By Diana de los Santos, former SPCA HC Shelter Director
All dogs and cats passing through our shelter leave a mark. But there was one, Teddy, who truly touched my heart. He was the product of a puppy mill and was almost two years-old old when he came to us in the summer of 2013. Little did we know then that Teddy would be a 5-year commitment!
Teddy was a quirky little guy and a handful. We found an amusing quote that described him perfectly, “a grumpy old cat in a little dog body!” Teddy did well at the shelter as long as we respected his boundaries. He spent his days in my office snoozing and enjoying Beggin’ Strip treats.
Two lovely and competent people opened their home to Teddy, who quickly bonded with the male half of the couple! Things were going great when unfortunate events struck. Teddy was returned to the shelter. After that, finding Teddy’s “people” was difficult; he was returned to us twice. Luckily, these adopters were able to help us understand some of Teddy’s triggers.
Fear made Teddy bite people! We wondered, though, what else we might be missing. A board member (and wonderful angel) offered to pay to have Teddy assessed at Tufts Behavioral in Massachusetts.
Teddy and I went to Tufts in September of 2014 and stayed in a hotel the night before his appointment. Teddy slept on the other side of the pillow wall I built on the bed. I also put a chair beside him in case he needed a quick escape. Sudden movements caused a reaction from Teddy that could result in a bite. But Teddy did great! Thank goodness I don’t move when I sleep though!
The next day Teddy had a fantastic assessment and was diagnosed with Conflict Aggression. The vet discussed this condition in detail. Finally everything made sense!
The vet also devised a plan that we implemented immediately. We gave Teddy limited contact with staff and hand feeding was key. His kennel (which to this day is still lovingly called Teddy’s Office) had a door that led right outside to the play yard. We just opened the door and said, “Come on,” and he happily trotted out into the yard.
We eventually found another foster family for Teddy. It didn’t work out. We found another one. It didn’t work out. In January of 2016, we found a seemingly great match. We all worked together and Teddy was doing great. But it didn’t work out.
Once again, Teddy was back at the shelter. The ray of sunshine—this time—was not Teddy’s quirks and snarky personality! Thankfully, another foster opportunity surfaced. But Teddy was back with us after five months. We were devastated. We soon realized, though, that Teddy was extremely happy with us. But we wanted more for him. Teddy needed a home of his own.
One couple sent the SPCA an adoption application that piqued our interest. These guys were the right fit for Teddy! We remembered how well Teddy related to males based on his first adoption. Although Teddy would tolerate anyone if his boundaries were known, he related better to men.
These guys completely met the Teddy Challenge! They spent lots of time and effort—at the shelter—building a strong bond with Teddy. When ready to foster, they KNEW what his needs were and the amount of time and patience it would take to make this adoption successful. In January 2018, the guys took Teddy home to foster. They made it official by adopting him the following month. We all had tears of joy, trilled that Teddy’s day had finally come!