I picked up Ozzy in August 2018 from Adopt & Shop in Lakewood, CA. I had just moved into a new apartment and wanted a companion to start this new chapter with. Just by seeing Ozzy from his kennel, it was obvious he was very shy and paranoid. After observing him, I asked the staff to bring him out and let me meet him. Upon entering the playpen, he backed into the corner of the wall, shaking uncontrollably and his eyes were wide open with fear. I tried to approach him and let him smell my arm, but he would not even come near me. I attempted to give him a treat and water, but got the same response.
Ozzy suffers from physical and emotional abuse. It is unclear what experiences Ozzy faced with his prior owners, but the staff mentioned that they believed he was abused daily. He was found with rope burns around his back and chest. He had bloody paws and open wounds on his toes. A few of his back toes are missing and he had rope burns around all four paws. Ozzy had been available for almost a whole year, but customers turned away because they did not feel confident that they could take care of him. I understood right away that this poor dog had a hard life and developed major emotional and trust issues as a result. I continued to sit with Ozzy - after some time, he let me pet him, pick him up slowly, and he even took food from my hand.
Before making any decisions, I asked for opinions from friends and family. I got a lot of "No, he is going to be a lot of work" and I got a few, "Yes, you know how to work with dogs and you can help him". I was very torn. His slight progress and emotional attachment I developed just within that hour led to my decision to adopt him. The staff pulled me aside to verify if I knew what I was getting into. They explained the behavior of traumatized animals, the best way to shelter him and ways to gain his trust. I will be honest, I knew I wanted to take Ozzy home and show him a better life, but I had a similar feeling as other customers did. I was not sure if I was capable of making him a happy dog. As I was leaving, I slowly bent down to pick him up - he allowed me to, which shocked myself and the staff members.
The first few months were complicated and challenging. He did not seem comfortable and he did not come towards me. One night I tried to pick him up and he bit me pretty hard, I still have the scars. I was not able to pet him, pick him up or put his collar on to go for a walk. Every time I attempted, he would get scared and start running around the entire apartment in fear. I decided to create a daily routine. We would wake up at the same and I kept his food, water and toys in a designated area. I would leave for work and watch him through my cameras. When I got home, I would prepare my meal, feed him and sit on the floor as we ate. As time went on, I noticed him watching me from afar.
I had to get over my fears as well. I never had a pup that I did not feel safe around. To avoid scaring him, I also watched him from afar. When he slept in my room, I did not sleep well. I always imagined him jumping on my bed, biting a vein and the cops finding my dead body a week later. I would wake up in the middle of the night and find him staring at me. I was terrified.
There is one day in particular that I remember being very difficult. I had owned Ozzy for about two months. He had a vet appointment and I was trying to pick him up and put his collar on. One hour later I was frustrated and annoyed, but still did not have him on a leash. I finally was able to pick him up and put him in his traveling cage. In the process, he bit my hand pretty hard. As I was washing the blood off and holding my wound with a napkin, I felt defeated. I also was not sleeping well and was drained. We got into my car and I started driving. We were already late to the appointment, but I drove off anyway. I ended up parked in front of Adopt & Shop. I didn’t want to take him back, but I didn’t see how we could live like this either. I opened the travel cage and Ozzy jumped out. He climbed on my lap and let me pet him. I did not know how to react, this was the closest we had ever been. We sat in that car for over an hour.
I noticed that when we are outside of my apartment, he is more trusting. I had a long conversation with Ozzy and with myself. I decided to try a new approach and keep Ozzy. I think that was one of the best decisions I made. This time I was going to get through to him. I put him back into his cage and we drove to the vet. Ozzy stayed in the pet hotel that day as I got my head together. I took time to catch up on sleep, cleaned and organized my apartment and figured out a plan. I picked him up a few days later with a more positive attitude. Going forward, I did not pressure him to go on walks or to let me pick him up. We continued our daily routine which he adapted to very quickly. I would let him choose where he wanted to sleep and hang around. He still did not let me put his collar on without a fight, but I saw great improvement.
Not long after, I decided to foster another dog that was the same size as Ozzy, but was more outgoing. My thought process was that if Ozzy saw a dog running around being carefree, maybe he will learn and adapt as well. That day I found Scruffy, a friendly Yorkshire Terrier. Scruffy was very playful and open. As I drove back to my apartment with Scruffy, I hoped they would get along. The first few days with both dogs, I decided to work from home to see how Ozzy and Scruffy got along. Within a couple of weeks, I already saw improvements with Ozzy. The two dogs would run around the apartment playing with toys, they would eat together, they even slept next to each other. I noticed Ozzy would come sit next to me when Scruffy did. If I held Scruffy, Ozzy wanted me to pick him up as well. We all went for walks to the park and visited dog beaches. They became best friends. I was very excited and relieved, Ozzy was doing very well!
About five months ago, Ozzy, Scruffy, and I moved into a house with a yard. Ozzy loves running around the yard, he and Scruffy are always together. Ozzy has no problem jumping on me, letting me pick him up and we all visit the park very frequently now. He allows me to lay right next to him and he jumps with excitement when I get home from work. August 2019 marks 1 year with Ozzy - I cannot believe the progess he has made. I really do believe Scruffy was able to bring the best out of Ozzy. I look forward to many more years with my two pups.