Willard was born to run. More than anything, Willard loved to chase cars, to feel all four feet lift off like a rocket as he raced to catch up with them. It was all fun and games — until one day it wasn’t.
A car hit Willard, flinging him across the road. His body slammed into a rock, breaking a tooth, and snapping his left hind leg. He was badly injured, and it would be a long time before this youthful pup would run again.
When I first met Willard, I felt an instant connection to him. My name is Sophia Sares, and I am a Certified Dog Trainer for the Behavior Modification Program at Oregon Humane Society (OHS). I like to think of myself as a dog translator. My job is to figure out what animals are trying to tell us and respond in a way they understand. I teach dogs like Willard how to make appropriate choices, apply self-control around distractions, and grow into polite and well-socialized dogs. Even though this rowdy boy could be a bit of a troublemaker, I knew Willard had a language all his own.
Willard was brought to OHS to get the care he needed. Our thoughtful supporters made it possible for Willard to get lifesaving surgery on his leg and special one-on-one training to heal and develop skills that would keep him safe.
Even post-surgery, with virtually no muscle left on his hind leg, Willard was exuberant and full of energy. He would bark like a seal and how in his kennel. He would get mouthy with staff and volunteers, and he chewed through several leashes, snapping them in half in the middle of his walks. Willard was admitted into the OHS Behavior Modification program, where it was my job to learn what he was trying to say.
Despite his loving personality, he struggled to relax, delaying his recovery. But because our supporters, OHS built a designated space for animals just like Willard, the Behavior & Rescue Center (BRC). This new building has thoughtfully designed spaces for animals who need more time and specialized training before they are ready for adoption. When the BRC opened, Willard was one of the first dogs to move into the new space. It was a game changer! With minimal distractions, easy access in and out of his kennel, and a dedicated yard to run and practice his skills, he began to make progress.
Now that Willard was finally healing, he and I could have a real conversation. I learned that when he barked like a seal, he wanted my attention. When he nipped at staff he wanted to snuggle. When he tore apart his leashes he was frustrated and bored. Because of you, OHS places no time limits on animals, and we could work with Willard for as long as he needed.
Together we began to communicate in a more constructive way. With consistent practice, he soon looked for my cues when entering and exiting the kennel, he stopped jumping up and down, and he no longer nipped at my hands. He even learned how to safely get all his wiggles out in the fenced yard before training both on- and off-leash. Real-life rooms allowed Willard to practice his new skills in a simulated home-like environment.
He practiced his physical therapy exercises, and a dedicated volunteer provided therapeutic massage to build his muscle, relieve his pain, and ease his stress. Willard would melt in her arms, finally able to relax.
Finally, Willard was ready for his next chapter — a new home.
Tina and Mark saw Willard’s profile picture on OHS’ website, and even though he came with a long list of medical history and behavioral needs, they knew he was a perfect fit.
Willard now lives on a sprawling fenced property where he can safely run to his heart’s content. He’s learned to love long walks on a leash, he takes hydro-therapy classes, and continues to get massages to help build strength in his leg. Best of all, he has a loving family that has learned how to speak his language.
As OHS has expanded our services we are seeing even more animals like Willard, who need extra time and resources before they are ready for adoption. Will you donation today to help pets like Willard? With your help we can transform the lives of animals giving them time and support to find the right home.
Thank you for supporting OHS in this special work and helping make Oregon one of the safest places for pets — a place where every pet’s voice can be heard.
Behavior and Rescue Center
Willard Goes Home!