The force of Hurricane Irma, the Category Five storm bearing down on Florida, was sending ripples of shocking urgency from coast to coast: People needed help and so did the animals. As homes and businesses evacuated, animal shelters prepared to take on the immense burden of orphaned and wayward animals likely to be displaced by the storm.
Over 3,000 miles away, the Berkeley-East Bay Humane Society, Tony LaRussa’s ARF, and the East Bay SPCA jumped into action. While the Humane Society of Broward County in Fort Lauderdale loaded all its animals into crates and drove them to the airport to begin their long flight to the West Coast, this coalition of East Bay animal shelters readied themselves to receive an airplane filled with over 150 cats and dogs en route to the Hayward Executive Airport.
Once on the tarmac, the animals were quickly divided between the three organizations. Over 50 of these animals went to Berkeley Humane, and among this population was something unexpected. There were three medium-sized, very shy, very scared, dogs that were clearly going to need special attention. Unbeknownst to the shelter, they were part of a previous rescue effort to move feral dogs from the streets of Puerto Rico to Florida. Kendra, Kaye, and Holly’s long journey from their home island had finally come to an end, and it was clear they would need extra time to adjust to a new life in Berkeley.
At first, they kept to themselves in their new kennels, avoided eye contact, but secretly ate treats left for them by devoted volunteers and staff. They were terribly shy, yet ever so slowly and after weeks and weeks of gentle nurturing and encouragement, they began showing little glimpses of playfulness. Several times a day, staff would gently open their kennel door and speak in soft, low tones with the promise that they were there to help. Kaye was a barker, warding off any attempts at interaction, but our skilled behaviorists knew she was all talk and would allow you to sit with her. Soon we discovered she loved sharing small bites of your sandwich at lunchtime. Holly wanted to be near people but was unsure of how, so we patiently taught her to walk on leash and enjoy being alongside a person in the big outside world. Kendra was a statue, frozen in place, until she learned that people could give her gentle touches and those scratches behind the ears felt good, really, really, good.
Slowly but surely, these shy creatures were learning how to trust humans, so the next step was to prepare them for foster homes and give them more experiences in a family environment outside the safety of their kennels. Berkeley Humane’s foster providers were trained on how to acclimate each dog to a household with small exposures to new things over a span of time. With this process, they began to love their walks, play with toys, and even started to learn a new language: the unspoken language of love between human and dog.
This was a big change for them, but Kendra, Kaye, and Holly each began to slowly blossom. These sweet souls revealed that indeed, underneath their shy exteriors, lay hidden but genuinely wonderful companions.
As much as we love all of the animals in our care, the ultimate goal is to find each of them a loving home. Every animal adopted from Berkeley Humane receives a lifelong guarantee that if something does not work out for any reason, each animal would be welcomed back. Our goal is to prevent future surrenders to local municipal shelters.
But Kendra, Kaye, and Holly were going to require a special “going home” strategy. Custom training guidelines were created to provide potential adopters with the specific skills, tips for gentle care, and most importantly, an emphasis on the patience they would need to continue Kendra, Kaye, and Holly on their journey to unlock all of the love these sweet dogs have to offer. After more than 20 weeks in our care, Kendra was the first to find a loving home and is now enjoying all the benefits of sleeping in a warm bed as a family companion. Kaye and Holly still await their chance to offer their unconditional love to the lucky adoptive family able to open their hearts to a shy dog.
Romy Harness is a longtime member of the board of directors for Berkeley Humane.
Bay Woof invites shelter and rescue groups to write about their animal welfare programs each month in Shelter Zone. If you want to participate, email Editor@BayWoof.com. Participants are allowed to submit bios and photos of adoptable dogs from their shelters and rescue groups for the accompanying Doggie in the Window.
Doggie in the Window
I’m a sweet little cuddle-bug who loves to be held (or even wrapped in a blanket like a tiny burrito). I fit so nicely in your lap and would love to hear all about your day. We could go for a walk and I could show off my leash manners to all your friends. I am 6 years old.
Is this lap taken? I’m a sweet older lady with very distinguished ears and a gorgeous coat you’ll want to brush and pet for hours. I love sitting with you and giving you little kisses, but going for a walk around the block is a welcome event. I am 9 years old.
Are you looking for a sweet new friend? I’m a little lady with a friendly demeanor, an adorable sugar-coated pink nose, and marshmallow filling (just kidding). I love exploring and finding new scents and am always ready to show off my leash manners on walks. I am 5 years old.
I am 2 years old. I grew up outdoors in Puerto Rico, and when that’s your story, you learn to look out for yourself. I may be a bit of an introvert and am still trying understand human affection, but I’m learning. My heart longs for love and a chance to be home with you!
Main article photo by: Photo illustration by Brian Breneman