One look at a Boxer puppy and you can’t help but want to take it home to cuddle it forever. Unfortunately for a Boxer named Choco in southwest Montana, he was taken home but then abandoned. Twice. A collaboration between Heart of the Valley Animal Shelter in Bozeman and the Northwest Boxer Rescue not only saved this sweet dog, but it gave him a family who will give him the lifelong love he deserves.
Photo credit: Heart of the Valley Animal Shelter
No puppy should be left to wander the streets.
Though Boxer puppies are naturally silly, outgoing and affectionate, 3-month-old Choco was found frightened and cowering alone near a work garage in a small industrial area in Belgrade, Montana.
“He was brought in as a stray,” says Amanda Davidson, development assistant at Heart of the Valley. “We held him for four days to see if anyone came to claim him. Surprisingly, no worried family called or showed up looking for their mischievous pedigree puppy, who may have just found that perfect spot in the fence to escape.”
When a dog comes to a shelter that cares
Choco then became part of the family of surrendered and stray dogs at the animal shelter. Every dog that comes to the shelter goes through and must pass medical and behavioral evaluations before they are available for adoption. Animal behavior consultant Ben Donoghue, who has worked at Heart of the Valley for nine years, noticed that Choco wasn’t adapting well to kennel life.
“He came in looking healthy and didn’t look mistreated,” says Donoghue, “but he showed a lot of anxiety and was constantly crying in distress.”
Donoghue took Choco home for a week to help calm him down and let him get socialized with Donoghue’s family, who gave Choco his name. “[Chocar means “to crash”] in Spanish, and this puppy smashed into doors, walls — pretty much everything in his path,” says the canine expert. “When there was something new in life, Choco would just crash into it.” It didn’t take long, and Choco was ready for a permanent loving home.
A local woman soon came to the shelter excited to adopt the precocious Boxer pup and make him her service dog, which would mean Choco would have a constant companion who needed him.
“This woman had special needs, and it seemed like a great fit,” recalls Davidson. “We went through the normal adoption process, which includes filling out an application, meeting with an adoption counselor, and there didn’t seem to be any reason to be concerned.” What could have been an ideal situation for a loyal, patient, loving Boxer turned out to be a nightmare for Choco.
A Boxer in trouble
A year and half later, a concerned citizen called animal control to report that there was a neglected, anorexic Boxer left in someone’s yard. The emaciated, abandoned Boxer was Choco. He’d been left behind by the adopter, who skipped town for unknown reasons. He was brought back to Heart of the Valley.
“A friend of the adopter came to get Choco, and we were able to help him see that the dog would be better off with us,” says Davidson.
Choco was so terribly dehydrated and malnourished, his skin was drawn and his bones were heartbreakingly visible. The normal weight for a Boxer is between 50 and 70 pounds. Choco, who is not a small-framed Boxer, only weighed about 48 pounds. He was also suffering from a yeast infection in both ears and had a growth that needed to be aspirated. This anxiety-ridden Boxer was in such physical and emotional distress, he wasn’t able to be put back up for adoption at Heart of the Valley.
“He arrived in a high-stress condition and would have been more stressed in a kennel condition,” explains Donoghue. “We had to do something else.”
The shelter’s development director Kathryn Hohmann reached out to Northwest Boxer Rescue because Choco is a pedigree, which gives dogs an advantage in getting adopted.
“Boxers are a sensitive breed and tend to do well with people that understand them,” she says. “The organization was able to find a foster home for Choco in Butte, where he was rehabilitated and eventually permanently adopted by a loving family.”
Within just a couple weeks of being rescued, Choco gained a whopping seven pounds and started responding to basic commands. He is an incredibly smart dog that wanted nothing more than a family to bond with him, and even after being abandoned twice, he still had hope.
For the love of dogs
Choco’s story isn’t an exception to the adoption miracles that can happen when pet shelters, pet rescue organizations and pet lovers work together to care for, protect and permanently place dogs that have been neglected and abused. “We are here to give abandoned animals a second, third or even fourth chance at a happy life,” says Hohmann. “Choco is a great example of community and a collaboration of people who are concerned for the welfare of pets.”
As for today, Choco has made a full recovery and is a happy 2-year-old Boxer that won’t have to wander the streets or live a life of neglect ever again.