My Soul Dog

September 27, 2012  

It’s love at first walk between a woman and a homeless pit bull

By April Mullen

It was a warm June day last summer, and I was nearing the end of my first volunteer shift at a local no-kill shelter. There was one dog that was circling like crazy in his kennel and destroying his blankets. He looked a little scary from his kennel anxiety, but his sign read that he was a friendly, easy walking dog. I decided to go ahead and give this deserving dog, named Caden, a walk since he was all but begging me to take him on one. As soon as Caden stepped out of his kennel I knew he was something special. Our walk was pleasant. He would even stop periodically and look up to me as if he was making sure I was enjoying myself. At one point in our walk I had to stop and sit on the curb just to pet Caden and give him hugs and kisses. He was all I could think about for the weeks that followed. My heart missed the wonderful dog I walked that day. I was deeply challenged, though, as I had been conditioned by society to believe that pit bulls are dangerous, and Caden was a pit bull. (photo, right, by Lynn Teller)

As the days passed, I knew I had to be Caden’s advocate at the shelter. I vowed to take him to adoption events and to find him a good home. One Saturday, my husband and I took Caden to a dog spa. We gave him a bath and spiffed him up for an adoption event. For three hours, we sat on the floor of a pet store as people passed by Caden, showing little interest in him. As we made the trip back to the shelter to return him to those living quarters that made him so unhappy, my heart grew heavier. When my husband and I tried to get Caden to go back into his kennel, he sat on the shelter floor looking up at us with panicked eyes as if to say, “But I thought we had such a good time! Why am I not going with you guys?” In the middle of the busy shelter, I broke down. I could no longer deny that this dog was meant to be mine. A lot of pleading with my spouse and six days later, Caden came home as our “foster.” In the car on the way to our home, I told him, “You’re never going back, bud!” One week later we signed the dotted line to keep him forever.

In the year since Caden’s “Gotcha Day” he’s had a lot of positive experiences. Caden has completed two obedience courses and is about to enter his third, which will prepare him for the Canine Good Citizen test. Like all social dogs, Caden has friends and meets up with them for regular play dates. He goes to day camp once a week to play with other dogs at one of my area’s few pit bull friendly day care and boarding facilities. He naps with his much smaller canine sisters and gently plays with them when they’re up to it. He gets crazy, happy “zoomies” when he gets to see his Grammy. In the evening, my husband, dogs and I snuggle as a pack on our sofa. Caden will even get on our laps on occasion, and we don’t mind. He sleeps in bed with us at night often crowding us in our own bed, and we don’t mind that either. We are getting Caden used to all aspects of his forever life at his pace and with proper positive reinforcement training methods. He’s as close to perfect as it gets. I’m constantly amazed at how much love he has for his pack, both dog and human, and how the world that has opened up to him since he came into our lives. Caden is not just my soul dog, but he’s the dog who helped me to see pit bulls for what they really are—silly, loving wiggle butts meant to make our lives whole. I cannot imagine my life without Caden.

About the author: April Mullen serves as a volunteer assistant hike guide for Four Directions Hiking, a niche group of volunteers from Stray Rescue of Saint Louis that take shelter dogs into the wilderness to help the dogs overcome the stress of kennel confinement. April is a self-proclaimed pit bull advocate.

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Comments

6 Responses to “My Soul Dog”
  1. love love the last picture, Caden looks “fulfilled & satisfied” 🙂

  2. DianaJones says:

    The shelter I volunteer at won’t allow the dogs off property for “liability reasons” so they have a walking trail around a pond at the shelter, but it is not the same, it’s still in the city. I love the idea of taking the dogs out of the city into the wilderness to de-stress. Wonderful program! And Caden sounds like a love.

  3. DianaJones says:

    The shelter I volunteer at won’t allow the dogs off property for “liability reasons” so they have a walking trail around a pond at the shelter, but it is not the same, it’s still in the city. I love the idea of taking the dogs out of the city into the wilderness to de-stress. Wonderful program! And Caden sounds like a love.

  4. willowwonderbull1 says:

    Of all the dogs I have or ever had Willow is my “Heart” dog!   I know just how you feel.  Beautiful story. I love the idea of Four Directions Hiking, too.

  5. NancyHayes says:

    Love your write up about your boy Caden!  I remember walking him when he was in Marquis, and he certainly is a special dog as are so many at Stray Rescue.  I’m excited that the hiking program is starting again!  

  6. StubbyDog says:

     @NancyHayes Isn’t it nice to see how well he is doing now?