Second Chance: Fear Free Pets

My name is Marley. I am a seven-year-old Cocker Spaniel who recently arrived here at the Second Chance Shelter. I was rescued from a puppy mill where I have lived my entire life in fear. So even though being rescued was the best thing that ever happened to me – it was still very scary. But the “Fear Free” way I was handled at Second Chance really worked wonders and I want to share that approach with all pet parents.

Marley, rescued from a mill now loving life and wanting a forever home.

“Fear Free” is a nationwide movement of veterinarians and animal welfare professionals, led by Dr. Marty Becker. The focus is on enhancing a pet’s emotional and physical well-being and greatly reducing and preventing the anxiety response of pets during naturally stressful situations.

For example, upon arriving at Second Chance, I wasn’t placed in a cage or enclosed room. Instead I was immediately escorted outside into a nice yard to explore. I got to see other dogs playing happily outside which was also calming.  Simply spending quiet time out in the sun made a big difference on my anxieties.

When I did go inside my room smelled really pleasant, totally different from the stinky place that used to be my “home”, due to the shelter staff use of calming pheromones on the bedding – it truly relaxed me. I also had a nice warm and soft place to crawl into and hide. When people did approach me it was to bring me food so I quickly learned to trust and welcome their approach.

Apparently the cats are receiving similar therapeutic treatment, according to a young cat named Oscar that arrived around the same time I did. He is under a year old and said he was flat out terrified initially.

Oscar was allowed to hide in a soft cubby while deciding if he was going to like people.  His staff quickly convinced him the world was now a safe place – and yummy.  Rather than force him unwillingly out of hiding they coaxed him out with tuna. Oscar learned he had to approach his staff to get the reward of tuna then while eating he was gently petted and softly spoken to.  He quickly learned that human contact was awesome.

When it was time for Oscar and I to receive vaccinations, which normally would be a frightening and even traumatizing experience, we instead were spoiled with delicious food and surrounded by warm soft bedding that, once again, smelled lovely and calmed our nerves.  We never even saw the needles as the staff moved very slowly and gently and even covered our eyes to calm us if we got nervous.  It was a breeze!

Animal care has come a long way since the 1970s when it was widely accepted that animals did not feel physical pain.  Humans have finally figured out that emotional fear can be just as debilitating and traumatizing as severe physical pain.

Creating a “Fear Free” environment is absolutely critical to pets like Oscar and I.  It helps us successfully transition in new environments (and gets us ready for adoption much faster!).  This apporach can also help to reduce the stress of your pets at the veterinarian office, or if you have to move to a new home, etc.  You can call the Second Chance Shelter to learn more about it, or more about me and Oscar.  Thanks to “Fear Free” we are already prepared for the adventure of finding new families!

Editor’s note: It’s no secret. The Telluride region is dog heaven. Well, pet heaven. Unless you are one of our furry friends who gets caught in the maw of neglect and abuse. Then heaven is on hold until Second Chance Humane Society comes to the rescue. Second Chance is the region’s nonprofit dedicated to saving animals’ lives and promoting responsible pet parenting and human-animal bond. In her weekly blog, executive director Kelly Goodin profiles at least one, generally two of the many animals now living at the no-kill shelter, Angel Ridge Shelter, a dog and a cat, hoping to find them loving permanent homes. The column is sponsored by Ted Hoff of Cottonwood Ranch & Kennel, who from time to time exercises his skills as a dog whisperer, partnering with Kelly and her staff to help train a particularly challenging animal.

Ted Hoff & Magnificent Mae

By the by, there is no better place to park your pup or get your pup (or adult dog) trained than Cottonwood whenever you head out of town (for locals) or are heading to town and staying somewhere that does not allow pets. Consider joining Ted’s Very Important Dog (VID) Club for added benies. (Details on Ted’s website.)

Second Chance Humane Society Animal Resource Center and Thrift Shop are both located in Ridgway, but service San Miguel, Ouray & Montrose Counties. Call the SCHS Helpline at 626-2273 to report a lost pet, learn about adopting a homeless pet, or about the SCHS Spay/Neuter, Volunteer, Feral Cat, or other Programs. View the shelter pets and services online: www.adoptmountainpets.org

Vetting the Vet: Dr. Michelle Dally, DVM, J.D. is Medical Director of Second Chance Humane Society. She also has a private practice, Dally Veterinary Medicine, 333 S. Elizabeth Street, Ridgway, Colorado. Her service area is  San Miguel Mesas, Placerville, Ridgway, Ouray, and Montrose. For more on Dr. Dally, go here.

Michelle & Wallowby

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Susan Viebrock

Susan Viebrock

Susan is Telluride Inside… and Out’s founder and editor-in-chief, the visionary on the team, in charge of content, concept and development. For 19+ years, Susan has covered Telluride’s cultural economy, which includes non-profits and special events. Much of her writing features high-profile individuals in the arts, entertainment, business, and politics. She is a former Citibank executive specializing in strategic planning and new business development, and a certified Viniyoga instructor.

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