- A 2-year-old pit bull stray was taken to a shelter in November 2020.
- Living in a shelter for so long has caused the dog to develop unwanted behaviors.
- A volunteer bought him a tent to make him feel better.
In November 2020, the 2-year-old pit bull and his brother Hutch, a stray, arrived at I Heart Dogs Rescue and Animal Haven in Warren, Michigan.
Hutch was adopted after a few months and is doing well in a loving forever home, but Starsky was not so fortunate. The trauma of staying in a shelter for so long had taken its toll on the dog, who began lunging at potential adopters as they passed by. Staff and volunteers became wary of dealing with him. Because he’s more relaxed when playing outside, he’s been transferred to a more secluded kennel near an exercise yard.
Even yet, he can hear other dogs barking and birds flying through a hole in his room’s wall, so he remains cautious against flying intruders. Megan Synk, a volunteer adoption coordinator, bought him a unicorn tent to make him feel better.
Starsky was content for almost a week in his special spot until he realized that tent poles made fantastic chew toys. Synk was undeterred, so he purchased him a pink princess tent that didn’t have any poles. It’s still standing, and Starsky likes to sit inside and relax.
“I just love the guy,” Synk said.
She also brings him home for weekend sleepovers around once a month, a compromise she worked out with her husband because they already have other dogs who aren’t eager to expand the pack, to provide him a respite from shelter life.
Starsky is working with a certified dog trainer on his behavioral concerns, and he’s starting to see more volunteer “buddies,” with the hope that they’ll eventually want to take him on sleepovers as well.
They hope he eventually finds an adoptive family who is willing to work with him and make him feel protected.
According to Synk, I Heart Dogs Rescue and Animal Haven has taken in an average of 62 dogs per month and adopted out 49 in the last three months. The shelter’s capacity is roughly 70 dogs, but thanks to volunteers who foster pets in their homes, the group can care for more than 100 dogs per month.
The response to Synk’s story in a Facebook group for shelter staff and volunteers was extremely favorable, and others want to try getting private tents for anxious or fearful dogs.
Kasey Spain, senior marketing manager at the non-profit American Pets Alive! and Human Animal Support Services, an international collaborative of more than 8,000 animal welfare professionals, said Starsky’s story, demonstrates the “incredible” impact of volunteers at animal shelters.
She claims that fostering allows pets to unwind in a peaceful, secure home environment.