In November of 2021, over 500 dogs were rescued from an Iowa Puppy Mill. Despite being born in deplorable conditions, Lolly, of the pups from the rescue, has turned her life into one with purpose. Now living in North Carolina, she works as a "helper dog" where she helps guide fearful dogs through new activities. She was rescued by ASPCA and sent to an emergency shelter for initial treatment.
According to the ASPCA, Lolly had matted fur, internal parasites, dental disease, and a severe infection during her first medical exam. After receiving treatment for these issues, Lolly was transferred to the ASPCA Behavioral Rehabilitation Center (BRC) to address her avoidant behavior toward human interactions and walking on a leash.
"The BRC is the first-ever permanent facility dedicated to the study and behavioral rehabilitation of canine victims of cruelty and neglect. After being rescued from the Iowa puppy mill, Lolly needed support with her fear and under socialization, and came to the BRC for treatment," says Darren Young, CPDT-KA, Lolly's behavioral rehabilitation specialist at the BRC.
"At first, Lolly was nervous and pacing, her stress even causing her paw pads to sweat," Young adds of Lolly's initial behavior.
Young is used to working with dogs demonstrating "severe fear." The BRC cares for numerous puppy mill rescues each year. Young says dogs saved from these situations "have almost always lived in isolated environments, where they had little, if any, exposure to the outside world." Young focused on training with Lolly to help the dog gradually overcome her fears.
"Our team employed evidence-based training methods to help Lolly learn to create positive associations with new people and places, and walking on a leash. As the weeks passed, she began to come out of her shell with the help of our team as well as other dogs in the program, including some of whom were also rescued from the same puppy mill. Eventually, Lolly was more and more excited to work with her handlers and began to solicit our attention — seeking pets and time spent in our laps," the behavioral rehabilitation specialist says of Lolly's training journey.
After only six weeks, the pup was ready for graduation! Lolly now lives with Dr. Ashley Eisenback, DVM, the Senior Director of Veterinary Services at the BRC. Lolly seemed to be able to warm up to people fairly quickly and enjoyed playing with larger dogs at the BRC. "This behavior really captured my interest as our family was wanting to adopt a smaller dog that would be a companion for my two daughters and our relatively new young dog," the Senior Director said of her first impressions of Lolly.
"We saw progress with Lolly becoming more comfortable in our home each week. She had never been in a home before ours, so there was a lot for her to experience and adjust to. Now, she is fully part of the family and does everything with us. She loves sitting and cuddling with us and being petted. She loves walks in the neighborhood and exploring new places. She sleeps with my youngest daughter every night," Dr. Eisenback says.
One year following the rescue, Lolly no longer needs the services of the BRC, but she still visits very often. "Lolly pays it forward by coming to work with me at the BRC often to serve as a helper dog for other dogs moving through the program. She also helps me teach children that are afraid of dogs, that dogs are kind and gentle," her owner adds.
"Helper dogs can act as guides, showing a fearful dog how to walk on a leash, jump into a car, or even how to happily engage in play. The helper dog often gives the fearful dogs the confidence they need to interact with people and their environment. This, in turn, helps them to feel more relaxed and allows their personalities to blossom," Young explains.
"Dogs are very resilient when we are patient with them. Fearful dogs can become wonderful companions with patience and understanding," Dr. Eisenback says.
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