Hoping for a Home

Humane Society of Garland County gives Nera a second chance


Photography by Mara Kuhn and Richard Rasmussen

Aside from our parents and children, the only ones that we can truly ever count on to give us unconditional love are our pets. Walking in the front door after a long day at work, they’re as happy to see us as we are to see them, and their loyalty is unfaltering. They count on us and, often, we count on them, too. Too many times, animals are treated merely as objects, used to serve a certain purpose and, once that purpose has been fulfilled, dumped on the side of the road or dropped off at the pound, leaving them to sit in a cage until someone notices them again.

Fourteen-year-old border collie/chow mix Nera is no different. Having spent 11 of her 14 years at the Humane Society of Garland County after being dropped off and labeled a “stray,” Nera, with her big heart and gentle nature, finally caught the attention of Ivy Wood, the society’s board’s president.

A new board and kennel manager was put in place in August 2014 after an assessment of the kennel was performed. When they arrived and took over, Wood said, “the place was a mess, and the problem was dogs like this dog, Nera — she came in at 3 years old and has been here all this time. Sweet dog, but very afraid, very timid, because they didn’t touch her. The first time that I got her and brushed her, she shook like a leaf.”

Nera was just one of approximately 78 dogs that were being kept at the humane society when the new management was put in place, and, according to Wood, many of them had been there for years, deemed “not adoptable” if they were too shy or too difficult to handle.

“I’m a very hands-on president because of the situation. We have a great kennel manager now, Kaye Gilder, and she is very good at matching dogs and cats with families. It’s just been an overwhelming experience for all of us,” Wood said. “I think right now we are right around 500 animals that we have rescued and re-homed since we’ve been here.”

Before Wood and her group came on board, many of the dogs, after being dropped off at the shelter, were never handled by humans again. Though not a feral dog herself, Nera was placed in a kennel with several feral dogs and left there, never to be seen by adopting families because she was deemed “not adoptable” due to her shyness.

“When I first came out here, you kind of didn’t notice her because she hid, and if you came up with treats, she’d walk up and hope to get one, but she wouldn’t push her way through everybody to get it,” Wood said.nera2

She started working with Nera in the summer 2015. “I’ll just tell the truth — I used hamburgers from Sonic to make friends with several of these dogs.”

A very treat-driven dog, Wood found the way to Nera’s heart through hamburgers and patience.

“She’s a sweet dog, but very afraid, very timid. The first time I got her on a leash and brushed her, she shook like a leaf because no one had touched her in a very long time,” Wood said. “Now, I can put her on a leash and I can rub her side, but she’s scared of other people so it’s going to take someone who would have the patience to win her over.”

The humane society and Countryside Animal Hospital teamed up to give Nera something she desperately needed, and deserved — a pet makeover.

Poor dental health can be detrimental to an animal’s overall health, causing discomfort and even heart problems.

“They’ll clean her teeth and more than likely she’ll lose a tooth or two, as they usually do at this age. The dental treatment is really important and, actually, February is national animal dental month,” Wood noted. “If dogs don’t have their teeth cleaned, and if the plaque comes off and they swallow it, it’s just very bad for a dog. They get gingivitis in their gums and everything just like people, so if they get their teeth cleaned, they’re going to be a much healthier pet and be more comfortable.”

In addition to the dental treatment, she was bathed and groomed. Animal hospital workers smoothed her coal-black coat out, working out all of the knots and matting, and trimmed and painted her toenails.

Nera has been thoroughly checked out and is heart worm-negative and has no health problems.

“She’s learning to like all of the attention she’s getting; instead of hiding, she’s started meeting me at the gate. We have a building that was donated by some people that is used as a senior dog center. It’s a little wooden house that has heat and air and a little porch on it and it has its own fenced yard. So, as a senior dog, Nera lives in that since she’s one of our few seniors left,” Wood said. “She lets me put a leash on her way quicker than it used to be — I used to have to get a treat and tempt her into the building and shut the door. Today, I didn’t even take a treat; I just went in there and she met me at the gate.”

nera3Wood added that if she didn’t already have dogs of her own at home, she would take Nera home in a heartbeat.

“Hopefully, somebody will see that even though she’s 14, she’s got some years left in her. She’s very playful, but she’s just not going to immediately love you when she meets you; she’s going to need to have someone who doesn’t yell at her, someone to be gentle with her and take the time,” Wood added. “I can’t say that she’s housebroken, but when I have her in the office for several hours, she’s never gone to the bathroom in here.”

Though she’s come a long way since Wood began working with her, Nera is still a shy and submissive dog and most likely would not do well in a home with children because of her timid personality.

“I chose her (to be featured) because I just think she deserves a chance. We live in a community that has enough of a senior population that could look at her and see what’s there, and see all the goodness she has in her,” Wood said. “People that don’t want to raise a puppy want a dog that’s not going to be rough on them. You can walk her on a leash — she’s going to wag her tail and go along at your pace.”

Wood added that sometimes Nera will stand up on her hind legs and, with her two front paws folded in front of her, do a little dance.

“I think she’s just kind of gotten pushed back in the corner for years and it’s time for her to get noticed and have a chance,” she said. “If she were in a home, I think she would just blossom.”

To adopt Nera or any of the canines at the Humane Society of Garland County, an $80 adoption fee is required and, with that $80, every dog is either spayed or neutered, given heart worm treatments, brought up-to-date with all shots and full health records are provided.

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