Rescue Tail / Luna’s Transformation

By Tara McFarland
She was brought into our Marathon Campus in her owner’s arms. At 60 pounds she was no small dog, but rather a large, slightly overweight Shepherd/Labrador mix. Her owner said she had never been on a collar and leash before and set her down in one of our outdoor dog yards. They signed the surrender form saying she was two years old, born at their home and that she had simply gotten too big. With a quick jot of the pen they handed the paperwork back and walked away. That’s when Luna’s heart broke.
I’ll never forget the look in her eyes. I was watching it happen in real time. Her eyes grew wider and wider, she started panting harder and began pacing the yard like a wild animal. She became more and more frantic, searching for an exit, howling, barking, panting more and more. It was a hot summer day and we were becoming increasingly concerned about her overheating. In any other circumstance I would never enter a yard with a large dog in that state, but it was clear we had no choice, she had to cool down.
Luna was desperate to get out of there and back to her family. We tried to slip lead her and coax her out of the gate towards the cool air-conditioned kennels. She resisted and flung herself to the ground rolling like an alligator. We were able to slip a collar and leash on and in a flash, like nothing I’ve ever seen before, she whipped around and chewed the leash in half. We tried again with the same results. There was no other option but to pick her up and carry her inside.
Finally. Air conditioning. We were all hot and exhausted. Luna laid down on the cool floor still panting profusely and refusing water. Her rest was brief as she leapt to her feet and paced the kennels still searching desperately for an exit. At least she wouldn’t overheat.
The next morning Luna was defeated. Now inside, we worked cautiously and slowly on collar and leash training, letting the other dogs out to the play yards and patiently walking up and down the kennels together. The days rolled by slowly, her progress slow, but each day we built a little more trust and celebrated each small gain as the incredible success that it was. After a month she was attached to us like glue, she moved herself into the office and followed staff like a shadow. She would walk on a collar and leash but she wouldn’t leave the property. To her this was her home now and we were her family. So how in the world would we get Luna adopted without breaking her heart again?
It only took two months of love, dedication and patience to heal Luna’s broken heart and find her a forever family. Although her new family admits the car ride home was a little stressful, they had experience with their own dog they had adopted a year prior, whose story was similar to Luna’s. They were willing to put in the time to and work to gain her trust. They spent every weekend with her until her adoption day, and even took a full week off of work to help her adjust to her new home! Luna is now thriving. She loves her new family, her canine companion and even goes for walks and car rides! Her broken heart has healed and she will never experience a loss like that again.
When an animal enters our shelters, each one reacts differently. Some adjust easily, some are fearful, some are anxious, some need time to decompress, others act like nothing has changed! Our hardworking and compassionate staff and volunteers are dedicated to every animal that enters our shelters and makes sure that more than their physical needs are met. Each of these animals has emotional needs that require guidance through the transition from home, to shelter to home life again. It can be challenging, exhausting and sometimes overwhelming, but there is no greater accomplishment than being part of that transition and seeing an animal like Luna learn to love again.
Surrendering your companion to an animal shelter is a tough decision. We are committed to helping keep you and your pets together. Be it assistance with food, low cost veterinary care at our Key West Dogwood Clinic or behavioral support, call us at 305-294-4857 or email We’re here for you and your scaled, feathered and furry friends.