A Feral Dog’s Journey


When the rescue community received the news that the CDC was banning dogs from over 100 countries, there was a mad scramble. Dogs must be vaccinated 30 days before entry to the US, so there wasn't enough time to prepare dogs who weren't already vetted. Groups focused on evacuating dogs from countries like Qatar who were "ready to fly" to make room for the dogs that would come in over the months that would follow. (At the time, the CDC was already warning that the ban would be in place for at least one year. As of now there's no sign of it being lifted anytime soon.)

SHUG had one more spot on our last flight out of Qatar. One of our partners asked us to consider Aquila, who they described as a "feral" dog. At the time, in the shock and desperation of the days following the announcement of the ban, we were eager to help wherever we could. Even in hindsight we would have said yes...but it's easy to see now that we didn't really know what we were getting into.

Sighthounds are unique in the dog world for their extraordinarily long history as companions to humans. Greyhounds make appearances in the Bible and the Odyssey. For thousands of years they have been bred to work alongside their people. We see sighthounds that have been neglected and abused...but feral? That is much less common in the sighthound world.

When Aquila arrived to SHUG eight months ago, he was a feral dog. He’d been caught in the Qatari desert, and he wanted to return there. He hated life in a home, wearing a collar and constrained by leash or harness. He had zero trust in humans and constantly growled and/or ran from his foster mom. No matter what treats she tried, no matter what voice she used, he wanted nothing to do with her.

Another hallmark of sighthounds and a result of the specialized way they have been bred for millennia, is their lack of aggression toward humans. We rarely see sighthounds who bite.

Aquila bit.

He bit his foster mom every time she attempted to touch him or put a leash or harness on him. Never hard enough to break the skin, but he made his feelings known. Aquila was never aggressive--his nips were his reaction to his anxiety and his fear of humans--but they still hurt!

We started him on trazodone. Soon after another foster arrived in Aquila's foster home, a little whippet mix from Hawaii named Giza. He bonded quickly with her...drawn to her confidence and playfulness. Within a couple of weeks we saw his anxiety and fear begin to fade. Aquila started to be more accepting of human contact and began sleeping near his foster mom and approaching her for attention. We still had a lot to work on, but it was a good start.

With Giza leading the way, Aquila has started to play and enjoy his life. He loves playing with toys, chasing, and wrestling on a dog bed. He approaches his foster mom now without fear--and she can approach him without worrying about nipping.

Aquila hasn’t nipped in well over four months and shows little to no anxiety. He lets his foster mom hug him, and put on his leash and harness without any fuss. At the February SHUG meet & greet Aquila, by his own choice, went out of the ‘booth area’ to meet strangers, and readily accepted their pets and ear rubs….truly enjoying all the attention. He also reacts very positively to words of praise, with a happy, wagging tail.

Aquila reacts well to both men and women alike and clearly wants his own forever family. Today he is a smart, sweet, cuddly boy, who has much love to give. His adopter should be patient, willing to earn Aquila's trust. They should have a calm household, with no young children, and MUST have another young friendly dog that loves to play as much as Aquila. They must also have a fenced yard, with at least 5 ft high fencing. Aquila LOVES outside time, and loves to run, so apt or condo living isn’t a good fit for him. He also LOVES squeakies and crinkly foil toys. He absolutely wants to sleep on your bed, next to you. He loves to be petted, and, once he trusts you, to be kissed on the nose.

Aquila is still on trazodone, and will need to maintain it into his adoption. Once he has settled into his new home, his adopters can work with their vet to lower his dosage and it's possible they may eventually wean him from it. But it is also possible that he will need a maintenance dose for the rest of his life. Aquila has worked hard to find his happy, and we need to find the right home to help him keep it.

Aquila may have started out as a feral dog, but today he is a wonderful, easy companion. He's ready to give you all of the love in his heart--if you can see beyond his past to how bright his future will be.

If you think you might be the right home for Aquila, please submit an application on our website. He is waiting.

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