I (Sophie) was told by another volunteer that there was a new dog that needed to be worked with. This unnamed little boxer/ridgeback mix was snapping at anyone trying to touch him. He was small, thin and looked more mournful than menacing. I figured I would just take it slow and easy, so I got in the kennel with him and knelt down. He backed up a few steps and I reached over and took his food bowl. He didn't seem to mind. I put a few kibbles in my hand and held it out to him. He sniffed it, then sort of half-heartedly mouthed the kibble, not really eating but at least touching his face to my hand. I didn't watch him or stare at him, just acted disinterested and kept offering kibble in my outstretched hand. Before long, I was briefly stroking his face and head while he investigated my hand. He got closer and seemed to be pressing against my hand a little more like a dog that wanted to be petted. Within a few minutes, he was on my lap, getting petted from nose to tail. Terri, (the volunteer coordinator and someone we both admire immensely) had previously been able to pet him as well, which made us wonder if he wasn't just afraid of men. So naturally I went to Tim to test that theory.
With me in the kennel, sitting against the far wall, Tim came in and sat down by the door. Winston--as Terri and I had named him moments prior--kept close to me but didn't seem aggressive toward Tim, just wary. Gently and reassuringly, Tim offered Winston small bits of dog biscuit from his hand. And just as with me, Winston learned to trust him to the point that I left them for a bit and came back to find Winston curled up and sleeping on Tim's lap, content as you please. But he still growled at one of the Animal Shelter staff members just a little while later, even while Tim was holding him. Without knowing Winston's story, we can't know just what has caused his fear of certain people, only that he isn't a hopeless case and that he does, very much, want to be loved and comforted.
Winston learning that he's got friends.
UPDATE (1/21): Winston has been quickly getting his confidence back, to the point where he'll even occasionally strut around outside, his head and tail held high and proud. It's really encouraging to see. Most of the time, though, he's just thrilled to have some attention, and is quickly turning into a very affectionate young dog. And as he gets less emaciated (though he's still pretty wasp-waisted), Winston is actually shaping up to be a pretty handsome guy.
UPDATE (2/6): We stopped by the local Petsmart (where Lost Paws Rescue of Texas holds adoption events every weekend) to see young Winston, and he was as happy to see us as we were to see him. He was charming people right and left, and seems to have finally met a good play partner who moves at his speed, along with the rest of his new family! We all met back at the shelter to fill out the adoption paperwork, and had a great last get-together with Russell Posch and Terri Walker, the shelter's volunteer coordinator (and Winston's foster mom for the past two weeks). It was a fabulous way for Winston to start his new life.