Ruh-roh, we’ve got a mystery on our hands with sweet Ash

Ash’s story has a little bit of everything—the unknown, hope, intrigue and an ending that will leave you exhaling with relief. While it could be a movie of the week, it’s the sweet story of a 6-year-old Bluetick Coonhound/Australian Cattle Dog.

Ash arrived at the Dumb Friends League in October 2018, and while we don’t know the reason he was relinquished, we know his owner adopted him from an organization as a transfer from another state. During the time he was in his home, Ash’s owner described him as happy go lucky, very active, sweet and intelligent, which is a common trait of his breed. Ash knew sit and high five, and he came when he was called but not being fully housetrained, he spent his days in the yard and his nights in the garage. Ash lived with two other large dogs, as well as both indoor and outdoor cats and was curious about the feline species but never chased them. Oddly (or maybe not given Ash’s history was a mystery), anyone wearing a hat prompted sniffs followed by barks, and if the hat-wearer was a man, Ash’s reaction was stronger. Ash was muzzled as a precaution when he went to the veterinarian because he was fearful and timid, but he never snapped.

The League’s team determined that our friend Ash would benefit from participating in our Canine Courage program, which uses positive reinforcement training to help dogs overcome challenges such as fear, overstimulation, body handling issues or frustration. And, after the five sessions and an extension of four more (because, well, sometimes everyone needs a little extra reinforcement), the pup who leaned more toward the apprehensive side, made fantastic strides. He was more comfortable in a shelter environment, came when called, licked hands and started to enjoy pets – although, he didn’t like his ears touched, but we all know plenty of humans and pets who don’t care for that type of attention, right? As for Ash’s behavior toward the male species? Well, he grew to approach men, sniff and while he kept a little distance, he showed no signs of escalating behavior or tension, so that was progress.

It was time for sweet, sweet Ash to find a new home.

For a few months, Maaike was looking throughout the state for a companion for her other dog, Rocky. Maaike was familiar with the Dumb Friends League, and the good work the organization does, but she knew what she wanted regarding breed, personality and age, and her net (or leash) was cast far and wide. “While I was looking around for my perfect pup, I came across Ash’s picture on the website and was instantly drawn to his spots and ears,” said Maaike. “When I decided to stop by the Quebec Street Shelter with Rocky, Ash was definitely not in much of a mood to play, but Rocky was very understanding, and they managed to sit in a room and get along perfectly fine. After spending a few hours there, I just had a gut feeling that he was the one. And I was right!”

As part of Ash’s adoption process, a League behavior specialist met with Maaike to talk about Ash’s history, as well as the behaviors seen at the shelter and his time spent in the Canine Courage program. It’s important for people to choose a pet that fits their lifestyle and preferences, as well as be aware of a pet’s tendencies. This discussion included the best ways to manage the behaviors in the home, what to expect, what not to do, types of positive reinforcement, dog-dog intros and how Ash might struggle in new situations or when meeting men. It’s a thorough process! When the specialist noticed that Rocky had similar behaviors to Ash, including being reluctant to approach him and struggling with men, he knew Maaike was prepared for adopting the new pup. The happy trio left armed with hope and behavior handouts.

In a dramatic twist of introducing Ash to his new home, on that very first day, Ash became spooked by a car, got loose from his leash and ran away. Never having stepped a paw into his new home and not knowing the area, Maaike was desperate and frantically searched for her new pup. “I was deeply concerned because Ash was already unsure of the situation, and my biggest fear was that it would’ve been too cold or wild animals would get to him before I could,” said Maaike. Social media platforms have their challenges, but it’s incredible how people rally when there is a need. With only Ash’s adoption photo and one blurry picture she took at the shelter, Maaike posted them to a local Facebook group. Suddenly, she was flooded with comments, message and suggestions on how to find Ash.

“I drove for hours and hours, talking to anyone in all the local neighborhoods I could find, gave out information and flyers. I posted an ad on Facebook, and lucky enough, a “Missing Mutt Detectives” agent named Sabrina Ruiz called and gave me FULL instructions on how to set up posters, how to market it, how to reach out and get the community involved. Sabrina was also there for me emotionally, which meant the most. I was stressed, scared and, overall, very concerned about Ash and his safety, but she reassured me not to give up hope and to keep looking. I’m glad she was there.”

Thankfully, with the help of the community and the Missing Mutt Detectives, Ash was found the next day. The police located Ash in a construction site, but he had somehow injured his leg. Maaike took him to the vet, who thought he may have cut his leg in some sort of rabbit hole, and sweet Ash was in a leg cast for about three weeks and required lots of care and attention. Maaike said that during his recovery, Ash opened up and learned to trust her. Ash started lifting his ears up in curiosity, and he absolutely adored it when Maaike gave him belly rubs, which is something he was initially resistant to. Ash started to become interested in Rocky and wanted to play. And as soon as Ash’s cast was removed, the once very timid dog began to go to the park regularly.

“When Ash first got out of his leg cast, he was trying to engage more with Rocky, and we took them outside,” said Maaike. “One day Rocky grabbed his back leg–the one that was injured–and Ash freaked out. His leg was not hurt since Rocky did not grab it hard at all, but it spooked him, and ever since that day, whenever we take them outside Ash always grabs Rocky’s back legs as payback! It’s hilarious. Whenever we go to the dog parks, if another dog tries to play like that with them, he freaks out. He only allows Rocky now to grab his back legs when they play, anyone else he barks at very loudly. It’s funny how it worked out.”

Ash was not particularly affectionate at first, but that’s understandable courtesy of his tumultuous beginnings. With love and patience, and after a harrowing escape, Ash found his forever home. “Ash is an amazing dog,” said Maaike. “His temperament at first was not what most people look for in a dog, but to the readers out there who are looking to rescue pup, abused dogs need time. They don’t open up right away or trust easily, but with lots of time and love, Ash became the pup I knew he always was–and the pup I wish everyone could’ve gotten the chance to get to know because he was worth every moment of time I spent getting him to trust me. He was more than worth it.”

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 and a free wellness visit with a participating veterinarian.