When I opened the daily list from the Milwaukee pound, it seemed like the words throbbed on the screen: Animal ID # 239152 M 7Y 0M Am. Foxhound. This was bad news. A senior hound, a seven-year-old male, in the pound. I clicked the link and saw this picture.
Well, he didn't look much like a foxhound, more likely a treeing Walker coonhound, but he was definitely a hound and the worry in his face was palpable. Big old dirty knobby legs. Missing hair on the throat. I didn't think I could pull off saving this old boy but I knew I couldn't turn away either.
I emailed my contact Kevin to request the temperament test. His grades were worrisome: no A's; 4 D's; at least there weren’t any F's. “Comments & Recommendations: Dog is very skittish and fearful. Needs socializing. Did so-so on eval -- 4 D's -- all due to his fear. Would recommend that dog, if placed, go to rescue only -- would not be a good adoption candidate -- due to him being so terrified outside of the kennel.” Not good. I went to bed uneasy.
When I awoke, I was still thinking about him. I found a link to a video posted by volunteers. He was coughing a lot. Oh great; he had kennel cough too. This was heartache in the making. I didn't care about wasting my time but I did care about my rescue-sore heart and making it worse.
I started emailing rescue contacts in the region even though I didn’t have much hope. Who would save an old, sick, fearful, under-socialized coonhound? He didn't have a chance, I thought, and I was filled with dread.
Then I got a reply that made my heart leap up and I almost started to cry. Amy at Bob's House for Dogs, a large professional foster organization in Western Wisconsin, offered to foster him. They love hounds. This was the chance I almost didn't dare to hope for. I only needed to find a shelter to pull him and nurse him through his kennel cough, and then he could go into foster care.
I heard from the Milwaukee pound's rescue coordinator Nancy. 239152 had a name, George, and volunteers were networking to get him into rescue too. They had taken videos of him daily for several days and believed that he could be socialized. The video demonstrated that, day-by-day, George became a bit more comfortable with the videographer. What I saw in that video was pathetic: this dog was so frightened that he could not even walk without creeping. This boy acted like he’d never been indoors before.
The next note I received was just two words from Gina at Chasing Daylight: "He's here." I didn't realize how tense I had been until I read those words. I turned into a noodle. I was almost singing. I made plans to go on Saturday. I couldn't wait to meet him.
He was neutered within the week. I drove up to Eau Claire to visit him. He was easy and relaxed with all of the dogs at Bob's House, hanging back a little bit at times. He watched everything going on around him intently. He seemed to feel a special affinity with Julius, another Treeing Walker Coonhound living there. They hung out together. Here he is standing next Sugar, a young Redbone, Julius, and a couple of other dogs.
• No marking territory (easier after he was neutered)
• Permitting touch everywhere on his body
• Trusting Travis and other male volunteers
• Understanding floors, couches, sinks, and other parts, smells and noises of a modern home
• Accepting affection and petting with ease
George was a fast learner and he learned how to be a house-dog quickly. Amy wrote me that he followed her "everywhere!" after she started giving him face and body massages. Within a month a visiting family fell in love with his quiet sweet ways and took him home, where he is today. Here he is in his new home, chewing a rawhide:
George was extremely frightened when he found himself at the pound but within two months he had been fully socialized by Bob's House and Chasing Daylight volunteers. He found his loving family and the comforts of home and he will enjoy his sunset years being appreciated for the sweet shy boy he is.
This just reaffirms my belief that an under-socialized senior dog, probably a hunter and an outdoor dog, can be socialized, can learn house rules, and can learn to love human companionship.