Just in time for National Puppy Day, I have a story to share with you from Big Dogs Huge Paws. Marshall is a five-month-old male black Great Dane whose family surrendered him to the Nebraska Humane Society after a car hit him. Naturally, his injuries were a priority, but the bigger concern was his lack of social skills. Marshall is representative of the thousands of orphaned puppies across the United States, which is the focus of National Puppy Day.
Those behaviors weren’t ones I was used to handling, but I couldn’t say no.—Ruthie Markey
Handling Marshall a challenge for the Nebraska Humane Society. He growled and snapped at staff who tried to help him. For this reason, the shelter contacted Big Dogs Huge Paws.
When volunteers from Big Dogs Huge Paws arrived, the shelter staff asked them if they knew Marshall or had ever met him. After receiving the answer of no, the staff searched for workers whom Marshall knew well enough to let them get him out of the kennel.
He came out to the lobby, goofy-eared and gangly-legged with his tail between his legs and his growl in full force.—Ruthie Markey
This proved to be a difficult task and the staff took a while to bring Marshall up from the kennels. Even at that point, Marshall continued to show aggressive behavior. Volunteers had to spend quite a while offering high-value treats to him and giving him space, before they could get him into a car to head home with Ruthie Markey.
The following week was more of the same at my house, growling and skittish movements. .—Ruthie Markey
In a home environment, it soon became clear to his foster mom that none of his actions were hostile; everything he did was simply an attempt to draw back and defend himself from what scared him. He soon began to trust Ruthie and, once he stopped viewing her as a threat, he bonded with the whole family. He also grew to enjoy the company of the family’s other dogs.
We would sit on a blanket in the grass and he would watch the world go by, growling and “talking” the whole time.—Ruthie Markey
Yet there was still work to do. Marshall continued to but Marshall continued to be overly fearful of any new person. The family took a proactive approach, beginning his socialization by going out on leash into the front yard. Whenever someone would walk by in the neighborhood or a loud car would pass, Marshall would get a bite of a meatball. The family sat out in the yard several times a week to help introduce Marshall to the world and reduce his fear.
In addition to having to learn how to relate to others, Marshall had to endure several trips to the vet due to the injuries from his accident. The family once again turned to the “meatball therapy. Volunteers also dropped by to meet Marshall, helping him to become steadily more comfortable with strangers.
Marshall got better and better each day, learning to see the world as a normal, happy puppy would.—Ruthie Markey
In such a supportive environment, Marshall’s happy-go-lucky and goofy personality began to shine. In time, he cheerfully greeted other foster dogs who came through the Markey home. Once he was healthy, “those long gangly legs of his loved to play and wrestle”! Thanks to the patient efforts of his foster family, Marshall was slowly becoming a loving dog.
She was a single lady with dog-savvy family that would come to visit.—Ruthie Markey
Then came the day that all pet foster parents both dread and eagerly await: an email from a potential adopter! A lady from New Mexico who had owned Great Danes for 20 years, and who now had three playful dogs of other breeds, was interested in Marshall. She not only showed understanding of Marshall’s behavior and background, but agreed to Ruthie’s transportation plan, “I could drive about five hours towards her but she would need to come the rest of the way. A team of volunteers couldn’t transport Marshall the way most of our dogs are. He was too fearful.” The lady agreed, arranging her schedule to break up her trip into a couple days, and even found pet-friendly hotels for the return trip.
It truly was a perfect ending for a terrible beginning–it was everything I could have wanted for Marshall the Miracle!—Ruthie Markey
His adopter brought high-value treats and toys, then calmly sat with the family and Marshall until he accepted her. “She did not rush it and she did not push him. She was exactly what Marshall needed, and by the end he cheerfully followed her to her car.”
National Puppy Day was founded to encourage people to adopt, and especially to educate “about the horrors of puppy mills”. While Marshall came instead from a family who couldn’t afford to pay his medical bills, his story is not dissimilar from those of other puppies whose lack of social skills might otherwise keep them from finding a forever home. Such dogs need patience and time, and therefore a special type of foster pet parent; Marshall is a shining example of why these dogs are worth the effort.
Marshall’s new pet mom reports him as having no more fear of the world. She’s nicknamed him Marshall the Monster because of his high energy and need to get into everything! He continues to receive regular socialization and to shower love on others.