Rhea Moriarity is currently the Director of Training and Behavior at Longmont Humane Society. As an open admission shelter, LHS has achieved a live release rate for dogs of 96%. The intake of pit bull type dogs is 12-13%, but due to public perception and several areas surrounding Longmont with Breed Specific Legislation (BSL), their length of stay is twice as long as other breeds and occupy up to 50% of the kennels. The shelter has a national reputation for it’s training department, and dogs are placed on a wait list from all over the country for admission to the behavior and training program.
Longmont Humane was one of the first shelters to implement the Dogs Playing for Life Program under the direction of the program’s founder Aimee Sadler. This program facilitates playgroups for shelter dogs which greatly enhances their quality of life, adoptability, and allows the staff to assess each dog for appropriate placement. All of this helps maximize a dog’s chances for success, and has also resulted in a significant decrease in euthanasia rates. Rhea also accepts interns from all over the country who wish to come and learn about playgroups and the behavior and training department at LHS. Rhea is one of the most talented trainers and behaviorists that I have known, but let’s see if we can get an inside look at what makes her and her crew tick.
RM: “Annie was surrendered to LHS years ago at ten months of age. She had been abused. Neighbors had seen her being beaten with sticks. They were trying to make her “mean.” The neighbors purchased Annie, but were unable to keep her due to restrictions on the number of animals they were allowed to have. They surrendered her to LHS. She was catatonic when she came in, she refused to walk and they had to carry her into the building. She would hit the deck if anyone tried to approach her. They had named her “Droopy Girl” due to her depressed state. She was at LHS for three days, and then I took her home as a behavioral foster. She never went back.”
RM: “Yes, I had no other dogs at the time I brought Annie home. I hadn’t fostered in awhile and thought that Annie would be an easy, get back to fostering dog.”
MR: “You did get back to fostering….. briefly. I have heard you refer to Annie as your heart dog. What makes her so special to you?”
RM: “She is just an awesome dog, she’s very easy, and super friendly with people. She has earned her CGC, and she is very confident around other dogs. She loves to eat, go on walks, and especially enjoys helping me file paperwork. She is not really fond of toys. She has a dog bed but she sleeps wherever she wants. She will not fight, her default behavior is learned helplessness, she curls up into a ball. She gets into bed with me after the alarm goes off, and sleeps in the bed when it’s cold. She is so accustomed to me bringing foster dogs home that she usually ignores them. She also puts up with Junior, and he defers to her one hundred percent. I have Annie’s pawprint and name tattooed on my foot so that we will always walk together.
MR: “It must be an amazing feeling to earn her trust after the start she had in life?”
RM: “ It is and she is just an amazingly sweet, good natured dog . She is smart, very easy to train, and she learns things quickly.”
MR: “ I can see why she is so special to you. She is a beautiful dog inside and out. Junior is also unique in his own way, what can you tell me about him?”
RM: “Junior was transferred to LHS from Safe Humane Chicago where he was a court case dog. He is terrified of small dogs, and will defer to them. He considers anything under 30 lbs. to be a small dog. He is perfectly happy to let Annie be the boss, and she is very tolerant of him.”
MR: “ I have to admit that I am somewhat fascinated by Junior. I especially enjoy hearing him sing like an angel when he’s in your office. I love how his mouth forms an “O.” He is definitely a character.”
RM: “ I think we can all agree on that.”
MR: “ Thank you so much for all you do for the dogs we love, as well as educating the public, owners, and shelter staff. Longmont Humane is very lucky to have you on their team!
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