Community News

Jake found the patient home he needed!

Dogs are individuals with different personalities, behaviors, and needs. These differences are influenced by breed, genetics, age, health, learning history, and the environmental conditions in which they are living. Not all dogs thrive in all homes. Some animals are more adaptable and able to succeed in many types of homes. Others require more specific conditions to live successfully. Then, there are dogs who need very special homes, and unfortunately those homes are few and far between. Jake was one of those dogs!

When Jake (aka Jack) came to us, he already had at least three homes that we knew of, and he was still a young adult. He came from a shelter on the mainland. We don’t know why he ended up there the first time, but we do know he bounced in and out of there with some frequency. Eventually, he was adopted by a very kind couple and brought to the Keys. He stayed with them until his behavior with other dogs became too concerning, and a dog fight was the final straw that brought him to us.

Jake was a behavioral paradox. He was determined and independent in many ways, yet highly sensitive and emotionally dependent in others. He was medium in size but could be a powerhouse of strength. He was soft and loving, yet had a hard edge when pushed beyond his limits. He was tolerant of some dogs but not of others. Jake’s all-over-the-map behavior made him a very challenging dog; he was not a responsible placement for the families who expressed interest in him. For that reason, Jake was with us for a long time. We worked hard to help him maintain his quality of life, but it wasn’t easy for him or for us! Yet, we knew if Jake was to succeed in another home, it had to be just the perfect one.

Jen and Martina had adopted a dog from us many years before, and we remembered them when they arrived asking to see Jake. Their attitudes, kindness,  common sense, and willingness  to learn gave us hope. We told them everything we knew about Jake: the good, the bad, and the ugly! They were understandably cautious, yet willing to get to know him. We all agreed the most important thing was the well-being of their other animals. They had no dogs. We discussed how we could build in some safety measures if they wanted to give it a try, which they did.

We have to say, Jen and Martina could have written the book on how to set a dog up for successful rehoming. More than any dog in recent memory, Jack was set up to succeed in spite of his many challenges. We have been in awe of all the steps taken to bring about his successful transition into their home. We want to share many of them in case it could help another family and another dog.

· Got to know Jake slowly, visiting him more than once at the shelter and spending time with shelter staff who knew him to help build his trust. They didn’t rush the process.

· Put safety measures in place (gates, rearranged living areas) to protect their other animals BEFORE they brought Jake home, giving their other animals time to adjust to those changes before Jake appeared on the scene.

· Did scent swapping with used bedding between Jake and their other animals so everyone had some pre-exposure to each other’s smells BEFORE first home visit.

· Kept Jake’s world small, (house, yard, and short walks outside) once home, giving him time to decompress. All introductions to things and people were done gradually. Only one new thing or one new person at a time.

· Provided a routine that offered Jake stability and predictability in his life.

· Created a comfortable “safe zone” (i.e., large crate) with nearby pheromone diffuser (Adaptil) to help Jake feel calm, while maintaining safety with other pets and new people.

· Took weeks to introduce him to other pets and then did with safety measures (gates, leash) in place.

· Covered windows during initial transition to limit visual stimulation to outside “triggers,” preventing barking and frustration-driven reactions.

· Provided mental enrichment activities.

· Brought in a knowledgeable, reward-based trainer to help them learn how to support positive behavior changes and build Jake’s trust and confidence.

· Worked as a united team, which included their trainer and support from the shelter.

We didn’t know if this adoption was going to work and had our doubts at times. But looking back now, we may have been underestimating the commitment of these incredible women and also of Jake himself. No guarantees exist in life, and Jake is a work in progress. But we can tell you he is well-loved and now living in harmony amongst his furred, feathered, and finned siblings. We are indescribably grateful to Jen and Martina for helping take Jake down a path to a wonderful life.