Anna entered our shelter in April 2017 and was adopted in July of 2020.

She quickly became one of the shelter favorites because of how affectionate, playful, and adorable she was.

But she was a challenge to adopt out due to her tendency to react poorly with certain dogs and in certain situations when her personal space was invaded.

So when Jason came along and told us he wanted to adopt Anna, I knew his story needed to be shared. This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

ARNO: First off, it wasn’t just that you adopted Anna that I found inspiring, it was why you chose her. I had heard you had asked specifically for which dogs would benefit the most from being adopted. Is that how it went? Can you walk me through the entire process, from deciding to adopt to landing on adopting Anna?

Jason: You guys would know more about her background than I would, but I think it’s worth noting that she was found malnourished with a large chain around her neck dragging a cinder block. I think that’s important to understanding her issues with people.

The adoption happened a few months back but this is how I recall it:

I’ve wanted to adopt a dog for years; my ex and I would watch Pit Bulls and Parolees and we really wanted to help them but she was allergic to dogs. I always remembered them talking about how it was hard to adopt certain dogs for reasons like age, medical condition, and color, on top of the fact that pit bulls were a a breed that had a bad reputation with a lot of people. So when I started looking to adopt I knew I was in a position to help a dog that others might automatically discount based on those reasons.

I searched the ARNO site and saw a couple of dogs that looked great, but Anna really stood out to me. I saw she’d been there a long time, had an aggression history, and couldn’t be in a house with kids or other pets. That’s a lot of disqualifiers for her. It seemed impossible that she’d ever find a home.

In my first call with ARNO I was told they didn’t think Anna would be a good fit for me, but that there were a couple of other dogs that might work. Even during my FaceTime homecheck I said I was disappointed that I couldn’t adopt Anna. When I got to ARNO I said I still wanted to meet her, so we went to her first.

All the other dogs were barking and going crazy and she was just so chill. I walked two other dogs who were absolutely lovely, but somebody was definitely going to adopt them, and I wanted to help Anna. After those two dogs I asked to go hang out with Anna again. I sat next to her pen and just chilled out with her for a bit. She didn’t seem aggressive at all.

Once I realized that she wasn’t an angry, aggressive dog, and that she was just a girl who had some relationship issues based on past trauma (I can totally understand that!), I knew she was my spirit animal and there was no way I wasn’t going to adopt her. We set up another date to meet up in ARNO’s back yard so we could ease her in and see how things went. I did a few training games that I was familiar with to make sure she was responsive to training and she did great. All that went well, and here we are.

ARNO: Are there still challenges from adopting a dog like Anna, and what are some things you have been able to do to overcome them?

I have to be honest, she’s essentially a perfect dog. With younger dogs I might worry about chewing or messing in the house, but she does none of that. Everybody always wants puppies, but trying to work off all that energy is hard – so having a slightly older dog like her is wonderful. She’s fine with either chilling on the couch or running around the park. The only thing that is challenging is meeting new people or dogs. I have to take some extra steps when friends come over if I want her to be social, but she’s also fine with being in my room by herself if need be.

ARNO: What would you tell somebody who is thinking about adopting a behaviorally challenged dog but isn’t sure about it?

Know why they are how they are, and do your research on how to fix that. It’s just like people: if you know why someone is angry or acting a certain way, then you can figure out how to help them. There isn’t a one-size-fits-all cure. There’s lots of really good positive training info on YouTube and I researched from many other sources so I had a lot of ideas on what to do to correct her behavior.

I also think it’s important that people see their dogs as living things with thoughts, emotions, and decision-making capabilities. Dogs aren’t robots. I didn’t really think like that when I was younger: the dog was supposed to do what I told it to do. But just like humans, they make decisions based on past experiences, so I make it a point to never try and force Anna to do anything. I’m sure in her past someone has forced her into something that probably went really bad for her and she doesn’t want that to happen again. Sometimes it takes extra patience to keep from trying to drag her a direction I want to go, but I know that’s probably a trigger for her and she and I are in this together.

I think that matters a lot to a dog with issues, particularly smarter breeds like pits. Once they see that you care about what they’re thinking, they’re not as rebellious.