By: Carolyn Mathias Severna Park, MD
In January of 2008, I rescued five dogs and two cats from a gas chamber at the Spalding Animal Control in Georgia. One of the dogs, a chow, presented an especially troubling challenge. He was considered extremely aggressive. He had a long cable attached to his collar which none of the workers could get close enough to the dog to remove. He also would lunge at the bars of his enclosure whenever workers approached. Food needed to be pushed under the door because no one wanted to go into the enclosure. The director felt that the dog had been chained his entire life. The dog had been brought into the shelter with the help of a pole and with netting over his head because he was so aggressive. The director stated that this dog was not allowed to be adopted except perhaps through a rescue organization. The dog was scheduled to be placed into a gas chamber within 24 hours when I first heard about him. I couldn’t bear to have the dog killed.
I spoke to a rescue worker who recommended a sanctuary for “last hope” dogs in another state. I agreed to this initially, but when I researched more about the sanctuary, I learned that the dogs brought there could never be adopted out and that aside from various activities and exercise, they basically lived outside in dog houses with small fenced yards for the rest their lives. Of course I started worrying about heat, cold, and hurricanes…although I had been assured that the dogs were sometimes brought inside on a rotated basis. This led me to realize there was not enough room for all the dogs to come inside in extreme weather conditions. Although I’m quite sure this organization sought to do a very good job, I couldn’t resign myself to the fact that this dog would never have the opportunity of having a home and family of his own. In my extreme frustration, especially with the urgent time constraints placed on the dog, I began calling around for solutions and ideas.
Someone recommended the organization, “Dogs Deserve Better.” I went online, called the 800 number, and was referred to representative, Pam Cheatham, who referred me to The Atlanta Dog Whisperer, Angie Woods. Pam told me she sends all of her dogs to Angie…whether or not they actually need “training” as such…because it helps the dogs become so much better balanced. I couldn’t have been more thrilled to hear about an animal “whisperer”. I was concerned that Angie Woods might not accept the dog into her program when I told her of the gravity of the situation. Imagine my surprise when she said, “I never say no.”
The next big challenge was how to transport the chow to the veterinarian where Angie said she would meet the dog. On the day of transport, the transporter (who had come with his wife) literally called me from the Spalding shelter to tell me the dog was vicious and that he felt the dog would bite. He said he would need a pole to put the dog in a crate. He actually tried to talk me out of taking this particular dog and said that aggressive dogs like that really should be destroyed with our efforts concentrated on trying to save the others. I was discouraged with his comments and told him to call Angie and tell her exactly what he was reporting to me. I didn’t want to place anyone in a dangerous situation. He did exactly that and spoke to Angie’s secretary who assured the transporter that Angie already knew about the situation and that she had committed to taking the dog. The transporter told the secretary to tell Angie to bring a pole with her because she would need it to bring the dog into the vet’s. He also said that the dog would have to first be sedated before anyone could administer shots.
Well, a few hours later I called the transporter to see how everything was going. Imagine my total awe when he told me him and his wife had just witnessed a miracle. He then proceeded to tell me what happened. He said that Angie was at the vet’s waiting for them…with no pole. He said she opened the door of the crate, and the dog walked in and out of the crate a few times. Angie held out a slip leash, and the transporter said the dog literally placed his own head into the slip leash! Angie removed the cable and placed a collar on the dog, and then the two of them were off walking and running together. The transporter said that all of this transpired in less than five minutes!
At this point, I said, “I just feel like crying”…to which he replied that he and his wife were crying. He said that after Angie and the dog had run and played for awhile, Angie calmly walked the dog into the vet’s office and placed him in a run. Well, that was essentially the end of the problem. The next day, Angie herself was graciously present with the dog when shots were given, and the report was that the chow behaved beautifully and caused no further problem.
I named the dog, Danny, after the Biblical story of Daniel in the lion’s den because this dog had literally been saved from a similar experience. This experience has had a life changing impact on me. The implications for what this experience says about all dogs—and all other living beings—are far reaching. What is it that instantly turned a very aggressive dog into a total “pussy cat”? Consider how most people “gave up” on Danny and assumed that it was okay that a dog like that be destroyed…while all the time Danny was simply terrified, was reacting to his environment, and needed someone who would treat him with respect and caring. In short Danny needed someone he could trust. That someone was the Atlanta Dog Whisperer—who truly does care about dogs and has the expertise and skill that seems to say to a dog: “Regardless of your horrific background, your past treatment, and your present fear and poor behavior, you are extremely important and highly valued. You are a very good dog, and we love you.”
The results speak for themselves. Danny totally loves Angie—and vice versa, to the point that Angie decided to adopt him. Today Danny is being used to save other dogs. Angie is using him in her seminars and in instructing others. I will be forever grateful that Danny was saved from his “lion’s den” experience by the Atlanta Dog Whisperer, Angie Woods.