Feral Stray Learning How To Trust With Help of Caring Rescue Ranch Volunteer

Older puppies can be the perfect choice for an adopter: they’re receptive, eager to learn, and more companionable than very young puppies.  Assuming they’re socialized, that is. For a young feral stray, it’s a whole other story.  For them, adoption is often just a pipe dream.

Last summer, Kenna and her siblings were found  roaming wild with their mother. Mom had experience with people and could be handled, but the pups were totally feral. At roughly four months old on June 30, they were at the far end of the critical “socialization” window and needed more than quality play time and enrichment. They would require one-on-one attention if they were ever going to trust humans.

By the end of the summer, the pups were well fed, healthy, and comfortable, but they were still at the Adoption Center, still feral, and two months older.

Enter, Judy Morton

Judy says she was inspired to volunteer at Rescue Ranch after reading about Chris and Marni Wroth, who spend quality time with hard-to-adopt dogs. There were so many ways to help, she joined our team. And we’re glad she did!

In September, she noticed the pups at the Adoption Center and offered to foster one, hoping to improve the feral stray’s chances at adoption. Last Friday, I visited them at home.

A feral stray in the house


When I arrived, Gus, Kenna’s foster brother, greeted me with a friendly wag and a toy. For her part, Kenna was in constant movement.  As Judy and I chatted in the kitchen, the anxious dog passed in and out of my peripheral vision, circling at a safe distance. If I turned to look, she’d freeze for a moment, peeking out from behind the furniture. An eye here, an ear and nose there.

After we made our way to the living room with our tea, she continued to observe me from every angle. Eventually, she settled down on the carpet, fixing me with her gaze.

Although Kenna still has a long way to go, she’s made excellent progress with Judy. She now takes treats directly from Judy’s hand, has learned to use her crate, and walks on leash. Judy says it took six weeks for Kenna to accept the leash.

Gus is a big help with his foster sister. She looks to him for guidance and comfort. I noticed that she often mirrors his body language.

A trip down the hill to visit Judy’s Icelandic horses, Hekla and Dalla , and her goat, Biscuit, is part of Kenna’s daily routine. She took the opportunity to show off her leash skills.


A trip to the barn is also when the dogs get to play ball  in a nice, long enclosed run. Kenna preferred to hang back with her prize.


Later, both dogs engaged in a confidence building exercise, going up and down the stairs on command. It was Kenna’s first time and she did great!

What’s next for Judy and Kenna, the feral stray?

Judy has done a wonderful job. Although she may never become a cuddle bug, Kenna is beautiful, smart, and very well behaved. She’s house trained, not destructive, learns quickly, understands the word “No,” and appears to do well with dogs, cats, and livestock.

For Judy the ideal outcome would be for  Kenna to eventually find an adopter who will continue to work with her.  Then, undaunted,  our intrepid volunteer wants to start the process all over again with the next sibling. Thanks, Judy!

Watch Kenna learning to trust

When she started working with Kenna, Judy found little information online about socializing a feral dog. So she decided to document her journey with Kenna to help other fosters.

Kenna arrives at foster home

Kenna, the first few weeks