(Blog by Lynn Middleton)
Sunny was placed at the Orange County Animal Care Centre having been picked up from the streets of Anaheim, where she was roaming free. Her condition was somewhat compromised; she was very dirty, her toe nails were a little long and she had clearly recently been suckling pups. Sadly we had no information on her pups or their whereabouts.
On Friday June 19th, 2020, Janette Thomas and Lynn Middleton of Cell Dogs, met Sunny for the first time.
Clearly very scared, she would not engage with us, but after a few minutes of gentle interaction, we got in a position where we could make physical contact with her. This was just what the doctor ordered and after about 20 minutes of this initial, ‘through the bars’ contact, we were able to get her on a leash and out to a grassy run. Within minutes the transformation came to light. Sunny happily came to both of us for cuddles, rolled over for tummy rubs and playfully darted between Janette and Lynn. It was clear that this little dog had great potential and a desire to be loved and cared for.
We decided to give her a bath and to get her all cleaned up (also another way to find out more about her disposition). She was a superstar and tolerated all the fuss and rubbing that was required to rid her of her street grease and dirt. She even allowed us to blow dry her coat, which is a big ask of many dogs.
Sunny was endearing herself to both of us the longer we spent with her. We made a visit to the laundry room to get fresh blankets for her bed, when she decided that she needed a nap, so where better than to snuggle into the blankets and beds on the bottom shelf of the quiet, dark laundry room! Super cute but this also told us just how worn out she was.
The decision was made to give Sunny another chance and so Lynn took her home. She seemed to us a great little dog who deserved to be loved and cared for!
(Our programs are on hold due to the pandemic but we are still finding ways to rescue and train pups, and find their forever homes.)
Cute as she is, Sunny had one or two behaviors that would need to be ‘undone’. As a street dog she had learned to be resourceful. So what’s the big deal in stealing food from the table? Probably, she also had to be very protective of her pups, so she had learned to ‘stand up’ for herself. This was something we had to address.
Slowly she began to de-stress and her anxiety levels lessened. She was initially Lynn’s shadow; everywhere she went so did Sunny! Her confidence and positivity grew daily and soon she was exploring the garden on her own, finding safe, shaded spots in which to relax (again a throwback to her days on the streets). Sunny struggled with being in a crate and being left alone, such were her separation fears. She would pull apart towels and beds in her crate when left, even for short periods of time. These re-adjustments take time to make and so that’s what we focused on.
By Day 5 Sunny was showing signs of being much calmer. She was snapping less at Lynn’s dog Rowan and she also willingly started to offer some play behaviors, which require a tremendous level of trust. Lynn was delighted, and grateful to Rowan for being so patient and such a great ‘big sister’.
Sunny made wonderful progress in the week she had been in a safe and loving environment and had shown that she is a darling pup who loves nothing better than to be held and cuddled. She is a fast learner and was now engaging with the little games that we use to teach her new things and a few manners. She was now eating really well and loved the stimulation provided to work for her food, so in essence, we had ‘Ditched the Bowl’.
Sunny had several longer hikes and coped exceptionally well with these. She was not afraid of mountain bikes or other hikers, so copes with novelty quite well. It was important to get her used to other people and to build trust in folks other than her trainers. Janet, another trainer with Cell Dogs, is a great person to have on board and we set about working with Sunny to build this trust that she perhaps lost a little of during her more challenging time before coming to us.
Sunny is also great in the car! She is calm and loves to ride along wherever we are going. After three weeks, we have also only had a few little accidents in the house, so it seems that she is house-broken too! She loves a bit of gardening. Not the kind that we much appreciate however, as the holes she digs are not enhancing the aesthetics of the yard!
Sunny enjoyed her 4th of July holiday but she had to take it easy as she was spayed on June 30th. She healed well and we made sure that she stayed calm until her sutures were taken out two weeks later.
Her confidence continues to grow but she is still very bonded with Lynn and this is something we are continually working on. Her independence training is slowly developing and she will be ready for her forever family in no time!