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The Catahoula of my heart: A behavior dog’s story

If you would have asked Katrina a few years ago if she thought she would have adopted a dog with behavior issues, she may not have known that answer. But on the mild afternoon of Thursday, August 13, 2020, Katrina was driving to the Dumb Friends League Buddy Center in Castle Rock with one thought on her mind—Samantha.

 “I tortured myself looking for dogs at the Dumb Friends League. I had done it for years. Growing up, my family had a dog. It was time to pull the trigger” said Katrina.

Katrina currently lives in Denver. She works from home (so the pandemic does not affect her work life much) and goes hiking on the weekends. She has cats but was ready for a dog companion, someone to explore the great outdoors with, and that was when she scrolled through the League’s website and found Samantha. Katrina used the League’s virtual adoption process. The virtual adoption process was a safe and simple alternative to bringing home an adoptable pet during the early months of the COVID-19 pandemic.

 When asked how she decided on Samantha, Katrina reported, “I was looking on the website, and there she was. It was the quickest impulse decision because I just knew! Samantha was the sweetest baby, and I could feel it.”

Although Katrina and Samantha were ready for a new adventure, there were some challenges to overcome. Samantha came to the League, at a year old, the dapple Catahoula was from a home with five other dogs where she had to compete for attention and love. Somewhere in her past, Samantha developed a fear of people and started to avoid them at all costs. She became the most unsocial of her siblings, would cower in the corner and bark at strangers.

“Samantha was skittish when I met her at the Buddy Center,” said Katrina. “After a while, she got excited and ran around with the zoomies and tried to run away. We had to coax her to get into the car.”

Once Samantha and Katrina got home, they had a tough couple of days adjusting to their new normal but, as days progressed into weeks, things got easier. Katrina was patient with Samantha. She put her on a scheduled routine of walks and slowly started exposing her to more people. Katrina clicker trained Samantha and encouraged positive reinforcement for good behavior (you can learn more about clicker training here)

Katrina said the most important thing she learned when adopting a fearful dog is, “you have to be patient because they are scared, and you never know what they went through.”

When asked how Samantha is doing today, Katrina responded, “She is so happy. Samantha is obsessed with other dogs. Anytime we go to the dog park, she loves to play but is never aggressive toward other dogs. When she gets to play with another dog, I have never experienced that amount of joy before! It turns out she has the softest, most gentle personality.”

Samantha still struggles when it comes to meeting new people. She is a little bit skittish and will only allow Katrina to touch her at this time. Thanks to Katrina, Samantha now has a stable home with a roof over her head and a loving human she snuggles close to every night.

Katrina recognizes how lucky she is to have connected with the young pup saying, “I’m very grateful I found her because I really think we were made for each other. I always say she doesn’t have a mean bone in her body. I mean, my boyfriend’s cat sleeps on top of her! Samantha has made my life joyful in so many immeasurable ways, and I’m so glad I took the chance on a dog with behavioral issues. She just needed someone to love her.”

Do you have pet behavior questions? Learn more about the Dumb Friends League behavior helping by visiting

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