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You’ve come a long way, lovely lady!

UPDATE: July 6, 2014

Viola remains available for adoption. She continues to spend these lazy days with her foster family, but she is eager to meet that perfect family to spend many summers together.

A magnificent white shepherd, Viola came to North Shore Animal League America from a Midwestern puppy mill in February of 2013. As staff member Laura recalls, Viola was initially afraid of absolutely everything…trees, rain, leaves, birds, wind, and people. “We just let her hide under the desk in our office,” says Laura. “We hung out with her, gave her treats and lots of encouragement and affection, the way we always do with our frightened puppy mill dogs, and very gradually she opened up and blossomed. She’s really come a long way.”

About a year old when she arrived, Viola needed surgery for medial patellar luxation, a condition in which the kneecap (patella) pops out of its groove. The procedure was successful and she is now a playful, healthy dog.

More challenging were her lingering emotional wounds. These we’ve addressed through our Foster Care Program, which places pets into loving, temporary homes with the option to adopt. Even when the placement doesn’t end in adoption, the program is crucial for the rehabilitation of our more traumatized dogs. Each foster home helps the dog socialize, develop people skills, learn to trust, and compensate, as in Viola’s case, for the neglect and stress of life in a puppy mill.

According to Alex Bab, our Foster Care Manager, every foster home experience provides our staff, behaviorists, and trainers with additional information and insight into that particular dog, enabling us to understand more deeply the dog’s specific needs, refine our adoption criteria, and eventually find the best possible home for that individual dog.

To begin, Viola lived with staffer Laura for seven months. During that time, Laura observed what she calls Viola’s “slow-motion transformation. We had a wonderful relationship,” says Laura. “At first I couldn’t even pet her, but by the time she left me for her next foster, we had clearly formed a strong bond. She’s really a gentle soul with a gorgeous being inside her, a joyful spirit who loves hanging out, playing ball in the yard, and seeking attention and affection. And she’s very good with other dogs, too. I’ve never seen even a speck of aggression in her. ”

Viola’s second family has cared for her since November 2013. They, too, have seen Viola make great strides. “She is the sweetest dog,” says her current foster mom, Ana. “She’s a total mush, rolls over for belly rubs — loves, loves, other dogs. She’s so much better now than when she arrived.”

Ana and her husband supported Viola in countless ways as she continued to progress throughout the winter months, even helping her overcome her fear of snow, something she’d never seen, smelled, or touched before. “Now she plays in the yard all the time with our other puppy, though cars and trucks still scare her. She’s basically housebroken and, let me tell you,” says Ana, “she is a true lady…loves to be brushed and groomed, even likes her ears cleaned and teeth brushed. And she’s a real family girl, very smart, wants to be part of the pack. She even loves doing dog yoga with me.”

She’s improved significantly at each foster home, notes Alex, and he’s hopeful this trend will continue. Nevertheless, Viola still has some hard work to do. For example, she remains fearful of new things and loud noises, though after exposure and gentle encouragement, she accepts them. But her most serious issue — the one that represents her biggest hurdle yet — is her considerable fear of men.

Alex says he has seen subtle but encouraging improvement in Viola’s attitude toward him since she arrived at NSALA. So while acknowledging the difficulties her fear entails, he nevertheless believes that with patience, TLC, and the right environment, Viola has the potential to improve even more and perhaps even come to terms with her aversion to men.

“There is definitely work to be done in this area,” he says. “So what we’re looking for is a foster-to-adopt situation, someone willing to work with Viola realizing the challenge involved. Whoever that person is would have our complete support, a direct line to me and all the expertise of the League’s training and behavior staff.”

Everyone who knows and loves Viola agrees that she would probably make the most progress in a home with one or two women. “She really needs to be with a woman who can devote time and TLC to her,” says Ana. Alex concurs, adding that given her amazing progress to date, Viola deserves a chance at a loving, permanent home.

If you think your home is what Viola needs to continue to grow and thrive, please contact Alex Bab, our Foster Care Manager, at 516-883-7900, ext. 352, or email him at alexanderb@animalleague.org.