Janey and Kylo were just 7 months old when they were surrendered to the Dumb Friends League. Upon intake, the Saint Bernard mix puppies were noticeably less boisterous than other dogs their age. In fact, the two were frozen by fear as a result of an under-socialized upbringing.

The close connection the two shared was evident from the moment they reluctantly entered our Pet Admissions Lobby. Unable to walk on a leash, they flattened their large, nervous bodies to the floor – Janey hiding her head in a dark corner, Kylo sticking to his sister’s side like glue. Staff and volunteers had to coax the anxious pair onto oversized blankets to transport them to our onsite veterinary clinic and, later, to a shared kennel space for their first night in the shelter.

Soon, Janey and Kylo were enrolled in K9 Courage and Headstart, two of the League’s specialized programs for dogs with behavioral challenges. As our Behavior Technicians worked with each puppy to build trust, seemingly small successes – such as accepting treats, making eye contact, and allowing gentle touch – became promising milestones, leading to high fives and even higher hopes for their success.

However, as time passed, it became clear that Janey and Kylo’s dependence on one another, once so critical to their well-being, was inadvertently hindering their progress. According to Jes Cytron, the League’s Director of Shelter Behavior and Veterinary Services, one of the best supports for dogs like Janey and Kylo is a well-socialized canine companion who can help them navigate their fear regarding new people and novel experiences. Because both were facing the same challenges, our team worried Janey and Kylo were holding each other back.

Our behavioral team soon determined that if the dogs were to continue to improve, they would need to be placed separately, ideally in homes with a social and well-behaved dog leading the way. Luckily for Janey and Kylo, the Tallmadge-Brandt and Yeany families (including their confident pups) were each looking to adopt a dog just like them.

Janey’s journey home

“She was the only [dog] we were interested in,” said Janey’s adopter, Heather Tallmadge-Brandt. “We went [to the League] for her and her alone.” Heather was no stranger to dogs in need of a little extra TLC; Atlas, the family’s only dog at the time, had a history of abuse but had grown into a fearless leader after his own adoption – precisely what Janey needed.

Still, the first introduction was difficult. “It was tough for me and for all of us … there were some doubts, for sure,” Heather said. “[Janey] was not responsive to us … her tail didn’t wag, and she didn’t seem excited.” However, after a successful visit with Atlas and a pre-adoption consultation with a Behavior Technician, Heather and her family fell for Janey and decided to bring her home.

For the first two days, Janey remained nearly stationary in her kennel. As her adopters waited patiently for her to emerge, Atlas gave her gentle nudges as if to say, “everything will be okay.” It turns out, Atlas was right. Janey eventually came out of her kennel and into the great outdoors. Heather reports that Janey has since been to the mountains and has learned to love the snow. During her 2½-month transition, the Tallmadge-Brandts created predictable activities, like familiar hikes, to acclimate her to new experiences. “That really did the trick,” Heather shared. “Now she jumps in the car to go to the dog park, she walks all the time, and she loves everybody … she is night and day from [where she was] when we got her.”

Kylo captures hearts

When the Yeany family first met Kylo, they worried what impact being separated from Janey would have on him. With an older dog named Suki already in their family, the Yeanys were only able to adopt one of the pups. “The whole big thing [with adopting Kylo] was, ‘is he going to be okay without Janey?’” Jen Yeany recalled.

During an initial behavior consultation, our Behavior Technicians reassured the Yeanys that parting ways with Janey would ultimately be best for both dogs. And once Kylo met Suki, an 8-year-old Dumb Friends League alum who was once under-socialized herself, the Yeany family felt confident that Kylo was the dog for them. After four weeks in our care, Kylo found his people – the very same month Janey was adopted.

Within the first few hours of being home, Kylo left the safety of his kennel to relieve himself. At first, Jen was heartened to see this, but reality soon set in when he was afraid to go again. “It felt like he thought, ‘if I go outside, you’re never going to let me back in,’” she said. Her heart broke as she pondered the scenarios that might have led to this lack of trust. But of course, Kylo’s family did let him back inside that day and every day after that. And eventually, with the Yeany’s reliable love and Suki’s loyal guidance, he came to relish his outside time, anticipating daily walks and play.

As both families reflect on the progress Janey and Kylo have made over the past year, they point to patience as the greatest key to success. “It’s worth the wait,” said Heather. “It’s a hard decision to make, but if you’ve got the time, energy, and means to be patient … that’s all it takes.” Jen echoed this sentiment by saying, “every dog can learn.”