Adoption spotlight: Ramona
From October through December, the Richmond SPCA focused on placement of pets with extended stays at our humane center. While we find homes for the overwhelming majority of pets in our care in fewer than 30 days, some very special dogs and cats are with us longer. Our “Help Them Graduate” promotion included fun senior portraits of these pets, a special display in the adoption center and discounted adoption fees.
At the conclusion of the three-month promotion, Assistant Manager of Adoptions Tommy DeSanto declared it a great success. Our fall graduating class numbered 160 pets who had been in the shelter for 30 days or more and who now have lasting, loving homes.
Ramona celebrated the end of 2018 with a graduation party attended by adoption staff, Green Team volunteers and our trainers. They all gathered to give her a great sendoff to her new home after 423 days in our care.
Though Ramona’s adoption to David and Karen became official on December 29, it was many months in the making. They worked with Behavior and Training Associate Hannah Fuqua, who was one of Ramona’s closest friends during her stay. Hannah recalls the lovable hound’s arrival at the Richmond SPCA:
Emaciated, scared and timid, Ramona was brought into our care from Prince Edward County’s shelter in September 2017. She arrived at our shelter with a lot of challenges. She was anxious and fearful of loud sounds, and she routinely paced her kennel. She barked nonstop. She also guarded resources such as food and toys, which limited her placement to a home with adults only.
For the first three weeks I worked with Ramona, I never saw her lie down. In the beginning, we would go on long walks and then stand in one place until she finally settled down and was calm. I remember the first time I saw her lie down—we had gone to an area of the building that was perfectly silent. I sat in a chair and held Ramona close to me for 45 minutes, and when she finally relaxed and lay down, I felt an immense sense of relief knowing she was secure and comfortable in that moment.
We developed a daily walking route. Over time, Ramona’s steady routine enabled her to relax and develop trust in me. Then, I began to take her to new places. She went to the farmer’s market, on ice cream trips and to the river. All of that socialization combined with her tenacity for earning treats actually made training a breeze! She learned “sit,” “down,” “shake” and eventually mastered a “leave it,” which aided in effective management of her resource guarding.
Ramona feels most safe when things around her remain consistent. Since the constant traffic of visitors in the adoption center added to her anxiety, we found that she was more at ease in a quieter kennel in the back of the shelter. Not being visible to members of the visiting public limited her chances to meet adopters, so we featured her photograph and description on signs at our adoption desk along with our website and in videos for social media.
It was the sign at the adoption desk that caught David and Karen’s attention when they first visited in September. David and Karen had experience with strong personality hounds, and our Assistant Manager of Adoptions Tommy DeSanto mentioned that Ramona might be a good fit for their family. David immediately fell in love with Ramona, and the couple began the process of getting to know her.
Unfortunately, their home was not yet ready for Ramona. They had recently experienced flooding and moved to temporary housing until their home would be livable again in December. However, as Ramona takes more time to warm up to men, this inconvenience proved to be beneficial for David and Ramona’s relationship. Over the following months, David visited Ramona several times a week and even completed volunteer training so he could visit with her whenever he wanted. With treats in hand and love to give, Ramona became much more comfortable and affectionate with David. By the time David and Karen’s house was ready, Ramona and David were best friends. Ramona was also comfortable with Karen and their adult children who often visit.
On Saturday, December 29, David, Karen and their children came to our humane center to take Ramona home. At her going away party, all of Ramona’s friends reminisced on how far she had come and how happy she is now. She showed off her silly antics one last time and then went to her lasting, loving home. David plans on continuing to volunteer at the shelter to help other dogs in need like Ramona, but he will most definitely spoil her the most at home.
Hannah Fuqua is a behavior and training associate at the Richmond SPCA.