Case Study – Tommy

Written by Janet (Pets Alive medical liaison)
tommy9.jpgAs each dog newly arrives to any shelter environment, I’m sure a plethora of emotions overwhelms them. Where are they? Why are they here? Who are all these strange people and loud noises? We are obviously not shocked to see some dogs behave very introverted before they become more accustomed to their new surroundings.Tommy was no exception. On his arrival on January 1st, we were delighted to meet this small, awkwardly designed (yet infinitely adorable) little man. At about 30 pounds, he appears to be some weird concoction of perhaps, basset hound, corgi, sheba inu, and a whole lotta mischief.

Tommy was so shy that he needed to be carried to his new run on his first day. We gave him a bit of food and water after all the other dogs were settled, but he wouldn’t touch it until no one was in sight. As standard protocol, all new dogs are quarantined for 14 days to minimize the spread of any transmissible diseases. And thus handling is limited as well.

Over his first days, we couldn’t even coax Tommy out for a quick photo shoot. He laid on his bed, nestled in fetal position but very sweet and submissive when you sat next to him for a few rubs. About a week went by and Tommy was still shy, but had become a staff favorite. With his little squished face, and giant erect ears…how could anyone not fall in love with this guy.


The day of his neutering was uneventful. He was showing signs of wanting to lick his incision area, so an E-collar was sent home to prevent him from irritating his surgical site. Tommy was healing nicely, with no obvious issues until one of the dog staff went in to check on him. He suddenly became frantic. He twisted and contorted his body to get as far to the back of his run as possible. Now I personally went back to his run. I had been able to carry Tommy around previously, so why wouldn’t he respond to me? But oh no! Tommy reared up so fast, that he flipped himself over and was snapping at me with a vengeance. Something was blatantly wrong. We were concerned that Tommy was in pain. Why else would he be so suddenly aggressive?

tommy11.jpgBack to the vet, but this time, Tommy had to be fully restrained, with a muzzle and a blanket to keep him calm. The vet concurred that something wasn’t right…but what was it? His stomach appeared to be full of gas a possible result of a heavy intestinal worm burden. Bloodwork was sent out and his values were not normal, but not indicative of any one problem. He was sent home on an assortment of different meds, and when his condition didn’t improve, we tried a completely different combination of drugs. Our vet finally suggested that we take Tommy to a specialist.

Getting Tommy to his neurologist safely and quietly proved to be quite the trying experience for all of us. Oddly enough, after a two hour trip the specialist took one look at him and said “I think the only thing wrong with him is fear”. He explained that although it is a bit uncommon for a dog to be fine one day and then incredibly vicious the next, it was quite possible. Tommy had suffered a series of terrifying ordeals between his first shelter experience, to being transported across the country, being placed in yet another shelter, and then being castrated!!!!

The poor little man had just finally lost it!

We were a bit shocked, yet relieved that the neurologist felt Tommy’s issues were behavioral in nature versus medical. As we drove him back we resolved to not let him set foot in another dog kennel.

And thus, he became my office dog. The first time I let him loose from the crate he growled and slinked toward me, obviously confused and fearful. If I moved, he would stumble over himself to get away. Forget even showing him a leash! The next morning, Tommy seemed a bit happy to see me, although still very unsure of my intentions for him. But if I had a few treats, he was willing to give me the benefit of the doubt. After only two days, as soon as I knelt down Tommy came crawling, cowering against my body looking for a rub.

It’s been about a week and a half and Tommy has come a long way. He not only rolls over to scratch his belly, but he jumps up on me for attention.

tommy5.jpgHe is getting used to going on walks on a leash (he’s still a bit unsure of the brighter colored leads though). Tommy does this incredibly adorable nibble with his incisors as though he is trying to groom me. And even as I am writing this update, I have a little bundle of mischief curled up at my feet giving me the occasional grooming. He has truly become a delightful little man with a personality all of his own.

If you have the space and time to spend with a truly wonderful and promising young dog, please contact us. Tommy will surely brighten up anyone’s life…and help you redecorate while he’s at it (as he has done in my office). He’s been through a lot in his short life and deserves that wonderful forever home.


Tommy continues to thrive and is once again the most wonderful, sweet dog around.  He greets everyone with a huge grin now and he had been matched up with another dog that gave him great confidence and helped him out of his shell.  Unfortunately for him, Myra was adopted a few weeks ago and Tommy started slipping back into fear mode. We were able to again match him up, this time with Juana, and once again he is a happy dog.  He is definitely a dog that needs to go to a home with another dog though.  My hope is that he and Juana will be able to be placed together.  This is a SWEET dog folks.  He really deserves to be loved.