Enzo is a lovable thirty pound Chow mix who had a rough start in life. He is currently in a foster home, where he has turned out to be an easy houseguest. Enzo is house- and crate-trained and gets along with other dogs. He walks well on leash. He loves butt rubs and neck scratches, but can still be skittish about approaching touch. He makes charming little grunting noises when sniffing things or getting a really good scratching, and snores amusingly as he’s falling asleep.
Enzo has done a lot of hard dog work and is ready for a home and person of his own. Read his story below.
At the shelter
Enzo grew up living outside on a large property with many other dogs and little or no direct human contact. He was brought to the Pinal County shelter late in the summer of 2020, completely feral and incredibly fearful.
I look at him in this photo and see a frightened wild animal.
Click here for Enzo’s shelter information page.
I met Enzo while he was in foster at a private boarding facility. I work with scared and undersocialized dogs at the Pima County shelter, helping them to become more confident and adoptable. Enzo was typical of the dogs I work with. He didn’t trust humans and would avoid them if he could. When eventually cornered he would tremble in fear. No one had been able to get a collar on him. It was hard to imagine him being adopted– most people want a dog they can interact with– or his being successful if he was. He needed help. So I decided I would visit my new friend Enzo a few days a week.
I think here he looks curious, yet suspicious.
Learning to walk
At first I just spent time with him. He would retreat to the doghouse in his run when I arrived and would take treats only off the ground. Soon I began to work on touch with him, which required crawling into his doghouse. Next came leashing– again in his doghouse. He was uncomfortable with all of this yet put up with it quietly. The first time we left his run together, he tried to run away and panicked when he hit the end of the leash. And the second time. But he learned, and soon we began going for walks. Though this is something we tend to take for granted in a dog, Enzo didn’t know how to walk with a person. He was nervous, constantly checking to make sure I wasn’t going to attack him, and erratic, frequently running into me, getting in my way, or winding the leash around my legs. His tail was often down and there were occasional brief freakouts. But we were walking, enjoying life together and building trust slowly. His tail began to come up.
For the next couple of months I visited and worked with Enzo several times a week. He got the hang of walking with a human and began to enjoy our walks more, tail confidently up. He learned to get into a car. He began to keep his run clean. He learned to tolerate touch, even enjoyed it occasionally, although it was still stressful for him. He trusted me enough to allow me to inspect and clean up his face after a minor injury. He was progressing nicely.
Although things were going well, Enzo had plateaued. He seemed happy to see me, and was ready to go on a walk once leashed, but he was still afraid of touch and I still had to crawl half inside his doghouse or corner him in a small pen to leash him. He had made a lot of progress, but his growth had slowed and he still wasn’t ready to be adopted.
And now for something completely different
So the next step was to bring him home. This would not only break him out of his rut but accelerate his socialization. No one had any idea if he had ever lived in a home before, and he had shown some tendency towards marking while in boarding, so we weren’t sure how this might work out. And he was filthy.
He hopped in the car like he had learned, and rode fairly well, if anxiously, from boarding to our place. And although he was in an unfamiliar place with unfamiliar dogs, afraid of touch and freaked out by the shower, he trusted me enough to let me wash him.
First week in a home
Enzo is doing surprisingly well in our home. As with all new dogs, we keep a 10′ drag (24/7 leash) on him for convenience and safety. At night he sleeps in our bedroom in a crate next to the resident dogs’ beds; during the day he has the run of most of the house. We take him out at least every couple of hours, and monitor our dogs with him closely. He has his own dinner bowl and place for it. He learned the routine quickly, caused no problems, did not mark, and only had a couple of accidents– at least one of which I am certain he wanted to go out, but didn’t know how to tell us.
And he is sociable. I expected based on his behavior in boarding that he would be evasive and hiding most of the time. Instead he wants to be with me, and doesn’t seem to feel it necessary to run away when I walk by, unless it looks like I might try to touch him. He greets me when I come home from away, and once…
Aww. That’s certainly what I felt. But Enzo is not usually this cuddly. I believe there are two factors at work here. First, he is learning to be invited onto the bed, and that it is ok to be there. Mild discomfort is not a reason to be allowed to jump off. And second, he has only been with us for three days at this point, and I am the only familiar thing around, presumably representing some degree of predictability and safety. All that aside, he chose to lie in that particular spot, perhaps showing his potential.
Enzo has been with us about three weeks now, and he’s doing great. About ten days in we were able to remove his drag. He eagerly goes out and willingly comes in with the other dogs, and shows no interest in escaping the yard, though we still need to be conscious of open doors. He’s not a door darter, but would take advantage. Though he often retreats to his crate for leashing, he loves morning walks. He isn’t ready to jump on the bed when invited yet, but as soon as I clip on the drag he jumps up, and is much more comfortable on the bed and with touch and affection once there.
Enzo has been with us almost six weeks now, and has become so much more comfortable. He’s tried to get Luca to play a few times– alas, to no avail. He often sidles away from my first leashing attempt, but he stays by the door instead of running to his crate. He accompanied me to Tap & Bottle for some public socialization and did well there. He eagerly jumps on the bed when invited (and sometimes without being invited, but one thing at a time), and enjoys scratches and butt rubs there, though he often still automatically flinches a little at first touch.
Overall he is simply more relaxed, softer looking, more engaged. Though he still has work to do, I can see him being successful in his own home. Enzo is adoptable! I am very proud of him.
When we were planning to bring Enzo home early in May, we also had vague plans for one of our summer road trips in June. We always take the dogs with us, but this will not work with three dogs. The easy and obvious solution is for Enzo to return to boarding (where he was at that time residing) while we are gone. Though the road trip ended up being only a week in Flagstaff, it still was difficult to leave him behind. He never looked at me through the fence like that when I was just visiting him. I thought of him often while we were enjoying our holiday.
I wondered if when I went to pick him up he would be happy to see me. Would he be relatively easy to leash? No. I found him in a large yard. He had regressed, and was difficult to catch. But once caught, he hopped into the car and settled back into his life with us almost astonishingly quickly– including tolerating another shower, more stoically than the first one. And the next day:
(Enzo is closest.) Again, this is unusual. He likes being on the bed but usually chooses a spot farther away. Given recent events I suspect it was a matter of security and reassurance, like the last time he was this cuddly. Welcome back, Enzo.
This morning Enzo approached to smell my breath for the first time, like the dogs do with each other. I’ve noticed that Morning Greetings are a special time when even wary dogs are more open to proximity and touch. Like many things of that nature that I do, I don’t know how the dogs perceive it, but I figure it can’t hurt, and I’ll take advantage of every opportunity I can. It took our Bisou (a Decom grad and foster fail) years to get to the point where she would smell my breath, and even now I have to be careful to look away from her. Enzo got a nice neck scratch and butt rub after emerging from his crate, as usual, then unexpectedly approached and sniffed me. It was one of those little moments one learns to look for in poorly socialized dogs that shows increasing trust and comfort. I don’t expect he’ll do it tomorrow– progress in dogs is rarely linear– but it was still a tiny landmark and I felt good for him. [Update a week later: Enzo does this many/most mornings now.]
The Platform of Safety
This is more a post about working with formerly-feral dogs than it is about Enzo specifically, although he features in it. One of our own dogs, Bisou, was originally feral or semi-feral. When we first brought her home, she was extremely avoidant, didn’t want to be anywhere near us. There was one surprising exception: if we were lying on our bed, she was willing to join us there. She was extremely nervous, panting continually, but there she was, between us, gradually learning that touch was ok and neck scratches could be nice. We took to calling the bed the Platform of Safety. Over time this has become her favorite place, lying head against my side.
I always figured this was just a Bisou thing, but interestingly Enzo is now behaving similarly. Other than during morning greetings, he avoids touch, is just barely willing to be leashed. Yet once he learned it was ok, he eagerly jumps on the bed with me, accepts and enjoys scratches, butt rubs, and pets there. He doesn’t lean his head against me; that’s apparently the Bisou part.
Something about the bed makes it a safe space for some dogs. Something his family-to-be could take advantage of to continue his socialization.
Here’s my butt
Another tiny but significant step a couple of days ago: Enzo presented his butt to be scratched, in the middle of the day, and enjoyed the scratching. Up to now he has only allowed touch during morning greetings or on the bed. As often happens with such breakthroughs, he hasn’t done it again, but I know he will. This was an “almost”.
Catching up: Plates, nose bumps, and the sofa
I haven’t posted in a while; nothing dramatic has happened. Enzo has continued to get more comfortable with us, and it shows in small ways.
Dogs in our home get to lick plates after dinner. Not only is it a treat for the dogs, but we view the pre-cleaning as a useful function. It’s part of the Dog job description. It takes a while for new dogs to “get it”, and it takes longer for the skittish ones to feel safe enough to do a good job instead of just hastily scarfing up any lumps. Enzo not only does a good job with his plates, but Expects Something when we’re done eating.
I also ask dogs in our household to bump my hand with their nose to say, “yes”, such as in answer to, “Would you like dinner?” or, “Would you like to go out?” Again, it takes a while, especially for the skittish ones, but he now gives me a bump 90% of the time. (He also learned, on his own from my dogs, to jump up and down excitedly at the prospect of dinner, so dinnertime is quite the show.)
He’s more comfortable meeting people. He has made a spot on the sofa his. And he wants to be on the bed with us now, on an everyday basis. He even spent part of the night there recently.
A Break in the Routine
Enzo’s vaccinations were due, so yesterday we drove up to Casa Grande to visit his home shelter, with a stop for lunch at one of our favorite restaurants on the way. Though he learned to get into a car for short rides last spring, he was always anxious, panting, moving around restlessly and putting his paws on the windowsill. As things have worked out, he’s only been on a few very short trips since, none at all in the past three months, so we didn’t know what to expect.
He did great! He jumped in readily, and rode remarkably calmly, looking out the windows at the traffic and scenery. It was only after about an hour, when we got off the freeway, that he began to show some anxiety, but nothing like he used to. Given that this improvement clearly wasn’t due to extensive experience in the car, I think it was his trust in and comfort with us that allowed him to be so comparatively relaxed.
Here he is on the patio at Big House, a normal dog hoping for food and drinking from the base of a flowerpot.
Enzo sometimes snores. It’s usually rather charming. Occasionally comical.
Recently someone looked at Enzo and said he looked like he had some Shiba Inu in him. I hadn’t thought of that before, but now I’m wondering. His fur is a little unusual, and so is his tail. The shelter listed him as a Kelpie mix, and I would bet money he has at least a dash of Chow.
A friend generously gave me a DNA kit for him a while ago, and I’ve been working towards him being able to accept the swab. I finally decided to do it this week. It didn’t go as easily as I’d hoped, but we got it done. So now we wait. What will he turn out to be a mix of?
Just a nice photo of Enzo taken today.
Not a good photo but the milestone is too good to pass up.
Enzo has made the sofa his daytime spot for several months now. But he less often lies there if other people are in the room, and never if someone else is on the sofa. A couple of days ago, to Edith’s surprise, he briefly jumped up on the end while she was reading, though he didn’t stay. Yesterday we watched a game, and she placed his blanket as an invitation. He was clearly thinking about it. Deep thought. Extended risk evaluation. He’d stand there a while, thinking, then go away and come back later.
And then he jumped and curled up. He didn’t fully relax and close his eyes. But there he was, sharing the sofa. A big step for a formerly feral dog. We were so (quietly) excited and proud of him.
…And the results are in!
It turns out that Enzo is mostly Chow, with a dash of Australian Cattle Dog and 13 more breeds. Or in other words, half Chow and half Heinz 57 mutt. That he had some Chow in him was obvious, but I didn’t expect it to be that much!
Sleeping on the Bed
Enzo now eagerly jumps on the bed, under certain conditions: I am the only person on it, and he thinks he can get to his favorite spot up near the pillows without upsetting one of the other dogs; or when I am getting up, say from reading, and he’s excited because he thinks something might happen and he wants to say hi and get scratched. He will get up other times, but is much more reserved and cautious, less likely to stay.
It’s not infrequent that I or my wife wake up in the night and cannot get back to sleep. We’ll often leave the room and do something elsewhere in the house, rather than just lay there in the dark. Last night we both were unlucky in this way. She fell asleep on the sofa and I eventually went back to bed. I invited the dogs up, as I sometimes do when I am alone in the bed. Lately I’ve been leaving Enzo’s kennel door open at night, and somewhat to my surprise he jumped up, too, taking his position at the very top almost on Edith’s pillow, very close to me because Bisou didn’t leave him much room. Even more surprising, a little later he was sleeping with his head against my arm. It was nice. He stayed until Edith came back to bed a couple of hours later.
I’ve written before about how it’s the dogs’ jobs to clean up plates and bowls. Enzo has long since learned to lick plates placed on the floor, and now anticipates them eagerly. That’s fine after dinner, but at breakfast or lunch there is often only one item to lick. So what I do is offer each dog his or her turn while I hold it, and they all get at least an opportunity at their share. I always invite Enzo first, but he has been too cautious. While Bisou and Luca get their share, Enzo seems to be channeling the early Bisou, “No point to a full stomach if you’re dead.”
Until recently. Now he approaches and gets his licks! I’m proud of him.
Since Enzo was originally a street dog, I expected he would want to spend a lot of time outside. As it’s turned out, however, he prefers to be indoors. Pretty much goes out, does his business, and is ready to come back in. Perhaps he is thinking, “Did that living-outside thing. It wasn’t that great. This is much more comfortable. And safe. Much better.”
Here he is on the patio, waiting for me to let him in.
Though Enzo likes to be near us, he isn’t a snuggly dog. But sometimes in the morning he will make an exception. Very early this morning, he jumped up on the bed when invited for his morning greeting with scratches and rubs, then settled down to stay for a while, snuggled up against me through the covers. (It was very dim– the camera has made it seem much lighter and later in the morning than it really was.)
All The Dogs
We’ve been gone for a while on a road trip. Our two resident dogs went with us, while the fosters stayed home. Now that we’re back, they are often all in my office with me: foster Domingo (sleeping), Bisou (performing personal maintenance), Luca (also sleeping), and foster Enzo (who has lived with us long enough he most assuredly has the wrong idea by now). Enzo is still trying to get Luca to play, without success. He needs a home of his own and a playmate!
A Normal Dog Welcome
For a long time, although Enzo would be happy to see me arrive home, wiggling and wagging his tail a safe distance away, he was too cautious to approach, or if he did so, it was very carefully and briefly, no petting allowed. Look at him now!
This page will be updated occasionally. Please return to see Enzo’s latest accomplishments and adventures.