Rescue Tails / Reacher’s Story

By Cathy Baier

There are chapters in a dog’s life story, just like there are chapters in a book. In the introductory chapters to Reacher’s story, we are missing a lot of the details. We know he was born in the north. We don’t know why but he ended up in a shelter when he was two years old. He got adopted and then spent the next seven years of his life with a family. At some point during that time, the family moved to the Keys but eventually had to give him up. That’s when he officially became a FKSPCA shelter dog at age nine.  

It was at this point we began helping Reacher write the next chapters of his life story. He was sweet but a bit suspicious and anxious when we met him.  We also discovered he had some painful health issues: a hernia which required surgery and a mouthful of painful teeth requiring dental work. Both were done and as his pain diminished, he felt better and eventually was adopted to a local family. 

Unfortunately, his wariness and tendency to worry got the best of him. His alarm barking and defensive behavior were challenging, and he was returned after a month as a result. 

The next chapter in the story included a second hernia surgery, more recovery time at the shelter, and eventually a new foster home. When COVID hit, we put as many dogs as we could into foster homes and Reacher was one of them. We were hoping Reacher would endear himself to his foster mom and end up staying with her. But again, his behavior cost him a home.  He was not a fan of strangers on the street when out walking which made exercising him hard. Plus, he would continuously wake her up throughout the night. Lack of sleep wasn’t helping either of them and his challenges were more than his foster mom had bargained for. Again he was returned to the shelter.

Being a small dog and also part of our Golden Paw program, which is for senior animals and includes a great benefit package to adopters, Reacher generated a lot of interest. We received many applications. But we had learned a lot about Reacher in the time we had him, and we knew he needed an environment where he stood the best chance of success. Typically, what adopters were looking for and what Reacher needed were too far apart. We couldn’t ask him to endure another loss if things didn’t work out.  

Reacher was well-loved by our staff, and it was a staff person who came to his rescue. She agreed to foster him while we waited for the right home to surface. She was willing to make the necessary accommodations to build a predictable, supportive environment where Reacher could begin to feel more secure. She created a safe zone for him in her house, gave him a set routine he could rely on, and provided him with activities that helped calm him but also kept him busy. In time, Reacher’s behavior reflected the growing trust he had in her. As their relationship grew and she consistently proved to him that she had his back and would keep him safe, he began to relax and worry less. His nighttime barking diminished and his behavior when out walking improved. Her dog also served as a companion who helped Reacher feel more secure when he went out for walks. He even began to play!

However, we knew she couldn’t keep Reacher permanently and that we still needed to write a final chapter to his story. The chance to do this came from a couple who had adopted a little female terrier from us tsen years earlier. Their other dog had recently passed, and their little girl was lonely, but they weren’t sure they wanted a second dog again. In the end, their concern for their daughter won out, and they called about Reacher. It was hard to contain our excitement while talking to the family. They sounded perfect; their current dog sounded perfect; their schedule sounded perfect; and their home sounded perfect! We were totally honest about Reacher, his history, his health, and his behavior. Thankfully, they agreed it was worth a try. We took Reacher to their house, and it went amazingly well. Their little dog, Lady, even playfully “flirted” with Reacher, something they hadn’t seen her do before! We were feeling pretty sure the last  chapter was about to be written.

As you probably have guessed, Reacher is now living his perfect life. He has found his family, is adjusting well, and is enjoying the love and companionship of a new lady friend. 

From his people: “Since day one, Reacher fit right in and has been a great addition. We are lucky to have found him. We sure are glad he decided to join our family!

….. and they all lived happily ever after.   THE END!

When a dog does not succeed in one setting, it doesn’t mean the dog failed, and it doesn’t mean the family failed. It simply means it wasn’t the right fit. The FKSPCA staff works hard to create matches that meet the needs of everyone, both two-legged and four-legged. We may not always get it right, but we will always try.

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