October 5, 2016

Once a Traumatized Hoarding Victim, Buddy Works Toward a New Life

buddy being petted

“They told me he can’t be left home alone for too long, he can’t play in the park, he can’t be outside at all. Everything scares himthe pigeons, the bus, especially other dogsbut from the moment I saw him, I knew what he needed the most:  love.” –Deanna L. of New York, NY

An estimated 250,000 animals fall victim to hoarding situations every year. The issue of hoarding is a complex one, and in many of these cases, the animals involved are at an extreme disadvantage and left without much hope of ever seeing the outside. Buddy was one of these animals.

Buddy came to the ASPCA Animal Hospital (AAH) this summer after being rescued from an overcrowded home. The one-year-old Maltese was in a state of constant fear and unrest. His behavior indicated to the team that his interactions with the outside world had been extremely limited, if there had been any at all. The poor pup had to be taught things very slowly by the ASPCA Behavior Team, and even had to be put under anesthesia just to be groomed properly. Things we normally think come easily for dogs were difficult for Buddy:  he didn’t know how to walk on a leash and he couldn’t go outside to use the bathroom. The team at the ASPCA Adoption Center worried that Buddy’s extreme fear and lack of socialization would make it more difficult to find the perfect adopter.

Fortunately, fate had other plans for Buddy. The sweet little pup was with us for a little over a month when something remarkable happened. While touring the Adoption Center looking for a new furry friend, Deanna L. stepped off the elevator and saw Buddy. 

buddy with his tail in the air

“It was love at first sight. I came off the elevator and as soon as I turned the corner, I saw the glass enclosure and a beautiful puppy with sad eyes,” says Deanna.

Deanna says that she knew that Buddy was going to need a lot of extra attention and special care, but it only made her want to give him a home more. She was certain that the small, white dog with the big, beautiful eyes was the one for her. “He needed as much love as I had to give, and we were perfect companions,” she says. “I named him Leo the Lion, both symbolic and fitting, and we became a family.”

But Leo still had a long way to go in his adjustment to normal life.

Recalling her few first days with Leo, Deanna says, “Every day he was getting better. By day three he had the run of the house and would race back and forth from the bedroom to the bathroom in one straight line. By day seven he stopped barking at night and would cuddle up in a blanket next to my thigh, warm and comforting.”

Buddy walking

Deanna continues to work hard every day on Leo’s transition to his new home, surroundings and interactions. She tells us that although it is a slow moving process, her love and understanding of Leo is what helps them move forward.

“I used all the love and patience in the world and tried to get him to fight his fears, a little bit more each time. Like a trainer training an athlete for a competition, I set higher goals each walk. I take him a little bit further every time, I expose him to new experiences and sounds. It is a work in progress but he is getting better.”

buddy running

Leo has even broken his own record and can now make it around an entire city block. Deanna sees this as one of his biggest accomplishments. “It means he is rehabilitating, he is feeling more confident, he trusts me and he trusts himself.” His progress may seem slow, but it is incredible to see a dog from his background make it so far. Deanna and Leo the Lion’s companionship must have been written in the stars, because we couldn’t think of a better ending for this “Happy Tail.”