Shirley Zindler
Print|Email|Text Size: ||
Shelter Pups Need Love

Even though I work mostly out in the field as an animal control officer, and love it, the animal shelter is still my baby.  Almost every day I walk through at the beginning and end of my shift to check on the animals. As I passed through one of the small dog areas recently, I noticed an adorable terrier mix puppy in a cage. The puppy begins to growl as soon as he sees me. Teeth showing, eyes dilated, body tense, the pup makes no secret of the fact that he will bite.  I open the cage and he growls louder. I talk softly to him, then offer a cookie that I always have in my uniform pockets.  He threatens to make mincemeat out of my face but finally leans forward and sniffs the treat cautiously.

He continues to glare at me as he reaches for the tidbit. “That’s a good boy, you’re such a good boy” I croon as he chews. The body visibly relaxes and I scratch him under the chin. He licks my fingers and wiggles closer. A moment later, the puppy crawls into my arms, snuggling as close as he possibly can while his tail whips in delight and he covers me with kisses.  In less than two minutes, we’ve gone from “Get away, I hate you, I’m going to bite you” to “I love you, I trust you, don’t ever leave me”.  I’ve seen it a thousand times and yet it never fails to move me. I cuddle him close and promise him a better life, swallowing the lump in my throat and marveling again at what a gift dogs are.

Of course, sometimes it takes hours, days or even weeks for a scared dog to come around, and a few never do, but most improve quickly with patient handling. My own Great Dane, Tyra, took longer than most to trust, but now she’s the happiest girl around. It always warms my heart to watch a dog blossom into a confident pet.  

The puppy’s initial behavior is so understandable. Abandoned, terrified and in a strange place, his response was completely based on fear. As soon as he felt safe, his reaction changed.  Over the following days of his stray hold period, I visited with the pup daily. He greeted me happily each time, with a wagging tail and soft, wiggly posture. The pup had been vaccinated, wormed and flea treated on intake and as soon as his stray hold was up, he was vet checked and neutered. Once on the adoption floor, it only took a few days for him to be adopted by a loving family. This is what it’s all about, I thought, as I watched him go out the door in the arms of his new adopters.



Shirley Zindler is an animal control officer in Northern California, and has personally fostered and rehomed more than 300 dogs. She has competed in obedience, agility, conformation and lure coursing, and has done pet therapy. Zindler just wrote a book The Secret Lives of Dog Catchers, about her experiences and contributes to Bark’s blog on a regular basis.

CommentsPost a Comment
Please note comments are moderated. After being approved your comment will appear below.
Submitted by Marty | February 14 2013 |

Your article brought tears to my eyes. You totally hit it on the head when you wrote "what a gift dogs are." In my opinion, they may be the best gift we've ever gotten. I have a puggle, and he is a complete lover. He always wants to sleep with his head on part of my body. As we drift off to sleep together every night in the bed (he usually gets there before I do! but he's got the cutest snore in the world. My sister and her husband say his snore is very Zen. And it so is.) I always send up a little prayer of thanks for giving me something so perfect and utterly loving at the same time. I don't know how I lived without him, honestly.

Submitted by Marty | February 14 2013 |

p.s. My puggle, Tucker, came from a pound. And how anyone ever left him there, I have no idea, but it was the luckiest break I ever got!

Submitted by shirley zindler | February 17 2013 |

There are so many lovely mixes, darling purebreds and even "designer" dogs waiting in shelters. There is a darling puggle in our local shelter now. I never fail to be amazed by all the wonderful dogs waiting for the life they deserve in shelters and rescues. I couldn't be happier with my rescue dogs.

Submitted by inzeye | February 14 2013 |

I recently adopted a 1 year old terrier mix from the SPCA and will be forever grateful for the all the dedicated folks who made a huge difference in the quality of my little friend's experience. I know that animal control had a hand in getting him off the street and making sure he got to the SPCA as soon as possible, knowing that he would easily find a forever home once he felt safe. I also know he was treated carefully because his transition into my life has been wonderful for both of us. He is still a bit fearful of things like big men and vacuum cleaners but as you say, a little time and gentle exposure is the key to his well being and confidence. Thank you for your dedicated compassion. It pays huge dividends for all of us who adopt!

Submitted by shirley zindler | February 17 2013 |

We couldn't do it without dedicated adopters willing to welcome a needy dog into their homes. Thank you for adopting a shelter dog!

Submitted by Carol Menke-Cl... | February 16 2013 |

Shirley, thank you from me too! My two BIG girls were left at the Placerville shelter together and my heart broke when I first saw them. There was no hesitation that they were both coming home with me to be sisters to Caty and jake, all rescues. My Dodger loves his girls now and was found wandering in Sacramento a few years back.

More From The Bark

Shirley Zindler
Shirley Zindler
Shirley Zindler
More in Shirley Zindler:
Justice—and a Home—for Patty
A Bag of Tricks Helps in Dog Rescue
A Sweet Good-bye
Lost Dog Recovers From Tick Attack
Amber Turns the Corner
Going the Extra Mile
Learning Dog Social Skills
More Lessons from Hernando
Lessons from Hernando
Saving Abandoned Pups