Ginger came to us several months ago. She was surrendered to a shelter after just a year with her original family. The shelter kept her for some time, hoping to find her a home. When that failed, they contacted Homeward Bound.
The information on her was incomplete, as is often the case. Some dogs can be read as easily as a book cover; their likes are quickly expressed and their needs from humans obvious. Ginger is an exception. She kept her cards close to the vest as they say, and shared very little; no affection, no attention, no hint that she cared. Nothing except a compulsion for chasing balls.
As far as she was concerned, a human’s only purpose was to provide food or a game of chase. Maybe dogs are like people – protective of their hearts when they’ve been broken.
Ginger is an incredibly athletic tomboy; she loves to run and play in the water and mud.
She moves with strength and speed.
She has amazing, piercing eyes that never seemed to really see you. Hyper – and hyper-vigilant, she never relaxed.
She accepted human proximity if it meant a treat or ball chuck, but she completely shunned physical contact. The combination did not bode well for her popularity or adoption prospects. It was obvious that if she had a chance at finding a forever home, we would need to crack the code and find some way into her heart and head.
Even while she was pushed us away, it hurt to know to that she was making it impossible to love or be loved. Our volunteers are dedicated to seeing the dogs go home. As stubborn as she was – our team is more so. For months, they worked to break through.
A harness helped turn her daily dog-walker drags into something approaching a stroll, but she was still not connecting. Before we could perfect other training, we needed her full attention. We have had ball-obsessed dogs before, and good success in helping them overcome the compulsion. But none of the usual efforts seemed to work with Ginger. Finally, a price was extracted for throwing the ball; a few seconds of touch or some fleeting eye contact. The team shared notes regularly on her progress which was painfully slow. Until, by accident, we discovered the kryptonite that would break through her defenses: a stuffed, squeaky toy. A soft, noisy toy left by another dog temporarily transformed her. The dog that would not let you touch her was suddenly making eye and physical contact. A scratch, a pet – eventually even a rub.
It’s interesting. Stuffed animals are used to help children with many issues: hyperactivity, aggressive behaviors, temper tantrums, staying relaxed, and nightmares. Maybe there is something in Ginger’s past that creates a positive connection between stuffed toys and humans or safety. Now a stuffed, squeaky toy is a regular part of Ginger’s interaction with the team. Progress is being made – slowly, but it is clear progress as this video with Margie and Ginger shows.
Someday – in the not-too-distant-future, we hope – Ginger will have her chance at a forever home. She will owe that accomplishment to an accidental toy, and the very deliberate determination of our dedicated team. We can’t wait to report on it.