For a while, Charly had it rough. The tricolor Australian shepherd had been shuffled from one foster home to another because of suspected behavioral issues and lingering effects from abuse. She was fiercely protective at times, barked excessively, and whipped her head around when touched from behind. It eventually landed her at San Diego Humane Society. She was about nine.
Charly, short for Charlotte, stood out to Michael Baehr. “After being bounced from home to home and a few unsuccessful adoption attempts, she was quickly running out of options,” he says.
Baehr and his husband, Robert Miller, knew they had to do something. “We decided to temporarily foster Charly for a month to give her some time outside of the shelter and help her get some positive, consistent history in her record.”
Once at the couple’s home in Clairemont, Charly’s anxiety and excessive barking began to subside. She quickly became a part of the family. But she didn’t act like Baehr and Miller’s three other dogs, and they began to suspect an underlying cause. “We noticed that Charly would take her cues from observing the other dogs,” Baehr explains. “If they ran to the biscuit jar, she too would run to see what was happening. But if she was asleep or had her head turned, she wouldn’t respond.”
A veterinarian later discovered that Charly was missing her eardrum on one side and was very hard of hearing on the other. Some of her behaviors then began to make sense. “The sudden head whipping when touched now seemed less of an aggressive move and more of an act of surprise because she couldn’t hear someone approaching her,” Baehr says.
They came up with hand gestures to communicate simple commands. “As soon as we began this, Charly appeared to be more responsive and our bond with her only grew stronger.” So much stronger that Baehr adopted Charly, who now lives surrounded by love and understanding.
Baehr is glad they took a chance on Charly. He urges anyone wanting a pet to adopt and those already leaning toward a shelter pet to consider an older one: “They’ve usually outgrown the desire to chew, jump, dig or run away, and they are eternally grateful. They just want a warm lap, someone to love them, and a reliable place to spend their golden years.”
Anyone on the fence should think about fostering an animal, which can really help when it comes to adoption. “I don’t think we ever would have thought of fostering an animal before we met Charly,” Baehr says. “We didn’t realize that the impact of removing an animal from a shelter setting—particularly a dog—and letting them settle into a restful home environment could be so beneficial in allowing them to relax and show their true personality.”
Editor’s Note: Since this story was written, we’ve learned that Charly passed away at age 13, surrounded by love till the very end. Thank you, Michael Baehr and Rob Miller, for never giving up on Charly and for providing her a loving environment to live out her golden years… just as she always deserved.
SHARE YOUR STORY: If you have an adoption story you’d like to share, email us at email@example.com with a photo of your pet for possible inclusion in a future issue.