When Humphrey was first brought into the SPCA, he was a pitiable sight – skin sores and infections, matted fur and a bite wound to his face. He was traumatized, and scared of everyone. But now his life has been turned around – he has a loving family and a place to call home.
The chow mix was one of five dogs taken from a home where they had reportedly been confined for years. Humphrey was half the weight he should have been, and in addition to his topical ailments, was infested with worms. His fur was so badly matted that he had difficulty moving. Upon intake at the SPCA Serving Erie County, he was bathed, his fur was shaved and rotten teeth were removed.
While he had bad physical problems, his emotional problems were worse. Humphrey developed learned helplessness – after years of trauma, he was hopeless, and just stopped trying.
“He was almost completely shut down, just looking through people, not responding,” said behavior specialist Miranda K. Workman. “But when I walked up to the cage, he approached me and took a piece of hot dog from me, which said to me that he was willing to try… That was the foot in the door that I needed.”
He spent two weeks healing at the shelter. He was getting better, but staff noticed that he was drinking an abnormally large amount of water. Miranda decided to foster Humphrey so she could monitor his consumption. It was soon determined that he had diabetes incipitus, and would require a shot every 12 hours.
At first, Humphrey kept to himself on a bed, staring into the distance.
“He wouldn’t eat with us in the room – he was too afraid to even get up and go to the food with us there,” Miranda explained.
Slowly, Humphrey made progress. He began looking at people. The he would stand up and take a few cautious steps with a person nearby. It was a milestone when he would finally allow Miranda to leash him and take him outside to relieve himself. Even better was the day she drove up to work to see Humphrey looking out the door.
One of Miranda’s friends, Jennifer Wozniak, had followed his story and took an interest in Humphrey. She and her husband Jason had recently gotten adopted from the SPCA after she felt a strong urge to get a dog. She saw Buddy on the SPCA’s website. She knew she wanted an older dog, and an hour after meeting him at the shelter, Buddy was going to his new home.
Miranda, a certified professional dog trainer, and the Wozniaks spent time training Buddy and their two cats to get along.
“We also discovered, in socializing him, that Buddy was really good with other dogs,” said Jennifer.
So when she saw the solemn-looking Humphrey, she had another urge to bring a dog home.
“He looked completely disconnected from the world. He seemed like he was just trapped in his own body,” she said.
After discussing the matter with her husband, Jennifer brought the idea to Miranda, who would have the final decision.
“I had seen their intense dedication to Buddy, and they understood that making all of this work for Humphrey would take some effort,” Miranda said. “They didn’t shy away from that effort, they met it head-on… It’s a home where he’s going to get tons of attention, training and love, everything he never got in his previous life.”
Introduction would be slow for the easily overwhelmed dog. The Wozniaks visited him in Miranda’s office, talking to him and feeding him treats. Then they left a blanket they had rubbed on Buddy. Eventually they brought Buddy in. The meeting went well. Humphrey visited the Wozniak home, and even spent the night. He seemed to take a special interest in Jason. Finally, Humphrey went to their home for good.
“He learned the routine about a week in, and he started to relax,” said Jennifer.
“Every day he would discover a new thing,” Jason said. “For the first two or three weeks, his tail was tucked between his legs almost all the time. He would just stay on his bed, and if you moved the bed, he would get up, but then he would run back to it. When we took him for a walk the first time, he heard a car and just froze, scared stiff. He was terrified in the backyard, and now he just hops around like a bunny.”
It took a long time, but Humphrey is doing well. He loves taking walks, and has taken up a passion for cheese and carrots. He wags his tail slowly, which may not seem like much, but it’s a big step for an already reticent breed. Though it takes a lot of work and patience, the Wozniaks are very happy with their decision.
“He may never be a normal dog that sits and stays, but he is such a sweet dog and continues to amaze everyone who knew him when he was rescued,” Jennifer said. “We wanted to give him the best possible life. In doing that, I think we have done a lot for the relationship we have with each other. You have a stronger bond when you are working together to save a life.”