Good things take time. That was certainly true for Boss, who spent 788 days – that’s two years and two months, or 14 dog years – in Dogwatch’s care before he finally went to his new forever home. But the wait was definitely worth it.
Boss came to us from the Christchurch city pound in July 2020. His circumstances weren’t unusual; he’d been picked up by animal control but no owner came forward to claim him. When his time at the pound was up, we stepped in and took him into our care.
Despite his size and sturdy appearance, it quickly became clear to us that Boss was actually a very anxious dog. He found it hard meeting new people, he was particularly uneasy with people coming into his space and he felt the need to protect his resources. We also quickly discovered that he had a huge fear of traffic; during one of his earliest assessments – a short walk with one of our trainers – he was so desperate to move away from the roadside that he leapt into a paddock of unsuspecting bulls!
He also had complications with allergies which caused him discomfort and meant that some days, his tolerance was lower and he needed more space, and that was okay. He cooperated with salt baths, ear drops and cream applications – with those of us he trusted.
As Boss settled into the shelter, his beautiful, goofy nature began to emerge. He had a spring in his step, he loved playing in water and he was absolutely obsessed with balls. He gained condition, coped with being introduced to more of our team, and engaged in his training with full enthusiasm. He started to trust.
While our trainers and behavourists worked to help Boss overcome his anxieties, we set about finding him the perfect home. His adoption profile was frank about his needs and the type of home he required, but a dog as handsome as Boss is always going to get lots of applications.
Over many weeks and months we received a total of 61 applications for Boss, along with many phone calls and emails enquiring about him. We had to decline most applications because the home or the applicant’s circumstances simply didn’t meet Boss’ unique requirements, and many more applicants withdrew once they’d talked to us in more detail about him.
However- finally – an application came in that showed real promise, as our Adoption Centre Team Leader Kristen Blaber-Hunt explains.
“The first call I had with Lisa was really positive. She was super-open to the discussion and was very interested to hear about Boss’s ‘quirks’, as we call them. It was clear she was properly listening and absorbing information. She had a calm demeanour, and I just had a good feeling about her as she was patient, understood it would take time, and just seemed to be someone who wouldn’t get stressed easily.”
So Kristen arranged for Lisa to come and meet Boss at the shelter. “Lisa did exactly what we asked of her during the meet and greet,” Kristen says and Lisa agrees that her first meeting with Boss was a success. “I had a pocketful of treats and Boss had two handlers with him. We took it very slowly, letting Boss think it was his idea to make friends with me.”
Kristen was also impressed with Lisa’s approach to the adoption process. “She had the right attitude and mindset, right from day one. She didn’t have a fixed idea about how long it might take, she just wanted to take it one step at a time and not rush anything, which is exactly what we needed for a dog like Boss. She was patient and she was willing and keen to learn. Her application on paper looked like a challenge due to several factors, namely an existing dog and a cat, which adds further challenges around his resource guarding, but even knowing that, she was still was willing to work through it. And best of all, Boss really took to her, even on the first meet!”
Lisa’s successful first meeting with Boss and her enthusiasm to engage in a longer-than-normal adoption period set in motion what ended up being a 16-week process of preparing Boss for his new home.
She describes the adoption process as ‘very slow and steady’. “Boss met me, my dog, my cat and my son and only when everybody was happy with one aspect did we move onto the next. Integrating the two dogs took a lot but there were always two experienced trainers on hand and I learned so much – not only about Boss but about my girl as well. From there we progressed to trips out, home visits, overnight visits and eventually adoption. Throughout the whole process the support I received from Dogwatch was outstanding. They supplied a crate for Boss’s overnight visits, food, his muzzle and harness and Kristen even met me at the vet after hours to help with his vaccinations. Any questions or concerns were listened to and addressed and I was given lots of resources about things like decompression, settling in and multi-dog household management.”
So how did we know when Boss was finally ready to leave us for his new home? “Essentially it was when Lisa felt she was ready,” Kristen says. “It came down to discussing with her about where she was at and making sure there was support in place and that she had all the tools she needed. Because of the slow, gradual integration into her home via sleepovers, it came to a point where he was at hers more often than not!”
Boss is now firmly ensconced in Lisa’s home and heart. “At the moment we’re still arranging life around Boss,” she says. “But very slowly he’s dropping his guard and I know eventually we’ll just be a home with two very spoiled dogs!”
Naturally, when a dog spends as long with us as Boss did, it’s hard when they eventually leave. But we couldn’t wish for a better outcome for our big handsome boy, knowing he’s in such a brilliant home, living his best life.
“Spending over two years, five days a week with a dog, you’re bound to grow attached,” says Kristen. “And that definitely happened. Boss taught me so much about dog behaviour during his journey with us, and I’m grateful that I’ll be able to use this knowledge to help more dogs find their place in the world. Thank you Bossy for trusting us with your life!”
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