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Stray Hearts Animal Shelter: Dogs Playing for Life Mentorship Grant Report

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

Dog Playing For Life training

The training I received, I then brought home and trained the rest of the staff here at Stray Hearts. We have been putting on a playgroup every Friday from 9-12. The only animals that do not participate are the small-breed dogs. This is because we have quite a few large dogs who love to rile up the pack and we are nervous that the smaller dogs will be injured if we add them in. There have been quite a few dogs who have been completely shy/feral when they've come to us, but once they're in playgroups, they are approaching people, and even going up to the fence to say hi to the public. We have had many dogs adopted once members of the public come out to watch the playgroups and fall in love with the personality of one of our dogs.

How many pets did this grant help?

Approximately 180 animals from October to present date.

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

We have had a few who came into our shelter very shy, or feral, whom we could hardly interact with for safety reasons. One in particular was a 2-year-old heeler mix named Tamira (first photo). She came in as a puppy, was adopted out, and brought back to us by the adopter. She was very antisocial at the time she was brought back to us, and we put her in with some other nervous dogs. This was a bad idea, as she then progressed toward being feral rather than being more social. We would free-run her out to an outdoor kennel and then back in for potty times. She was VERY resistant to people being in her space, but never made any indication that she would bite other than barking. She simply got up and moved anywhere but where we were.

Eventually she allowed us to start touching her while feeding her treats, and from there we put a collar on her. After about a week and a half, we decided to take her out of her kennel on a double lead (slip lead and a leash attached to her collar). She was very interested in figuring out where she was going, and the following Friday she was brought out to playgroup. She immediately started acting like she was terrified, so we simply introduced her through the fencing, and then took her back to her kennel.

The following Friday we brought her out again; however, this time we hung out with her outside the yard for some time, and then put her in the playgroup with about 20 minutes before it ended and we took everyone back inside. She loved being around the other dogs, but still was very hesitant to come up to the handlers.

After about six playgroups, Tamira was coming up to the handlers and sniffing around their legs, but was still unsure if they reached for the leash. After being at Stray Hearts for over a year, with our staff and volunteers spending many hours working with her to build her confidence, she was adopted two weeks ago (second photo). After seeing her on Facebook, her new family drove out from Virginia to pick her up and give her a new home as a ranch dog. Tamira has settled into her new life quite nicely. She is walking on a leash with no trouble and letting complete strangers come up and pet her. Her adopters send us updated photos every so often.

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