Sebastian is a two year old Staffordshire Terrier mix who arrived at the Willamette Humane Society in Salem, Oregon on February 29th of this year. He was very scared, and was not handling the stress of shelter life well.
“We realized on top of needing confidence building and working to build trust in a new environment, that he was also nervous of walking on floors that weren’t carpeted,” Rachel LeVitre, Shelter Manager, told iHeartDogs. “We tried to bring him in to our training room on March 3rd for a class with other shelter dogs to build confidence, but he panicked and that is when we realized how nervous he was, and how his discomfort was multiplied when he was on floors that weren’t carpeted. “
For his first few days, they would give him “boat rides” with blankets when they took him for potty walks, to show him the floor was okay and he was going to be alright traveling on them.
Because of his fear of being walked on these surfaces, he could only be walked by skilled handlers, and while a great adoption candidate, was out of the public view in the shelter’s “back of house” kennels that could accommodate him better.
“He wasn’t getting interest as he wasn’t easily view-able to the public, so in our weekly meeting, where we discuss all of our animals and their needs, our behavior and training Manager Catherine Comden suggested we move him to the adoption kennel room and get him something to make the concrete feel less like concrete,” LeVitre said.
That’s when two amazingly devoted volunteers, Marianne and Martha, took it upon themselves to give Sebastian the greatest gift of all: freedom. The went to the store and bought rugs for him out of their own pocket, and donated them to the shelter to use specifically for Sebastian.
“We instituted a training guide to work with him daily on building confidence in getting in and out of the kennel, by turning it into a game and letting him enjoy other people and LOTS of treats for being brave,” LeVitre said.
To give him the best chance possible, they did all they could for him. He got to go on an overnight stay with a foster parent to spend some stress free time on carpet. They brought in a canine acupressure volunteer and used lots of reward-based training to show Sebastian that hard floors weren’t so bad. He had an entire behavior team of volunteers as well as their Behavior and Training department to help him work through his fears.
Even better, on March 31, just two days after they shared his story on Facebook, Sebastian got a home!
“We all immediately asked ‘does she have carpet?’ to which the Adoption Supervisor replied ‘all except her kitchen, which she had hoped he wouldn’t spend much time in anyhow!’ We couldn’t help but laugh,” LeVitre said. “If there’s any way to keep Sebastian out of the kitchen, it’s to have a tile floor!”
Thanks to these wonderfully kind volunteers who went way above and beyond what they “had” to do, Sebastian not only became more comfortable with the world, but he found a loving home.