Foster Steps Up To Help Rescue Ranch Special Needs German Shepherd Dog

Back in March, we published a story about Cleo, a Rescue Ranch resident with degenerative myelopathy (DM). Would we find a foster willing to step up to help this lovely special needs German shepherd dog? We were elated when Kristin contacted us shortly after reading the article. Yesterday, I accompanied Rescue Ranch Executive Director John Golay when he took Cleo to her new home.

Cleo the German shepherd prepares to go to her new foster

Introducing a dog to a new environment can be challenging, especially if there are other pets involved. Cleo does wonderfully with humans, but, because she’s often reactive to other dogs, she lived in her own yard at her temporary foster’s multi-dog home. With medication and time, she learned to relax more and grew to mostly ignore the dogs on the other side of the fence. How would she do at Kristin’s?

Kristin has a Chihuahua named Bentley and a cat, so we would have to be extra cautious when introducing Cleo to her new digs.

First, we cat-tested her. It’s difficult to gauge how a dog will do with cats over time, but even a single encounter gives us a baseline for what their initial reaction is likely to be. Then, Kristin brought Bentley to meet Cleo at the ranch. In both cases, Cleo’s response was fairly intense. We concluded that Kristin should wait a significant amount of time, even months, before attempting any direct supervised interactions.

Finally, Cleo spent three nights crated next to her foster mom Laura’s bed and did very well. One of the house dogs even snuck in and slept just feet away from Cleo; she didn’t say a word. She did just as well on her final night when the household dogs were given free access to the bedroom.

Special needs dog with DM discovers her long-term foster home

John drove Cleo up himself, to help with the transition.

This special needs German shepherd dog can’t get enough of the car, and the trip up to southern Oregon was uneventful. She was excited by the unexpected adventure but was more curious than stressed. As soon as we hit the road, she settled down behind the passenger seat and just enjoyed the ride.

When we arrived, Cleo made a beeline for the pool Kristin had prepared for her. Now we know for sure: this dog loves water!  She was also thrilled when her new foster mom handed her a large dog bone. Next, our girl explored her new yard and seemed reasonably comfortable in unfamiliar surroundings.

John filled Kristin in on medications, feeding, and the use of prong and vibrating collars. Then, it was time to leave, and we said our goodbyes.

This morning we learned that her first night went well. We’re hopeful that with so many people in her corner, Cleo will finally get the love and attention she deserves. We know there are no guarantees, but we all want Cleo to have the best life possible, including Kristin.