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"Team Jazz"

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Like many animals in our care, Jazz endured a lot in the short nine months prior to her surrender to the Dumb Friends League. But it was the things she didn’t experience, like regular and affectionate human companionship, that would leave a lasting impact on the young Australian cattle dog.  

When the neglected, unsocialized pup first arrived at the League, she was actively bleeding from her neck where her collar had become embedded under her skin. Her housemate, a dog named Athena, had come in just hours before in a similar condition and was already receiving treatment for her injuries.

For Jazz, the severe pain from her embedded collar only exacerbated the stress of being in an unfamiliar shelter environment. Upon intake, she was transferred directly to our onsite veterinary hospital where she could begin to relax and receive the care she needed. There, the wide-eyed and frightened dog retreated to the back corner of her kennel where she tried desperately to escape.

The first priority was to relieve Jazz’s suffering by surgically removing the collar from around her neck. Only then could the long process of healing truly begin. Given what Jazz and Athena had been through, this was no easy task for our team. Both dogs spent most of the first year of their lives outdoors – an experience that deprived them of socialization opportunities critical to their development in early puppyhood. According to Jes Cytron, Director of Shelter Behavior and Veterinary Services, without exposure to people and novel experiences during this formative period, everyday sights and sounds can become outsized triggers for fear.

After recovering from their surgeries, Jazz and Athena began to work with Jes and our behavioral specialists to help build trust and manage their anxiety. Over time, they made steady improvements – so much so that they were soon transferred to the foster home of Taylor, one of the League’s Foster Care Associates. After a successful trial run with Taylor, the two were sent to live with one of our foster volunteers, Anji.

“[At first], they were afraid of everything,” Anji recalled. “The dishwasher, the coffee machine ... they were [even] scared if there was something on the counter that wasn’t there an hour earlier.” But, over the next three weeks, they began to warm up (Athena first, followed by Jazz), and their timidness gave way to a beautiful friendship. Instead of avoiding the basement and new areas of the house, the two developed a fondness for racing up and down the stairs. No longer perceived as a threat, Anji’s husband also became a source of attention, warmth, and pets. The joy they all found in one another was contagious.

Meanwhile, Anji and Taylor shared regular updates with Jes, who used this information to adapt Jazz’s personalized behavior care plan. Every small victory was celebrated, and each challenge was met with supportive intention and resolve. Looking back, Jes lovingly refers to this group of caregivers as “Team Jazz” – a small but mighty squad with a common goal of giving Jazz the life she deserved.

However, it soon became increasingly clear to Jes and Team Jazz that the two dogs would make more progress if they were placed in separate homes. Specifically, they worried that Jazz’s strong dependence on Athena, a dog with similar trauma and behavioral challenges, could inadvertently hinder the progress they were making. As such, the team made the difficult decision to split them up and place each in a new foster home with a well-socialized dog who could help them navigate their fear of new experiences.

Nearly three months (and many milestones) later, Team Jazz felt their girl was finally ready for adoption. That’s when Michele saw Jazz’s photo on the League’s Facebook page and shared it with her husband, prompting an unexpected response. “We need her,” he said immediately. And just like that, Team Jazz grew by two.

In April 2022, Jazz readily joined Michele, her husband, and their two Australian cattle dogs, Sydney and Harley – both Dumb Friends League alums. (Athena also found happiness with a new family just one day before.) Jazz now follows the lead of her new brothers, but it’s Michele’s gentle touch and words of affirmation that make her tender heart sing. Today, Jazz enjoys camping in wide open spaces, walks around the neighborhood with the whole family, and snuggles in Michele’s lap as “Mom’s Girly Girl.” “I [honestly] think she’s done more for us than we’ve done for her,” said Michele, reflecting on the difference Jazz has made in their lives.

While there are some things that Jazz remains unsure of, the love she deserves is no longer one of them.

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Help us continue to make a meaningful difference in the lives of animals like Jazz and Athena – and their new families – by donating to the Dumb Friends League here.

Click here to see Jazz's powerful transformation.