Luna shows her light

Mesmerizing. Bright. Captivating. Beautiful. These are all words that describe the moon, as well as one very sweet 8-month-old Border Collie named Luna. Just like the moon has phases, our Luna had some of her own, and she waxed and waned and is showing her full potential with her new human dad, Don.

Luna came to the Dumb Friends League Buddy Center as a transfer from one of our partners in April. Even though she was tense and stayed in the back of her kennel with her face pressed firmly in the corner, Luna was tolerant of handling.

Despite her apparent anxiety, Luna accepted treats and nudged humans when they stopped as if to say, “I’m not done yet.” Staff determined that Luna would benefit from participating in the League’s Canine Courage program, which uses positive reinforcement training to help dogs overcome challenges such as overstimulation, fear, body handling issues or frustration. After five sessions, Luna allowed pets all over on her terms, which meant staff sitting in her kennel and accepting she would not be coaxed off of her bed much less be willing to leave her kennel. Luna needed more sessions, and then a few more and even several more after those to become her best self. Progress occurred after each batch of sessions, but in May, Luna went to stay with one of the League’s wonderful foster volunteers, Christine. (Sometimes, pets benefit from being away from the shelter environment to thrive and continue to improve, and that’s just what happened with sweet Luna.)

Christine regularly spoke with staff about Luna’s accomplishments no matter how large or small and ways to set her up for success and move forward toward being ready for adoption. Did you know that rewarding good behavior or encouraging reluctant pets to do something specific with food is a great way to alter behavior? Use high-value treats, such as meat or cheese-based rewards. The less processed, the better—and, hey, isn’t that true for us, as well? Also, treats are about quantity and not volume, so tiny nibbles or bites work just fine. It turns out Luna was a fan of cheese sticks and using them as part of her training was very positive—in addition to all the love, effort and dedication from Christine!

“Luna struggled to make progress in our noisy, chaotic, shelter environment,” said Cindy, one of the League’s behavior technicians. “She spent a month in a behavior foster home and made some improvements, learned to walk on a leash and started to recognize that humans may be OK.”

The day arrived, and it was time for Luna to return to the Buddy Center for adoption. Our behavior team determined that Luna would do best in a home with an experienced owner, no children under the age of 10, and if there was another pup in the house, the two needed to meet beforehand. And, a behavior consultation was necessary to discuss Luna’s history and temperament with potential adopters.

Enter Don and Copper.

Don and Copper, a 3-year-old Australian Cattle dog mix, spent 13 years with Dexter, an Australian Shepherd, and when they were ready to add a new canine companion to their family after he passed away, they started looking at the Buddy Center. Based on his experience, Don knew cattle dogs were intelligent and energetic, and that breed was high on his list. When Don, who is retired and has time to dedicate to an animal in need, saw Luna’s picture on the League’s website, he noticed her ears laid so flat that they were barely visible. “I had a feeling that there was a puppy just waiting to bust out if given the right opportunity,” said Don. So, he and Copper hopped in their truck and headed down to meet her.

When Don met with the behavior specialist, he learned about Luna’s past and how it would take time, love and patience for her to open up and that it might take a while for her to show affection. Don was not deterred, having rescued Copper from a similar situation.

Don first met Luna without Copper, and he sat on the floor, giving Luna time to approach him on her terms. “I was told Luna might avoid me altogether,” said Don. “Luna was extremely anxious and nervous. I avoided eye contact and waited for her to wander the perimeter of the room. My patience paid off when she approached me from behind, and I felt her nuzzle my left arm. I could see the intelligence in her eyes. By the time staff returned to the room, Luna was sitting next to me with my arm around her. Things were going really well. Next up, she needed to meet Copper.”

Luna’s notes indicated that the shy pup relaxed even more when Copper came into the room, showing curiosity and interest in each other with Copper assuming a protective big sister role right off the bat. It only took a few minutes for Copper to take the lead, with Luna licking her face and following her around the room.

“I thought the staff was going to cry when I said we wanted to take her home,” said Don. “They had clearly put a lot of time and effort into her over the last few months. By the time I signed the paperwork and walked to the car, Luna’s ears were up, and her eyes started to brighten. Within 30 minutes of leaving, we were all curled up sound asleep on the living room floor. You could just see the exhaustion in her eyes.”

Don said it has been fun watching Luna experience so many firsts and absorbing everything she sees Copper doing. “We were on a walk yesterday when a woman and her two children asked if they could pet the dogs,” said Don. “I told them “yes” for Copper, but that Luna probably wouldn’t allow it. She stayed back and watched while the kids petted Copper. Suddenly, she came over and sat down right in the middle of us. The kids gently petted her, and she loved it. This morning, Luna watched Copper licking my forehead to say good morning, so she came over and licked me as well.”

Luna and Copper are inseparable, with Luna taking her cues from Copper. “If it’s OK with Copper, it’s OK with Luna,” said Don. “Luna has a long way to go. The trauma she has experienced in her life is extreme, and she will need a lot of positive experiences for that to fade from her memory. With the help of Copper, she is making improvements every day. The first couple of days we were home, she would lay right next to us curled up in a tight ball, very guarded and cautious. A couple of days later, we were laying together on the couch when she suddenly stretched out and rolled onto her back, exposing her belly. That’s when I knew she was going to be just fine, and our little family of three was going to do really well.”

Finding the right fit for a pet and a new family is something everyone at the League is prove of and strives to achieve. “The staff did such a fantastic job connecting Luna with us. They had obviously invested significant time and energy into helping her and wanted to make sure she found the right home,” said Don. “The dedication and commitment of the Dumb Friends League to helping animals and families is just incredible.”

When asked what else he wanted to share with readers, Don said, “I cannot emphasize enough the importance of adopting families doing their homework. Know what you have to offer as a family. Know what your expectations are for an animal. Know what types of animals and breeds meet those needs. Most importantly, listen carefully to the staff and take their advice on good fits. Pets depend on you 100 percent. That is an awesome responsibility.”

We’re all excited to see how Don, Copper and Luna’s adventures progress. This dynamic trio is all in and ready to handle what life has to offer.

To learn more about pets available for adoption, visit our adoptions page or call 303.751.5772. All adoptions include spay or neuter surgeries, age-appropriate vaccinations, a microchip ID, 30 days of free pet insurance and a free wellness visit with a participating veterinarian.