Brittney, a three-year-old Pit Bull, went from running loose on the Los Angeles 710 freeway to spending months at the spcaLA with no adoption.
Things weren’t looking bright for Brittney and her sister Honey, who was also picked up from the freeway.
“When she arrived, she wasn’t fond of people,” says Melissa Sigale, behavior and training specialist at spcaLA. “Brittney wasn’t aggressive, but she just didn’t show any interest in people.”
But soon, all that would change.
A Little TLC Goes a Long Way
Through the shelter, Brittney entered the Teaching Love & Compassion program (TLC), where she worked with middle school children struggling to get on track. Students are placed in the TLC program is because they may be having issues academically or with their confidence and, through the program, receive one-on-one instruction in addition to getting to work with and train a particular dog. The goal is for kids to be able to return to a regular school at the end of the program.
Brittney was paired with Moises, a thirteen-year-old eighth grader. Their work together became a highlight of her day. Brittney and Moises built a relationship, and more of her personality started to emerge.
“She began connecting with people and started coming out of her shell,” says Denisse Bernal, director of humane education at spcaLA.
Five days a week, Moises worked with Brittney on basic obedience and agility obstacles like weaving through a tunnel and walking through hoops. Brittney learned commands like “sit pretty,” where she sits on her back legs and brings up her paws to look like she’s begging. She also learned “touch,” or putting her nose to Moises’ palm when called. This taught Brittney a sense of trust (and was great for developing Brittney’s recall).
Moises was committed to working with Brittney every day. Because he was able to see the changes in Brittney he helped create, Moises developed a sense of confidence. “He was there for her, she was his responsibility, and the two developed a bond,” says Sigale.
At the end of the program, Brittney accomplished what she was supposed to do. Moises was on track to go back to a traditional school. As for Brittney, Sigale noticed the how she went from being very aloof to showing excitement, wiggling her body and displaying an interest in people.
Back at the Shelter
Not all of the work that Brittney did was at the TLC program. When Brittney was at the shelter she was on a routine. And one of Brittney’s favorite parts of the day was spending time with Honey. The pair could often be seen running side by side with each other. Brittney would lick Honey’s face as a show of affection. “They acted like [human] siblings,” Sigale says.
It’s clear Brittney had some challenges to start off with. Sigale and other employees and volunteers at the shelter say that Brittney wasn’t the easiest to work with in the beginning. “She was stubborn and had little interest in training,” says Sigale. “It took time for her to get used to being around people.”
In time, however, Brittney started to shine. One volunteer in particular, Martine Korach, loved working with Brittney. She found her to be very sweet, despite the dog’s initial wariness. According to Korach, when you taught her a command, she picked it up with ease.
Between Brittney’s work at the TLC program and her interactions at the shelter, a transformation took place. The aspects of her personality that were beneath the surface, a level of trust in people and an interest in those around her, came through.
“She really looked for attention and wanted to cuddle with the children and volunteers who trained her at the shelter,” says Sigale of Brittney after she spent several months at the shelter.
That slight shift was all it took to get Brittney adopted. She arrived at the shelter on February 27, 2016, a dog who was indifferent to the people around her. On February 2, 2017, after completing her TLC program, she left the shelter for a loving home. Sigale says it was Brittney’s sweet personality that made her adoptive parent fall in love with her. It’s a quality she always had, but didn’t let people see at first.
As of March 2017, Honey is still waiting for a forever home, but if Brittney has shown us anything, it’s that a little love and compassion can make everything take a turn for the better.