Another dog that came in under less-than-great circumstances, Lester falls under the category of "Abandonment," or as I usually think of it, "Cruelty by Stupidity."
I'm not certain if Lester's owner was leaving for good (as in the case of Wendy and Mike), or just stepping out for an extended vacation - in either case, they felt that Lester would be fine on his own. Locked in an apartment for over a week, if I remember correctly. But just in case the little fella' could figure out how to open the door or order a pizza, his thoughtful owner added a few extra safety measures. Here's what he was wearing when he came into the shelter:
Sadly, Lester did not get to sport this high-fashion accessory for long. Shortly after coming in, he caught his collar on his kennel door and nearly hanged himself to death. If it weren't for the quick thinking (and quick action) of one of the Animal Control Officers, Lester could have been seriously injured or worse. And I don't even want to think about what would have happened if something similar had occurred when Lester was alone behind a locked door.
His first night there, Lester was considered pretty much unapproachable. He barked furiously at anyone who came near, jumping around and chewing nervously on his kennel. Having the luxuries of both time to watch him and a kennel door between us, I studied his barking and his movements. With each bark, he'd turn his head away, and he became shriller as you got nearer his kennel. Both of those are indicators of fear rather than aggression - not necessarily less dangerous, mind you - but a foundation to start with nonetheless.
When feeding time rolled around, hunger overpowered Lester's fear. He wagged furiously, jumping and smiling when I showed up with a bowl full of kibble. Cautiously, I waited for him to sit before turning the bowl over to him. After the first three bites, he turned and licked my hand furiously, waited for my approval, then buried his face in the bowl again. I left with the feeling that young Lester was going to be all right after all.
Since then, Lester has made an amazing turn-around. He plays well with the other dogs (although he definitely fancies himself near the top of the social ladder), is oh-so-close to figuring out what "fetch" is about, and generally loves romping around. With judicious application of treats, I managed to even get him to sit down calmly when asked. And in an uncanny show of lucidity, he learned "sit" in three repetitions (darned good for any dog), "lie down" in only two, and nailed "roll over" on the first try.
Of course, he'll probably be as scatter-brained as ever tomorrow. But who knows? Lester's been full of surprises so far.
UPDATE (July 29): Apparently, Lester never really calmed down and focused enough around anyone but me. We spent some time yesterday working on obedience commands in his kennel, since the weather wouldn't allow for outside play. He still knew how to sit and lie down, so we worked a while on "roll over," "sit up high," and "stay." Although we had only limited success, I was still very proud of him. Lester's favorite was "roll over," since that meant he got free tummy rubs.
Today, six dogs were euthanized to make room for incoming animals. Fortunately, Chester was not one of them - but sadly there was only rescue room for one Pit Bull (and Chester was by far the calmest of them all).
Lester had already been put to sleep by the time I reached the shelter this afternoon. He was so young, had been through so much, and had come so far beyond it. Even though I knew there was almost no chance he'd be adopted or rescued, I'm taking his passing extremely hard.