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The Good Shepherd Humane Society, Inc.: Dogs Playing for Life Mentorship Grant Report

How did this grant help your organization and the pets in your care?

The money was used to send our Animal Services Supervisor to DPFL training.

We have been able to safely implement a play yard program.

How many pets did this grant help?

Several dozen so far

Please provide a story of one or more specific pets this grant helped.

Tucker was found at Inspiration Point late last August. A week after that, he was brought to Good Shepherd. Tucker is a good dog, but his behavior in the shelter had him quickly labeled “dog-aggressive.” Literally dozens of families passed on adopting him because of this; most people who come in to adopt already have at least one pet in the home.

We tried everything to promote Tucker. We made him Pet of the Week multiple times, we named him king on Mardi Gras, and we featured him whenever we could. However, the fear of his dog aggression kept him in our kennel.

Tucker spent more than 300 days in our shelter before someone was interested in him (we have an average stay of one month). When a family did adopt him, he was returned in two weeks due to family issues.

We hated to see him come back because it had taken so long to find the first home, but we loved Tucker and were committed to seeing him placed.

Soon after Tucker was returned, another homecoming took place. Terry, our Animal Services Supervisor, came back from a weeklong training in Colorado. Terry, thanks to a grant from the Petfinder Foundation, had attended a special training called Dogs Playing for Life.

This training focused on running playgroups in shelters in a safe and effective way. We were very excited about the program. However, I will admit I was surprised when Terry told me he wanted to try Tucker in the playgroup.

He wanted Tucker, big, bad Tucker, in the playgroup with a bunch of other dogs. I honestly thought Terry was crazy, but he had gone through training, had all the safety equipment, and wanted to give it a shot. So I did what all good bosses do: I pretended to have the utmost confidence in my staff while silently saying a very emphatic prayer that, hopefully, Terry knew what he was doing.

Soon I get a call on the radio: They are asking me to come out to the play yard. I was slightly worried, but when I saw what was going on, I immediately knew that starting playgroups had been the right decision. There, in the middle of a large group of dogs, just playing like there was no tomorrow, was Tucker!

Big, bad, dog-aggressive Tucker, just there in the middle of the pack having, a ball. I couldn’t believe it. In just a few minutes of playgroup, we learned more about Tucker than we had in almost a year in the shelter. Tucker is now in a foster home that we hope to make permanent.

Shelters are not a natural environment for dogs. The stress of being kennel in a loud, smelly, strange place can make even the kindest dog grumpy and mean. When you see a dog behind the door of kennel, you are not seeing that whole dog, and we mustn’t judge them solely on that.

Instituting playgroups has been an amazing step forward for the dogs in our care. Today we are going to talk with Terry about playgroups, the training, and what he hopes to see at Good Shepherd in the future.

Further Reading