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Building trust to last a lifetime

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Rachel has always had a soft spot in her heart for older dogs, especially those who have experienced the emotional and physical wounds of cruelty and neglect. As a therapist, her empathy and drive to help others – both human and animal – runs deep. “I promised myself throughout my life that, as soon as I had a yard, I would adopt senior dogs who have a history of neglect or trauma and give them the best life possible,” she said. 

In August 2021, Rachel was ready and eager to fulfill that promise. She came to the Dumb Friends League searching for a senior dog in need of a loving home, and it didn’t take long for her to find “the one.” Curly (whom Rachel would later name Finnegan) had been with the League for three months after being transferred from a shelter in Oklahoma. For five of his seven years, he had lived in a hoarding situation with little to no human contact, making him very fearful of people and new environments. “It sounded like Finnegan had one of the longest stays at the Dumb Friends League, and I was told nobody had requested to meet with him, which to this day, absolutely breaks my heart,” said Rachel. 

From the start, Rachel was drawn to Finn and believed she could eventually build trust with him. “Dogs are incredibly resilient,” Rachel said. “If there’s anything we all know for sure, it’s dogs love fully, and as soon as they realize they’re loved, they reciprocate it with all that they can – at any age.” After speaking with the League’s Adoption and Behavioral Teams to understand Finn’s history and special needs, Rachel made the decision to bring him home.

Things were challenging for the first few months of their relationship, with Finn struggling greatly to adjust to his new surroundings. Although not aggressive, he would sequester himself in the backyard, bark for hours, and refuse to come near Rachel and her other dog, Sage. “I would say I was intimidated and overwhelmed and crying for about two months,” Rachel remembers. “Like, he’s completely dependent on me, and he’s terrified of me … and the amount of pain that has caused that … it’s just really hard.” After consulting with canine behavior experts at the League, she decided to keep trying.  

With time, patience, and a little help from his friends, Finnegan slowly began to warm to Rachel. Every glance her way and wag of his tail meant (and still mean) the world to her. These days, Finn cozies up with Rachel during Bridgerton marathons, accepts treats from her hand, and visits dog parks, where he recently reconnected with an adoring League volunteer. And while he’ll need lifelong support, Rachel is overjoyed with everything they have accomplished so far. She says,  

I’m so proud of his willingness to trust humans again. Every day, he is less fearful, which makes me so happy to see. Thank you all so much at the Dumb Friends League for all the kindness and support you’ve shown Finn and me. 

Thank YOU, Rachel, for loving so unconditionally and never giving up on your sweetheart boy. 

Finn's story is just one of the many heartwarming stories in our latest issue of Pet Tales, the League's triannual publication for animal welfare advocates like you. Do you want happy tales like Finn's delivered straight to your inbox? Click here to sign up to receive Pet Tales electronically three times a year.