How a Bonded Pair of Extremely Fearful Dogs Became Silly, Adored Pets
Christy and Ricky D. didn’t plan on adopting two dogs at once, but after losing their 14-year-old Husky, their house felt empty. Christy ventured onto PetFinder in search of a dog to fill the empty space in their home and their hearts and quickly fell in love with Sirius, a two-year-old mixed breed pup at the ASPCA Behavioral Rehabilitation Center (BRC).
“I showed Ricky Sirius’s picture and bio and he said, ‘Let’s figure out what we need in order to welcome him home safely!’” Christy remembers.
Christy got in touch with Jenny White, a Behavior Rehabilitation Specialist at the BRC, who let her know that Sirius has a sister, Telli, whom he is bonded with and should be adopted with. Though Christy and Ricky weren’t looking to adopt two dogs, Christy told Jenny to bring Telli to their scheduled meet and greet as they would plan to adopt the pair together.
“Sirius and Telli arrived from a limited-admission shelter in Georgia, where they had been pulled from a county shelter before euthanasia for poor socialization and extreme fear,” explains Cecelia Erwin, Behavior Rehabilitation Specialist and Sirius’s caseworker. “They were a little over a year old when they arrived at the BRC and had spent most of their lives in these two shelters.”
Due to their immense fear, the Georgia shelter was unable to work with the pair, so they were transferred to our experts at the BRC.
“Telli was very shut down, fleeing from people when we tried to interact with her,” explains Christine Young, Behavior Rehabilitation Specialist and Telli’s caseworker.
“Sirius showed extreme fear towards humans and he scored a “C” overall on his first evaluation, displaying moderate fear for the majority of the evaluation,” says Cecelia.
Luckily, both Telli and Sirius loved other dogs, which meant we could use helper dogs in treatments to put them both at ease and show them that the world isn’t so scary.
Both dogs began to positively progress. Telli began to enjoy being petted—something she was initially very fearful of—and Sirius loved playing with humans.
A Bump in the Road
Unfortunately, Sirius had an injury during his treatment which derailed his progress a great deal.
“In late August he was non-weight bearing lame on his right rear leg,” Cecelia tells us. “A consult with an orthopedic surgeon revealed that his right hip had a previous injury which had healed, and that the right knee had a luxated patella that caused severe discomfort. He had surgery in September.”
In October, Sirius was able to begin treatment again but at a limited capacity. Since Sirius was such an energetic and social young dog, interaction and play with people and other dogs was a big motivator for him. Since this type of interaction had not been possible for him for several months as he was healing, he experienced a major regression in fear during his recovery period. But our experts were there to help him every step of the way.
“Once he was cleared to interact with other dogs, and go on physical therapy walks, his progress got back on track until we realized a major stopping point for him was his ability to get into a car,” says Cecelia.
To help Sirius through his fear, Cecelia and her team used multiple methods. They utilized helper dogs once again, specifically those who would happily get in the car, showing Sirius that it isn’t so scary. The team also would have Sirius play with people and dogs in and around the car to help build his confidence. And once he was able to get in the car reliably, Sirius would travel to different places to meet with other dogs for play or walks.
On average, rehabilitation requires roughly 13 weeks of treatment. However, that timing depends heavily on the severity of each dog’s behavior concerns and how responsive they are to treatment. Both Telli and Sirius spent extended time in the program, with Telli in treatment for 37 weeks and Sirius for 52 weeks.
“By the time she graduated, Telli was much more comfortable with people, happily played with toys and loved her long walks,” Christine tells us.
“By the time Sirius graduated, he was a happy, social boy who loved interacting with familiar people and playing with dogs,” says Cecelia. “On walks he was well known for his “boops”, where he would poke the palm of your hand with his nose. If you reciprocated and “booped” his nose back, he would dash off with excitement and then run back to repeat the process.”
Sirius also became a great helper dog himself, and was very adept at bringing out the social, confident side of more fearful dogs in the program.
Having graduated from the BRC program officially, there was only one thing left for Telli and Sirius to do—find a loving home!
Meeting Their Match
After the duo had been available for adoption for a few weeks, Christy reached out. At their meet and greet, Telli was brought in first.
“I just loved her,” remembers Christy. “The energy she had and the zoomies that she still does makes us laugh.”
Sirius was brought in soon after Telli got acclimated.
“I remember how they were so afraid of me they wouldn’t come near me, but Sirius kept going over to a set of steps beside me and looking at me. We took them for a walk and Jenny let me know that Sirius likes to “boop” people. He did it as we were going out the door and it made me laugh!”
In addition to Sirius’s silly antics, Jenny also informed Christy of all of Sirius’s medical needs as well as both Telli and Sirius’s behavioral needs.
“I told Jenny I had my knee replaced about a year ago so Sirius and I could be a pair. It didn’t sway us at all,” says Christy.
Shortly after their meet and greet, Christy felt confident in their decision about the pair and was ready to take her new dogs home!
When Telli and Sirius first arrived home, they were understandably very timid.
“They didn’t eat for a couple of days which broke my heart, but Jenny had warned us this could happen. Telli finally broke her fast by taking a bite of cream cheese out of my hand,” Christy tells us. “Now they eat breakfast and dinner every day! Treats are a given and they always have an eye out for human food.”
Though they are still mildly nervous dogs, Telli and Sirius have become an integral part of Christy and Ricky’s family.
“The Farkels, as we call them, have brought such joy and laughter into our lives with their sweet personalities and antics,” says Christy. “Every single day we see a difference in their behavior—even if we don’t get to love on them the way we want to. Sirius now barks at everything and Telli whines right along with him. We play it up and their tails go wagging a mile a minute.”
“Sirius has started going to Ricky for treats which is a major milestone,” she adds.
Christy and Ricky aren’t the only ones that are happy with their decision to adopt, everyone at the BRC was rooting for Telli and Sirius to find the loving home they deserved.
“The fact that Sirius and Telli found their loving home together is one of the highlights of my time at the BRC,” says Cecelia. “They were both special dogs who faced significant challenges in their lives, and who had a lot of people and different organizations take a chance on them. The fact that after their long individual journeys they were able to wind up together in the end, with a home that loves them both dearly is nothing short of magical.”
Christy and Ricky couldn’t be more thrilled to have this goofy duo in their lives.
“We won the lottery the day Jenny called me and started telling me about our soon-to-be fur kids,” Christy tells us. “Life wouldn’t be the same without them. They are still a bit skittish, but they are loved, fed, adored and well cared for. And they are home. We won’t ever give up on them.”