Austin Pets Alive! | APA! Gives Behavior Dogs a Second Lease on Life:…


Jun 23, 2023

Valentine’s Day 2023 will always be special for Jeni Gossard, a volunteer with Austin Pets Alive! (APA!), as it marks the day her adoption of Sylvester, a Chihuahua with a lot of love to give, became official. The journey to this point wasn’t an easy one due to trust and anxiety issues the pup had, but patience, persistence, and APA!’s expert Dog Behavior Program made this “happy beginning” possible.

Sometimes perceived behaviors and issues can create barriers to adoption. APA!’s program uses a three-part approach to make adoptions successful by assessing and treating the whole dog – mind, body, and spirit – using play groups, obedience training and adoption follow up support to help .

Gossard remembers the first time she met Sylvester four years ago. She says she immediately observed how shelter life increased his anxiety, so she volunteered to take him home for “sleepovers” as part of the behavior program so that she could observe and assess his behavior.

“He was a great house guest. My first encounters with him were positive and there were no behavior issues,” she said. She immediately considered adopting him, but her career and personal life made it difficult to care for a pet full time.

Meanwhile, Sylvester was adopted into a loving home, but 10 months later, he was returned to due to anxiety and trust issues. This pattern of adoption and return would continue several more times, with Gossard working with him for weeks each time. Something magical happened, however, the last time Sylvester came back.

“When he was returned from the fourth home, I decided he was “home”, she said. “Long story short, Sylvester knew I was his “mom” way before I realized it.”

Gossard knew she and Sylvester would need guidance and support from the APA! Dog Behavior Program after his adoption to successfully handle his trust and anxiety issues. Through the program she was able to secure a solid team of “APA! aunties” who were integral in alleviating the pup’s trust issues through socialization, perseverance, and patience.

“Needless to say, I have a lot of support through APA!’s behavior team, staff and volunteers. I’m continually texting/talking with all of his APA! aunties,” Gossard said.

Without APA’s Dog Behavior Program, the outcome might have been very different. Gossard said she has taken him to work and he loves her co-workers because they respect his boundaries and he knows they are the “treat people”, and the longer he is in her home his anxiety has lessened and his trust has increased.

“I love him for who he is,” Gossard said, “and will continue to work with him so he remains a calm, loving, trusting and a happy little boy.”



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