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Project Report | Jul 15, 2022
Big City Dreams: From Hiding in a Corner to Cuddling in Bed


“She had been hurt and betrayed by humans previously—as had I. I adopted City so that we could learn and grow together. That's what this journey has been—an immense amount of growth for both of us.”

Imagine seeing a dog pushing herself into the corner of a kennel, trying to make her already-small body as tiny as possible, not wanting anyone to acknowledge her presence. This was once City’s  reality—but fortunately, not for long.

A Scared Start

“Extremely fearful,” was the best way to describe City, a white and brindle mixed breed dog, who’d been taken in by an ASPCA partner shelter in Dekalb County, Georgia. Upon intake, City displayed almost feral behavior and was hardly able to function in an indoor setting—let alone be adopted as a family’s beloved pet.

City couldn’t be walked on leash or even shown to potential adopters because she was constantly hiding under a bed in her kennel. If the bed wasn’t present, she was trembling in a corner—pushing her entire face as far away from sight as possible. 

Being petted by a person was out of the question. She would defecate and try to flee if someone offered a gentle hand. 

City’s behavior was deeply saddening. Although she was already two years old, it appeared she’d never known life in a loving home. In order to help her, the shelter reached out to the ASPCA Behavioral Rehabilitation Center (BRC) to see if City could be considered for our program. 

City represents the types of dogs that we help at the BRC every day—severely fearful, homeless and in dire need of a second chance. As the only facility of its kind, the BRC was featured in an in-depth Rolling Stone Magazine article highlighting the important and lifesaving work our staff does every day. 

A perfect fit for the BRC, City was welcomed into our program and her journey toward healing finally began. 

Signs of Hope

“My first impression of City was that she was beautiful, but so very frightened of everything around her,” recalls Christine Young, ASPCA Behavior Rehabilitation Specialist and City’s caseworker.

“When she first arrived at the BRC, she would squish herself underneath the bed in her kennel to hide, so it didn’t even look as if there was a dog in her kennel.”

City’s journey would take weeks of treatment with our team of behavior experts. 

“City was definitely one of the more challenging dogs I have worked with at the BRC,” Christine tells us. “She remained very fearful and evasive throughout her early weeks in treatment.”

Our team knew that progress would take time, and slowly they began to learn what types of treatment were most effective for City’s rehabilitation. 

“Having other more confident dogs in her treatments started to show us a tiny spark of her fun and mischievous personality,” says Christine.  

More confident dogs, known as “helper dogs,” provide critical support for fearful dogs in treatment at the BRC. Their presence can significantly reduce stress during sessions, encourage inhibited dogs to explore, and eventually tempt anxious dogs to play. The fearful dogs learn to associate people with access to these canine companions—which can prove a powerful way to speed progress through the program and help fearful dogs’ personalities blossom.  

With the help of our skilled staff and our helper dogs, City’s true self began to emerge. City was learning new things each day, until finally, she was ready to join a family who could help continue to grow and blossom as a pet. 

Getting to Know You

Kierra and her partner Tristan had recently purchased a house and were eager to welcome a companion animal into their lives. When they saw City online, they fell in love with her photo and were touched by her story.  

While City still showed signs of fear during their initial meeting, hope was present for the couple. 

“We knew that City was the dog for us because even though she was fearful, we still connected in a way that we hadn't connected with a dog before,” says Kierra. “We decided to adopt City specifically because we wanted to give her a life full of adventure, hikes, hundreds of toys and treats. We wanted to give her a life we knew she had been missing.”

City’s fear of humans could have been due to past trauma, or—more likely—little, if any, socialization to people. Isolation and neglect can prove as behaviorally damaging as other kinds of abuse. The more Kierra considered City’s past, the more she felt connected to her on a deeper level. 

“She had been hurt and betrayed by humans previously—as had I. I adopted City so that we could learn and grow together. That's what this journey has been—an immense amount of growth for both of us.”

Big City Dreams

With the help of Kierra, Tristan and her new canine brother Tucker, City’s past is long behind her. 

“City has become the biggest lap dog! She sleeps cuddled up with us at night and frequently wakes us up in the middle of the night by pouncing on us to play!” Kierra reports.

Today, City has all she needs in her people—she loves snuggling on the couch, playing tug of war, chewing on toys and getting pets and scratches. 

“I would never have expected this level of growth from such a fearful dog,” Kierra marvels. 

Having known City at her most fearful, Christine is thrilled to receive updates on her progress. “We couldn’t have asked for kinder, more patient people to help her continue to learn and explore her world. She is a lucky girl, and her story motivates and inspires me to continue doing this work.”

City is one of so many animals receiving lifesaving rehabilitation and care at the ASPCA, thanks to our devoted team and caring supporters who make this work possible.“I have nothing but amazing things to say about the ASPCA for saving City and allowing us to give her the best home imaginable,” Kierra tells us. “We are so excited that City was able to join our family—she was the perfect missing piece of the puzzle.”


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Location: New York, NY - USA
Project Leader:
Rebecca Frommer
Marketing Manager
New York , New York United States

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