At Project POOCH, we have a soft spot for underdogs, and that's exactly what Spike was. From the moment POOCH founder Joan Dalton saw him at the county shelter, she knew that she needed to bring him to the kennel and give him a second chance at life. It was clear from his sad expression and matted coat that he hadn't been cared for in his 9 years of life.
The youth at Project POOCH often come from similar backgrounds of strife, so relating to dogs like Spike is easy for them. During his first few days at the kennel, Spike didn't interact with anyone and tried his best to go unnoticed, but the youth immediately took a liking to this sweet, senior boy, and they never stopped trying to make him feel special and loved. After lots of pampering by the youth and a complete makeover, Spike slowly began to interact more and show his silly personality. Spike's handler reports that he was stubborn but a very good dog who deserved a second chance. Like many of the youth, I made it my goal to find this sweet boy a forever home.
In July 2018, I took Spike to an outreach event at a local pet store to give him a day off from kennel life and get him more exposure. Spike received lots of love, treats, and puppuchinos that day, but he still didn't come any closer to finding his forever home at the event. Senior dogs often take longer to find their homes, but we still couldn't help but feel disappointed. After the event, I took Spike home to foster him overnight since the kennel was closed for the evening, and although neither Spike nor I knew it at the time, this would be the start of something incredible for both of us.
When I took Spike home, he quickly bonded with my dog, Bowser. To my surprise, they spent the evening chasing each other around the yard, wrestling, and cuddling together on the couch. Bowser, who is dog-selective, was very happy to share his toys and his house with Spike. It was incredible to witness the way that these two dogs brought out the best qualities in each other. Bowser, who is very protective of his property and his humans, seemed to somehow know that Spike needed extra love and attention and that it was okay to open his home to him. Spike, who was so shy and reserved, seemed to open up immediately and let loose when he saw Bowser. It felt like Spike was right where he belonged, and I knew that Spike would be staying forever.
Although Spike was in the right place, the first few weeks in his new home were far from easy, and it was clear that his past had been rough. He was scared of the cat, Tigger, he would only eat if being hand-fed, he refused to walk on the hard-wood floors, and he cowered in fear if someone tried to touch his head. With lots of positive reinforcement, treats, and by following Bowser’s example, Spike slowly began to overcome these fears.
It's incredible to think of how far Spike has come since he first stepped foot in our home. He now trots around the house confidently with his curly tail wiggling and makes the cutest old-man grumbles when he wants something. This morning, he excitedly got me to follow him into the yard to proudly show me the big hole he had dug in the dirt. These silly antics of his make us laugh every day. We are so inspired by his resilience and his love for life, despite all that he has been through. Spike has even helped Bowser learn to trust other dogs, too.
Because of you, Project POOCH was able to rescue a dog who may have otherwise spent his entire life going from shelter to shelter, never experiencing unconditional love. Thanks to your support, Project POOCH is able to take in dogs like Spike, who are labeled "unadoptable," and give them second chances. This brings so much hope to the youth at Project POOCH and teaches them that they, too, are deserving of second chances.
Your support not only has helped Spike and the youth at MacLaren Correctional Facility, but it has also changed my life, my fiance Devin's life, and Bowser's life for the better. Spike is the perfect addition to our family, and we could not be happier or more in love with him.
One of our favorite accomplishments during our 25th year of service to incarcerated youth and adoptable dogs came in a four-legged, tail wagging form. On May 15th, a volunteer from a shelter in Modesto, California reached out to us asking if we could take in King, a 5-year-old Pit Bull Mix. The community that King lived in was overcrowded with pit bulls, and people simply did not want to adopt them—with King living in a busy shelter with hundreds of other dogs, the volunteer knew that King would have a better chance with us at Project POOCH. Along with her inquiry, the volunteer sent videos of King playing and interacting beautifully with kids and other dogs. That was when we knew we had to consider taking him. This sweet boy deserved a chance.
At Project POOCH, we like to involve the youth in our program at MacLaren Youth Correctional Facility in the dog selection process as much as possible, so we brought some pictures of King down to the correctional facility and read the youth his bio. They got so excited about the opportunity to work with such a sweet, handsome dog that we knew we had to say yes to King. Pit bulls are often marginalized in the same way that many of our youth are, so our youth were immediately drawn to this adorable boy and able to relate. At Project POOCH, we like helping the “underdogs,” or the dogs who are less likely to be adopted due to breed, age, personality, or health issues, so King was a great fit for our program.
With the decision to save King made, we had a lot of planning to do to prepare him for the long journey ahead of him! We soon learned that getting a dog from California to Oregon would not be easy. Before King could cross state lines, we had to work remotely with a veterinarian in King’s area to make sure that he received all the necessary vaccines and health certificates for his travels. Luckily, the same kind volunteer who introduced us to King’s plight took him to his vet appointments and even dropped him off with the transporters of the Rescue Express Bus, an animal transport service that takes dogs from overcrowded, high-kill shelters to areas where they will be able to thrive. Thus, King began his long, 14-hour journey to a new life.
King was scheduled to arrive at the bus stop in Tualatin in the middle of the night, where POOCH founder Joan Dalton was eagerly awaiting his arrival. Between providing basic care for the animals being transported and traffic, transport timelines can often get messy. We were soon notified that the bus was running behind schedule, so Joan patiently waited in her car for a few hours not knowing what to expect. Just after dawn, with Joan’s excitement brewing, the bus rolled up, and off came King, with a big smile on his face and his tail wagging, even after such a long journey.
King still had one more leg left in his arduous adventure! It was time for him to make his way to the Kennel with Joan. It’s a couple months since his arrival, and King has settled in nicely. King is currently living happily with the youth, who train him, groom him, feed him, and play with him daily while he awaits his forever home. He is doing well with his training that he even gets to go back to the living units with the youth, where he sleeps at night. King absolutely loves following the youth around wherever they go, and he even tried agility for the first time while at Project POOCH. He recently represented Project POOCH at an outreach event at Fido’s Tap House in Tualatin, where he made so many new friends. King passed his canine good citizen test and is now just waiting for the right family to take him home. Three potential adopters came to look at him last week, and we are confident that he will find his forever home soon.
Thank you to each and every one of you whom have supported Project POOCH and our mission for the past 25 years. Without you, we would not be able to rescue dogs like King, who may not have had a chance otherwise. Because of your kindness and generosity, we are not only able to take dogs from local shelters in the area that are deemed “unadoptable” and turn them into great pets, but we were also able to rescue dogs from other states where the need is greatest. Because of your support, our youth are able to learn patience, responsibility, and compassion by working with dogs of different breeds, sizes, ages, and personality types. Here’s to 25 more years of helping dogs and youth!
At Project POOCH, we believe in second chances. It's incredible to see the things that people are capable of when given another chance at life. Sometimes all it takes is some patience, compassion, and individualized attention in order for people to achieve what they were always capable of. Two former Project POOCH youths in particular continue to inspire us with their actions and accomplishments.
Eli has never been in trouble since re-entering society several years ago. He has taken the passion for dogs that he developed while at Project POOCH, and he currently uses his dog as a partner to counsel young children to stay out of gangs. Eli grew up in an area where gangs and poverty were the norm. When a rival gang member shot his dog, anger and a hot temper led Eli to retaliate, and it was that retaliation that put Eli in juvenile lock up. When Eli worked with the dogs at Project POOCH, he recognized some of his own behavior issues in the dogs. Some of the dogs that Eli worked with were labeled "unadoptable" because they too had short tempers and reacted on instinct. The dogs at Project POOCH became Eli's passion, and he knew that he would have to change if he wanted to turn his life around and also help them find their forever homes.
Former POOCH youth Juan left juvenile incarceration two years ago and has taken advantage of a scholarship opportunity to attend a local community college. He is majoring in business. He is using the skills he learned at Project POOCH, like working on a team and time management, in order to excel in his courses. He has emerged as a natural leader and never dreamed that he would be considered for a special leadership program. Since he is attending a college with a daycare for children of students', his young daughter is experiencing superb childcard with teachers representing different cultures. While Juan is learning about the business world, his daughter reports that she is having fun learning words in different languages.
Here's to a lifetime of success for Eli and Juan!