A German Shepherd who had been abandoned by his family at an animal shelter because they were expecting a baby became a nervous wreck and cowered inside his kennel before being given a new lease on life.
Rocco, 3, was abandoned at the Dallas Animal Services and Adoption Center in Texas after his owners learned they were expecting a child.
A woman visiting the shelter noticed Rocco, who was underweight, hunched over, and terrified inside his kennel.
The woman decided to record a short video of the timid dog and share it in the hopes of quickly finding Rocco a new family.
Fortunately, Preethi Pillaipakkam saw the video and became interested in Rocco.
Pillaipakkam fosters dogs for DFW German Shepherd Rescue, a volunteer rescue organization that takes in stranded German Shepherds from all over Texas.
Pillaipakkam was initially surprised that Rocco had been abandoned because of a new baby.
‘However, seeing how malnourished he was, it didn’t surprise me. It’s probably a combination of a change in family situation and not being the best owners to begin with,’ she told The Dodo.
Pillaipakkam told The Dodo that Rocco should weigh around 85 or 90 pounds, but only weighed in at 60.
After picking Rocco up from the shelter, Pillaipakkan knew it would take days for the dog to relax.
Pillaipakkam said, ‘The shelter is certainly not the environment for a dog like Rocco. He was very timid and scared to get into the car. He even hid beneath the seat in the car. He was pacing a bit and seemed very stressed.’
The Center for Shelter Dogs says dogs become stressed in shelters because of the sudden change in environment.
Dog’s typically will become separated from their families, be confined within kennels and will experience more noise due to being so close to many other dogs.
During his first days in his new home, Rocco was nervous and walked around his new surroundings in a confused daze.
With the help of Pillaipakkam and her other German Shepherd, Katja, Rocco began to perk up by the first weekend.
‘He slowly started exploring the house,’ Pillaipakkam said. ‘He loves the couches and his doggy beds, and he really likes squeaky toys and tennis balls. He is a really good fetcher.’
Rocco became more outgoing with each passing day and has even taking to following his ‘mom’ around.
‘He was a bit aloof in the beginning,’ Pillaipakkam explained, ‘but now he follows me around like a shadow.’
Rocco has received dozens of adoption applications since the viral video, and his Instagram page has over 6,000 followers.
Large dogs, such as German Shepherds, are more frequently euthanized in animal shelters, and Pillaipakkam hopes that Rocco’s story will inspire people to adopt large dogs.
‘The top reasons for large dogs being given away typically include a change in the family situation, which could be a move, a child, a marriage, a divorce, or any other such factor,” she explained.
German Shep faces breed discrimination as well, and finding safe homes for them is becoming increasingly difficult.
Pillaipakkam hopes to find Rocco’s forever home in the coming months.
‘Ideally, we’d like to find Rocco a new home around mid-September.’ We wanted to give him at least a week or two [here] to make sure he felt safe,’ Pillaipakkam explained.
Dog anxiety, according to the American Kennel Club, can manifest in a dog’s behavior in a variety of ways, including aggression, pacing, excessive barking, and even drooling.
Anxious dogs should see their veterinarian to discuss next steps. Some common treatments include teaching your dog appropriate responses to stressful situations, using CBD oil to calm them down, and being prescribed anxiety medication.
Some methods for preventing debilitating anxiety in dogs include enforcing socialization with new experiences and learning your dog’s body language.