When Jasper first arrived at the shelter, we really didn't know what to make of him. He huddled in the back of his kennel, pretty much sitting and glowering. He wouldn't come forward to take a treat from me - even when I tossed it halfway across the kennel floor. But he didn't growl, or give any signs of aggression, and the poor guy needed some water. So in I ducked to get to know him better.
At first, he looked shy and confused: one ear flat and laid back, the other standing semi-erect and forward. Once inside his kennel, I could understand why a lot better:
My initial thought was that a previous owner tried to "ghetto-bob" his ears, and gave up after the first wouldn't stay erect. After discussing it with some of the other folks at the shelter, though, it seems much more likely that something - something very large - had gotten ahold of him at some point. Jasper isn't a small fry by anyone's estimation, but whatever happened to him was very big and very scary, and it's left some pretty deep scars. Not all of those are flesh wounds, either.
He's extremely frightened - almost never standing fully upright when he walks, ducking and shaking uncontrollably when he's touched too quickly or startled. Yesterday, we had to cut short our walk because he was terrified of even the pigeons and grackles in the parking lot. A little later, we ventured back out with Laney, a happy-go-lucky young boxer/chow/shepherd fellow, and Jasper found a bit more pluck and courage.
I only had a chance to stop by for a few minutes this evening, but made sure to stop and say hello to Jasper. He was a lot more relaxed, and nuzzled up under my arm contentedly. I have yet to see him smile outright, but I have a feeling that he's not too far from it.
NOTE: Time and weather allowing, we'll try to introduce him to our dog Amelia tomorrow - she's no stranger to working with frightened dogs herself, and maybe she'll help Jasper locate his misplaced confidence.
UPDATE (2/11): It snowed like crazy today. Undaunted, Jasper and I went outside to hang out with Frosty, another dog on the "urgent list." Someone was interested in both of them, so I figured it would be a good thing to see if they could stand each other first. How did it go? You be the judge.
And, at long last - Jasper smiled today.
UPDATE (2/13): Jasper finally got to meet Amelia today - along with Rufus and Mia, when he came to stay with us for the next week! Minnesota Animal Rescue pulled him (along with Frosty, and three other dogs) today, and he'll be heading north next weekend, health permitting. So it looks like Frosty and Jasper could get used to this "snow" thing after all...
UPDATE (2/19): Tomorrow is the day Jasper is supposed to go to a new foster in Minnesota. We will let you know how that goes. He's been a wonderful guest and I will miss his sweet little face.
UPDATE (2/20): Jasper's prospective foster did not reply to Tim's email, so Jasper is still here. Our house is a bit too small and crowded now and so we are looking for another temporary foster for him until things are set for him in Minnesota. He's super sweet and snuggly, and although he is being treated for URI, he's happy and energetic. He does like to chase the cats and has a strong prey drive and should not be in a household with cats or other small animals unless supervised. He does not like strangers coming up to "his" house or gate and will let you know if someone's approaching. Other than that, he's very observant of both his human and canine packmates and is eager to be a good boy, whatever that entails. If you are interested in fostering or adopting Jasper, we can certainly arrange a home visit with your family/pack. Email to firstname.lastname@example.org.