Sheana, a gentle and fearful two-year-old mix, needed a holiday miracle, and a holiday miracle she got. With the clock ticking and her euthanasia date set for Sunday, the affectionate brindle girl–whose kennel anxiety had severely affected both her behavior and her quality of life–was given the gift of life when supporters worldwide rallied to raise the funds to send her to Forever Home Rehabilitation Center, where she will receive the training she needs to feel safe and confident in her own skin.
Forever Home Rehabilitation Center works with misunderstood dogs like Sheana, whose fear of confinement and isolation, exacerbated by life in the shelter environment, has taken a severe toll. Sheana will be aided by a pack of other dogs of all shapes and sizes who have survived hardship and abuse and come out the other side, dogs who now work everyday to help terrified dogs learn how to trust. She will learn how to deal with her anxiety, and hopefully someday soon, she will be adopted into a forever home. We can’t wait to see what lies ahead for Sheana; she does, after all, have her whole life ahead of her.
Sheana, an affectionate and lovable brindle mix, suffers from kennel anxiety. Sadly, the petite and tender-hearted pup is scheduled to be euthanized if she does not find a home before Sunday, November 29th. Sheana’s fear of confinement has reached the point that she can no longer live in a kennel environment. Over the past few months, Sheana has been in loving hands of Forgotten Friends of Long Island Animal Rescue, but now the time has come for a miracle.
Sheana is a sweet, devoted dog who enjoys nothing more than sitting in someone’s lap while watching the world go by. When she’s with a person she trusts, she snuggles up, gives doting kisses, and flips over to show her belly with a big, floppy-tongued smile. She doesn’t care about expensive toys or a big house; she just needs a chance to live a happy life.
Sheana needs a home, something she’s never had before, and because of her anxiety, Sheana should be in a home without kids or other pets. Her forever person is someone who will give her the love and time she needs to feel safe and secure. Ultimately, Sheana wants someone to love her. She will return the favor in tenfold.
For humans, living in solitary confinement is an extreme form of punishment, but for millions of homeless dogs across the country, it’s sadly a daily part of life. As with people, dogs living in small spaces – like cages and kennels – can suffer from serious psychological hardship. According to recent studies, even the most well-cared-for and well-trained dog can quickly start exhibiting signs of mental illness and “kennel anxiety” when confined. For shelter animals, the situation is one that is rarely addressed, and it’s one that needs to be discussed.
Take Sheana, a petite, brindle Boxer-Pit mix being cared for at Forgotten Friends of Long Island Animal Rescue, an outstanding organization devoted to helping animals who have gone unnoticed and unadopted for extended periods of time in larger municipal shelters. Although Sheana is loved deeply by dog coordinators Beth Marzo, Lynda Lack, and the Forgotten Friends staff of volunteers, she suffers from severe kennel anxiety. When she’s outside of her kennel, Sheana is a happy dog. At Forgotten Friends, she has earned the nickname “SheanaBallerina” for her astonishing athleticism and playful, loving disposition. According to Beth, as soon as Sheana’s let out of the kennel, she “literally tries to hug you.” Sadly, when she’s put back inside her kennel, she deteriorates.
Sheana has the tell-tale symptoms of kennel anxiety, including obsessively spinning or repeatedly pivoting in circles. She spends much of her time crying for help, and being isolated and alone escalates the distress. Kennel anxiety also results in stress-induced weight loss, diarrhea, and excessive panting. In cases like Sheana’s, it can lead to self-harming behaviors. A dog suffering from kennel anxiety might exhibit missing hair and raw or bleeding skin, most commonly on the legs or tail.
Dogs like Sheana don’t know what’s happening to them or why they’re being confined. Many of them have lived for years with people they loved, and suddenly finding themselves in a loud and scary environment can be quite traumatic. But Sheana has it worse than most. Found as a stray, Sheana spent years in the system and was adopted once by a family who often kept her crated. Because of her fear of tight spaces, she fell apart when left alone in her crate, and eventually found herself without a home again.
Beth and the team at Forgotten Friends have years of experience in municipal town shelters that take in over a hundred dogs, making for a particularly stressful environment. They’ve studied with renowned behaviorist Laura Garber, and they know that the very best way to work through anxiety is within a home. They’ve set up the Facebook page Sheana’s Search for a Savior to help find Sheana exactly that.
In the meantime, it’s a challenge to make life without a home bearable for a dog with anxiety. More exercise, both for the mind and the body, can help. Sheana loves going on walks, learning new tricks, and completing puzzles with volunteers. What these dogs need is more time in the outside world and less time confined. Daily exercise is a must. “The more the dog is able to run and play,” says Beth, “the better.”
According to Beth, anxiety in most cases is caused by humans, so it’s our responsibility to help the dogs who are suffering with it. Punishing or raising your voice at a fearful or excited dog just makes the situation worse. The key is to be comforting and calm. Within the shelter environment, she recommends giving stressed dogs extra space; sometimes this can be as simple as allowing them into office areas or hallways. At Forgotten Friends, the dogs get four walks a day and time to explore in the playroom. At night, Sheana takes a long time to settle in her kennel, but Forgotten Friends always plays soft, serene music or “Dog Laughter,” a tape that plays the sound of a happy dog panting when they turn out the lights for the day.
Sadly, Beth doesn’t see Sheana getting better without the emotional support of a home. “That’s what keeps me awake nights, knowing that,” she says. As previously mentioned, the single best solution to kennel anxiety is finding loving families for dogs like Sheana. “When she’s scared, she is looking for a loving human, nothing more and nothing less.” Without a place for Sheana to call home, Beth is unsure of “what the future holds for this young dog.”
Stories like Sheana’s are a powerful reminder that kennels should never be a forever or longterm place for a dog, and that sadly, it’s often the dogs who need homes most – those with kennel anxiety – that get passed up. The important thing is that we as dog lovers take the time to give dogs like Sheana a chance. A dog who looks extremely anxious within a kennel often quiets immediately when taken outside. For this reason, it’s ideal for shelters to show their dogs outside, although Beth acknowledges that many don’t have the resources to do so.
As adopters, it’s our responsibility to understand kennel anxiety and how it might affect a dog in a shelter environment. A few months ago, Beth asked a potential adopter to give a dog with kennel anxiety named Dane the opportunity to be seen outside. After years of waiting, Dane is now in that home and the family adores him. Hopefully, someday soon, the same with happen for Sheana.
My greatest wish is that people give the dogs a chance outside the kennel environment, to not walk away, to ask to please meet with the dog away from the stress and to give that dog a chance to shine.
If you think you might be the person Sheana has been waiting for, please contact Forgotten Friends of Long Island at 516-719-0808 or by emailing them at firstname.lastname@example.org. You may also get in touch via her Facebook page. To help Sheana find a home, please follow her on Facebook and spread the word about this amazing dog and others like her. And if you’re interested in helping dogs with trouble find homes, please consider donating to Forgotten Friends.
Hi guys! My friend Christine made this video to show everyone how smart I am! I’m a fast learner, and I love to please my human! I’m also a big fan of treats, and will do ANYTHING if it involves me getting a snack afterwards. As you can see, I know sit, down, paw, other paw, roll over, all the good stuff! All I want to do is make my person happy. I can’t wait until they find me so that I can make them happy all the time. You’ll never go a day without a big smile on your face with me around, I promise!
Posted by Sheana’s Search for a Savior on Monday, October 26, 2015