monster had on Hook’s personality is truly remarkable. It is proof that under the right circumstances, there is potential in any animal, no matter how lost they may seem.

Now, Rachel and Hook are moving on to a new chapter, where Rachel hopes that Hook will continue to be just as energetic and playful as he has been in their past few months together. “Hook and I are now moving to Houston where we have two piglets and two other dogs—Mowgli and Thumper,” she tells us. “I'm excited to let him run around and enjoy the great outdoors.”

Rachel’s advice for anyone who may feel apprehensive when considering adopting a puppy like Hook? “Take a chance,” she says happily, adding that they are simply looking for the same love and affirmation that we all are.