Imagine being in a completely alien place, surrounded by unfamiliar scents and sounds – it must be terrifying. So for a dog already accustomed to danger all around, finding himself in a dog shelter proved traumatic. But when a familiar shape approached the pooch to calm him down, a connection was revealed which melted shelter staff’s hearts.
In response, many shelters around the country are working to get their residents into loving homes. Take the Monroe County Animal Shelter (MCAS) in Alabama, for example. In September, the hard-working staff of this shelter received two dogs into their care. And these dogs have a tragic and touching story.
The pooches were called Dino and Sookie, and they had been running as strays in the local area. No one really knows what life was like for the pair before they ended up at the shelter. Nor is it clear why they lived on the streets in the first place.
Edi Kelley, the director of volunteer group Paws Crossed Dog Rescue’s (PCDR), discussed the subject with The Dodo on September 25, 2018. “People had seen the dogs running around,” she said. “They were starving to death, and some people said they were afraid of them, which makes no sense to me at all.”
“So animal control came in and took them to the shelter,” Kelley continued. Rescuers named the male dog Dino and the female Sookie. But while Sookie adapted to her new surroundings quite well, Dino found the whole thing to be a traumatic experience.
Everything about the shelter seemed to scare Dino. The new sights and sounds must have been a shock to the poor dog’s senses. Consequently, an uncontrollable panic overtook him which broke shelter staff’s hearts.
But despite his deep-seated fears, there was someone who could be counted on to comfort him. Because animal control brought Dino and Sookie in together, the dogs were living in the same kennel. And so she was on-hand to approach Dino and ease his terror.
Dino snuggled up with Sookie, and her closeness seemed to calm him down. As a result, the staff started to believe that the pooches had a deeper connection than just friendship. In fact, a theory emerged which suggested that the dogs were mother and son.
Kelley explained to The Dodo how their behavior is indicative of this theory. “He’s much younger, and he doesn’t act like a dog who’s a mate,” she said. “He acts like a dog who’s a child.” She went on to describe how the two interact.
“He leans into her, and tucks his head underneath hers,” Kelley relayed. “He will not let her out of his sight, and he has to be touching her. If he is not physically touching her in some way, he is very stressed.”
The dogs’ situation was further complicated when MCAS discovered that Sookie was pregnant. The puppies were expected to arrive very soon, but Dino’s carers didn’t know how he would react. As a result, they decided to keep mother and son separated when they closed every evening.
Needless to say, Dino suffered from serious separation anxiety each night he wasn’t with Sookie. Kelley suggested that shelter staff found the experience traumatic themselves. “The young male dog howls and cries,” she told The Dodo. “It’s awful.”
“He wears himself out for hours on end,” Kelley continued. “As soon as they reunite them in the morning, he gets completely calm and relaxed. He likes to be at her side – he does not like being separated from her.”
This continued throughout the pair’s stay, but then MCAS received some good news. PCDR had found a foster home that would take, not only both dogs together, but also Sookie’s future puppies. And the timing couldn’t have been more serendipitous for the mommy dog.
On September 21, 2018, MCAS reported on Facebook that Sookie had given birth to a pup in transit to her foster home. A further nine puppies followed, with her son Dino close by for moral support. Tragically, one of the puppies crossed the rainbow bridge and died shortly after its birth.
The others are reportedly in good health, as is Sookie in the aftermath of her birthing. “She is doing well,” Kelley reported to the Dodo. “[Dino] wants to get in cage with her. But she growls at him now with the pups in there, so he is crated right next to her.”
A later Facebook post shared by MCAS on September 29, 2018, revealed that Dino and Sookie’s bond soon flourished again. And if Kelley’s description for The Dodo of the pair’s emotional connection is anything to go by, it’s not surprising. “They’re inseparable,” she stated. “It’s a very sweet relationship, and it’s a very dependent relationship.”
Kelly informed the website that, “The mother dog is very socialized, so somewhere along the line, she’s had contact with people. She wags her tail and enjoys being pet. Dino is very skittish around people. He doesn’t show aggression, and he doesn’t growl or bear his teeth, but anytime a person comes to him, he hides under her.”
However, she said that Dino’s fosterer won’t give up on him. “They’ll really work with him, help bring out his personality, and show him that people aren’t harmful,” she revealed. Then the search will begin to find all the dogs permanent homes. Hopefully, after all they’ve been through, Dino and Sookie will stay together.