Way back in December 2020, a dog, a large shepherd mix was at the humane society and her due date was coming up right before the holidays. She was a good girl and it was too hard to think of her not making it out especially at that time of year, but Home for Life® just didn't have the capacity at that point to help her. We turned to a rescue we really admire, New Leash Rescue, which does so well with many dogs, especially the big ones, that often are overlooked.
After much discussion, we made a deal: they would help Nala and in exchange, we would help with three of their dogs who had been in their program for a few years and were not turning out to be candidates for adoption. We have often worked with other shelter and rescue programs to help cats in need—we help with cats they may not be able to adopt out and they help with at-risk cats we learn of at impounds or humane societies who may need a different setting to show their best selves and find a home.
It takes a multifaceted approach to save as many lives as possible It was through such an arrangement that the beautiful huskies Elke and Chinook found their Home for Life®. In the process, the life of the young large shepherd mix Nala was also saved, and she had her chance to live in a foster home and find a loving home thru the New Leash Rescue.
Elke and Chinook had a circuitous journey to reach us. Not only because of the negotiations that took place to get them to us, but everything that happened before. Elke is the white/vanilla-colored husky, a female with blue eyes, and Chinook is a beautiful black and white male with blue eyes. They are thought to be brother and sister and are very bonded to one another.
Chinook and Elke (named after the beautiful blond actress Elke Sommer) were part of a confiscation of numerous dogs of a husky breeder carried out by cruelty investigators approximately three years ago. Reportedly 30 huskies were recovered from deplorable conditions and brought to the humane society. Several had to be euthanized due to medical and behavioral concerns: it was a real tragedy and disaster. The rescue community was heartbroken, and the Adopt A Husky organization stepped up for Elke and Chinook at this point and took them into their program. From there the rescue RPAW took Elke and Chinook, surely thinking that with their striking looks, they would be able to find homes. Apparently, without foster homes available, the two huskies ended up boarding under the RPAW umbrella.
The sensitive dogs, particularly Elke, started to deteriorate in this setting. Elke refused to eat, and both the dogs had no real prospects sitting in a boarding kennel. It was at this point that the great New Leash Rescue took over the care of the two lost souls.
Elke and Chinook were placed in a loving foster home and their appetites came around. But they were exceedingly shy and unsocialized, and while not aggressive, they were not likely to appeal to the typical person seeking a pet. The two dogs would not walk on a leash, could be handled but didn't really relish handling, and were much more comfortable with other dogs than humans. Quality of life for them did not encompass a close relationship with a human owner, but that precluded most options for them in rescue where the focus is moving dogs into adoptive homes.
The question is whether animal rescue can make a safe and loving place for dogs like Chinook and Elke. The current options available thru animal welfare didn't serve them: they were already born and in fact approaching age 8 when they came to Home for Life®. Thus, spay-neuter options would not solve their problem. They had been in 4 placements after being confiscated from the husky breeder: the humane society, Adopt a Husky, Rpaw, and then New Leash. The issue is that all these groups focus on moving dogs to adoption. Although Elke and Chinook turned heads with their striking looks, they would never make pets for a conventional pet owner looking to adopt. They reminded us so much of our Malamutes Ice and Sasha (https://homeforlifesanctuary.blogspot.com/.../snow-angels...) Although Elke the female had the white coat we knew they would feel safe and loved with us, as Ice and Sasha had been, accepted for the majestic, though always aloof and shy dogs that they were.
Elke and Chinook arrived in March 2021, just as winter was winding up. Sure enough, neither dog cared to walk on a leash at all and had to be double leashed to get them to move at all. They stopped eating when they first arrived but we could see they liked their food under all that fur, and before long, got them eating—we tempted their appetites with several delicious alternatives—many different kinds of canned food, baby food, hotdogs, and even ground meat and rice!
Both dogs love to be outside and, due to their disdain of leashes, we have them in our main dog building which has a fencing system that opens into ever large run areas so that the two huskies can move to spacious yet protected meadow areas to run through a series of gates which they have quickly learned to use by following the other dogs. They are gentle and reliable with other dogs, and in fact, the confidence of the other dogs around our staff has encouraged Elke and Chinook to relax and has restored their stability and well-being. They still are not enthusiastic about being touched or handled and prefer to keep their distance, but Chinook has learned to use the dog door to come inside and Elke is thinking about it—and will come in if the door is propped open.
It gives us so much joy to see these formerly fearful dogs who had been thru so much and who had a bleak future run and even smile. At Home for Life®, we have a different concept of training and rehabilitation of dogs like Elke and Chinook. A sanctuary like Home for Life® is a unique position to provide shy animals like them the time and space they need to reinstate their rapport with people--on their own terms--when it has been fractured by early damaging experiences or when by virtue of an animal's individual temperament, the dog or cat simply requires more independence to be happy. Rehabilitation should mean restoring the well-being of an animal. For many animals, this equilibrium does not include a close relationship with human beings. Elke and Chinook are great examples of dogs who can lead a happy and peaceful life without having a close bond with a human. Home for Life® believes that animal welfare CAN make room for dogs like Elke and Chinook, creating space and places for them like our sanctuary where they can be safe, at peace, and thrive. A meaningful life on their own terms. Read more about shy dogs and cats at Home for Life here: http://homeforlifesanctuary.blogspot.com/.../Shy%20animals
Their long journey and their complicated story show that, for shy dogs like Elke and Chinook, sanctuaries like Home for Life® have a vital role to play. If animal welfare is truly committed to doing more than giving lip service to the concept of "saving them all", including the dogs and cats who can't find help thru adoption.