A little about some of the dogs I have been lucky enough to spend time with and watch their progress.
Coco was found by members of the public on a busy main road. The dog warden was contacted and Coco was taken to the pound. Coco was not microchipped and was not wearing a collar or ID tag - all of which are legal requirements.
Staff at the pound estimated Coco to be around 4 months old on the basis of her teeth. Her owners later confirmed that she was 6 months old.
Coco was placed in a crate in as quiet an area as possible at the kennels due to her size, age and her evident fear.
My first sighting of Coco was of her cowering in the furthest corner of the crate that she could reach. Coco growled and snapped at every person that attempted to go near her.
After 24 hours, Coco's owners had not come forward. I agreed to foster her.
Coco was brought out of the crate with a towel wrapped round her due to her constant snapping and growling. When I approached her, she growled however when she was handed to me, she settled.
It was clear as daylight that this tiny puppy was nothing but terrified. She had been through an ordeal and my job was to care for her until she was either claimed by her owners, or rehomed in her forever home.
On my first attempt to walk Coco, she cowered when she saw her lead. Once on her, she refused to walk and froze. With some coaxing and reassurance, Coco began to enjoy her short walks and her responses to her lead and walkies became positive.
Coco continued to be nervous of people for a while, and on walks she would bark at every person or dog that she saw. She would not tolerate any person approaching her and putting their hand over to stroke her head. The easiest approach to this, was simply not to let anyone approach her. Coco was given time to gain her confidence and build a relationship with me. Within my home this took very little time and she soon came out of her shell. Coco began to display a cheeky, playful and affectionate side to her that had been hidden through fear. Coco loved a cuddle and loved nothing more than burrowing under the duvet to sleep in the crook of my knee. Despite her cuteness, Coco needed to be encouraged to increase her confidence though resisting her requests to be picked up every 2 minutes was difficult!!
Once Coco established her relationship with me and began to put some faith back in humans, her confidence grew and grew. She began to walk with her ears and tail up knowing that she was safe. We avoided any situation where Coco may feel particularly vulnerable given her tiny size.
As time went on, I began gradually introducing Coco to more people. She came everywhere with me in the car, to the shops, the stables, friends houses. I wanted her to experience as much as she could though all gradually.
The biggest breakthrough with Coco was one evening when we walked on the nature reserve. It had been a hot day so we went out later at night. I anticipated that it would be quieter and thought it would be nice for Coco to experience a new location.
We encountered 2 women stood talking with 2 small dogs at their feet. They asked if they could say hello to Coco. I was quick to tell them that she was unsure of people and dogs. With a slow and calm approach, Coco accepted one of the women stroking her. More surprising than anything, she also managed not to bark at the 2 small dogs, sniffed them and in no time began playing with them. Coco had a cuddle with the lady and had a whale of a time with the dogs. Both were bigger than her which wasnt difficult, however they were still small dogs and she was clearly in her comfort zone.
Coco's progress from this point onwards was phenomenal. She escorted me to 2 Homeless Hounds fundraising events - 1 with other dogs present, and made friends with Midget, and another which was full of mostly women who all wanted to take her home! She was unsure of the odd person, however in the main greeted people happily and was seriously sucking up the attention!
The only time Coco continued to react, was when she was curled up and comfy. Any attempt to move her got a telling off! Although I tried not to move her when she was comfy, toilet breaks unfortunately are required regardless of a cute puppy curled up on your knee!
Unsurprisingly, the applications for Coco came in thick and fast. I was wary of her being rehomed with young children because of her grumpiness when she was sleepy.
An application came in for Coco to go and live with 3 other dogs (and their huams of course!). I was unsure of how this would go as her socialisation was improving but it was still early days. Coco met the 3 other dogs, 2 jack russells and another Chi, on a walk in a neutral spot. Her immediate reaction to those 3 dogs quite honestly made me cry. Within seconds she was trying to play with them and her confidence in doing so was amazing. There was no doubt in my mind or hers that she had met her new family.
I still visit Coco, and she still remembers me. She greets me with kisses and wiggles like only Coco can. I learnt a lot from my short time with her. People are quick to judge, to make assumptions that reactive dogs are 'vicious, dangerous or nasty.' I often wonder whether they ever stop to think why those dogs react, what caused their reaction and their mistrust in the first place.
Coco's owners knew she was in the pound and chose not to come and claim her. Their loss and Coco's definite gain. She loves her new family, her sister Molly especially and Coco has continued to grow in confidence in her wonderful, loving home.