To many, an old feral dog may seem like a waste of time and a lost cause. But for Cindy Larsen of Grand Ledge, MI, all she saw was a dog in need.
Larsen’s black Labrador Rodeo was living life on his own before coming to live with her. According to the Lansing State Journal, Larsen used to see Rodeo hiding and wandering in and around her hometown. In fact, Larsen used to drive up to 35 miles, checking various hiding places looking for the lab that was destined to be her pet.
Rodeo’s life started as a stray Detroit. He was found in an abandoned house with two female dogs and eleven puppies. The Detroit Pit Crew Dog Rescue who found him called him “Papa Bear.” He was taken to a rescue in Kalamazoo and even stayed in a foster home for a time.
But adjusting to life with humans is never easy for a stray. Rodeo jumped a fence in January and took to life on his own. This is when Cindy Larsen stepped in.Larsen runs several Facebook groups devoted to finding lost pets. She started noticing more and more sightings of this black Labrador out living on his own. And as she told the Lansing State Journal, it broke her heart.
After two months of driving from town to town, following in the footsteps of Rodeo, Larsen caught him on March 28th. Rodeo was taken to a rescue organization called The Devoted Barn, a shelter devoted to the care and rehabilitation of feral and severely abused animals.
Rehabilitating a feral dog is no easy task, and it starts with catching them. According to the Devoted Barn, catching a feral dog requires a lot of time devoted to building up trust. Cindy spent two months following Rodeo from place to place, allowing him to get used to her presence. It wasn’t until Rodeo was comfortable around her that he could be caught and brought to The Devoted Barn for help.
Just like most feral dogs, Rodeo went into complete shutdown mode. Feral dogs tend to be very fearful of new situations, particularly with so many new dogs and humans around. But Larsen would never give up on Rodeo. For three months, Larsen would visit Rodeo at The Devoted Barn, sometimes staying with him for hours. Teaching a feral dog to trust humans is a long process and takes true patience. Sometimes it takes weeks of simply sitting with the feral dog, allowing them to get used to you before you can even pet them. Building trust is the key.
But Larsen was devoted to Rodeo. And by Mary 3rd he was coming home with her. But the work didn’t stop there. Larsen already had two other dogs in her home and Rodeo needed time to get used to them. Even today, he is still quiet and reserved.
The employees and volunteers at The Devoted Barn couldn’t be happier with the results however. As Founder Melissa Borden told the Lansing State Journal, “I wish we had more people like her. It would make things more rewarding if we had more people willing to not give up on these dogs.”
And Rodeo’s not giving up either. With each day a new baby step in his progress is taken. Whether that’s a small tail wag or a little butt wiggle, his new found joy starts to show a little more every day. All thanks to Larsen and her undying dedication.
Read the full story on the Lansing State Journal website.