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Shelter Dogs: Amazing Stories of Adopted Strays

Shelter Dogs: Amazing Stories of Adopted Strays

4.5 21
by Peg Kehret

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Abig, jumpy dog who's "hard to handle," a scared little dog who snarls and snaps at everyone, a blind dog who hasn't been house-trained -- all have come to the shelter. What is going to happen to these abandoned animals? Must they be euthanized? Or can they be adopted and live happily ever after? Award-winning author Peg Kehret tells the true stories of eight amazing


Abig, jumpy dog who's "hard to handle," a scared little dog who snarls and snaps at everyone, a blind dog who hasn't been house-trained -- all have come to the shelter. What is going to happen to these abandoned animals? Must they be euthanized? Or can they be adopted and live happily ever after? Award-winning author Peg Kehret tells the true stories of eight amazing shelter dogs and how they have changed the lives of the caring, courageous people who love them.

Editorial Reviews

Kirkus Reviews
An amiable collection of short anecdotes about unwanted dogs who were dumped at animal shelters by their owners; Kehret (Small Steps, 1996, etc.) tells of eight strays who were subsequently adopted and accomplished great things. Tracker, who "began life unwanted and unloved, as do far too many puppies," went on to become a movie star. Kirby's owner died and snapped and snarled at everyone; he was about to be euthanatized when a shelter worker said softly, "Hey, Kirby. Want to go for a walk?" and the dog's personality changed; he recognized the invitation and forever after was a loving dog. Joey was trained as a "service dog" by her owner, who has multiple sclerosis; Joey performs such tasks as picking up dropped items, opening doors and cupboards, and helping her owner's mobility. The most amazing story dog is Bridgette, who was able to predict, by picking up "subtle shifts in body odor and electromagnetic fields," when someone was going to have a seizure. This allowed her owner to lay down before a seizure. The hoards of dog-lovers out there will not find these incidents astonishing, but vindication, so there's a ready audience to cry over and gasp at the tale behind every dog. (b&w photos, notes) (Nonfiction. 10-14)

From the Publisher
"Animal lovers will enjoy these eight short stories about shelter dogs going on to do great things."


Product Details

Whitman, Albert & Company
Publication date:
Product dimensions:
6.36(w) x 8.34(h) x 0.66(d)
940L (what's this?)
Age Range:
8 - 13 Years

Read an Excerpt

Shelter Dogs

Amazing Stories of Adopted Strays

By Peg Kehret, Greg Farrar


Copyright © 1999 Peg Kehret
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-4804-6198-7


Zorro, a great dane/mixed breed dog, was eight weeks old when he first came to the Humane Society. His original owner "couldn't find homes for all the puppies."

Like most puppies, Zorro was lively and lovable. Unlike most puppies, he had kennel cough and had to be confined to the medical ward until he recovered and could be put up for adoption.

Jet black, with white paws, chest, and throat and a bit of white at the tip of his tail, Zorro was a long-legged beauty. As he lost his cute puppy look, it was clear to even the most inexperienced dog person that he was going to be a mighty big dog. He had huge paws and soon weighed forty pounds.

When he recovered, he was moved to the adoption building, which has individual kennels down both sides of a wide walkway. Whenever visitors arrived, Zorro leaped eagerly against the front of the wire kennel, his long tail waving wildly. Nobody wanted to adopt such a big and rowdy dog.

Weeks went by, Zorro grew and grew, and no one chose him. Finally, when he had been at the shelter for three months, he was adopted by a family who said they wanted a big dog and were prepared to give him the care he needed. Zorro galloped away from the kennel, tugging on his leash, his tail flapping like a windshield wiper.

His happiness did not last long. Seven months later, the family returned him to the Humane Society. They said they didn't have time to exercise him, so they kept him shut in the house. Bored and restless, Zorro had begun to chew on the furniture. The family did not want a destructive dog.

By then, Zorro weighed seventy pounds, and his head reached the countertop at the adoption center. His energy level matched his size, and since he had never been taught any manners, he was now extremely hard to handle.

Of course, no one knows for sure what went through Zorro's mind as he was brought back to the Humane Society where he had already spent so much time. But he must have wondered why he was again left alone in a kennel.

Each dog who awaits adoption at the Humane Society has paperwork attached to the kennel telling his history. Every attempt is made to be honest about any problems. For example, the history might say "Does not get along with cats" or "Needs continuing treatment for ear mites." This information helps potential adopters as they try to choose a dog that will fit their lifestyle.

Now that Zorro was in the shelter a second time, his paperwork showed that he was a "returned" dog who had not worked out with his first adopting family. The paperwork also said that Zorro did not know how to obey and was known to chew—problems that would need to be corrected.

At the age of one year, Zorro, through no fault of his own, had four strikes against him: his size, his history of a failed adoption, his lack of training, and his chewing. Still, the staff hoped that some loving person would give Zorro a second chance.

Weeks passed.

No one took Zorro.

That summer, the Humane Society put on a three-week day camp for youth from troubled families. During the camp, volunteer coaches helped these young people take shelter dogs through a dog obedience class.

A Seattle woman, Megan Stanfel, offered to be a coach. Her group of campers chose to work with Zorro.

Every day for three weeks, Megan's young helpers exercised Zorro and cleaned up after him. They groomed him, brushing his black coat until it shone. They taught him to sit and stay. They decorated a special collar for him.

Zorro thrived under this attention, and he learned each lesson quickly. He no longer jumped on visitors. He knew how to walk properly on a leash.

Although Zorro was the largest dog in camp, he was never aggressive toward the other dogs or to any of the people in the program. The campers nicknamed him "the Gentle Giant."

Megan and her young workers knew that they were helping Zorro become more adoptable. They groomed him especially well on Fridays so that he would look his best over the weekend, when most adoptions take place. Despite their efforts, Zorro stayed at the shelter.

On the final day of camp, the dogs "graduated." Zorro wore his new collar and marched in to the music "Pomp and Circumstance." The camp's obedience trainers voted him "Most Cooperative Dog."

News photographers attended the graduation, and Megan urged them to photograph Zorro. She hoped someone would see his picture and fall in love with this handsome animal whose good manners now matched his good looks. But the photographers said black dogs are harder to photograph than light-colored ones; once again, Zorro was not selected.

Megan attached a note to the paperwork on Zorro's kennel, saying how well he had worked with children during the summer camp and how quickly he had learned his obedience lessons. She mentioned that he was voted Most Cooperative Dog and that he got along with all the other dogs in camp.

Although the camp was over, Megan continued to volunteer at the Humane Society. Each time she came, she went first to Zorro's kennel, hoping he would not be there. He always was.

One day Megan gave him a bath so he would look and smell his best. But a month went by, and still Zorro had no family.

Each year, the Humane Society's main fund-raiser is an event called "Tuxes and Tails." This consists of an auction and a celebrity/pet fashion show where sports stars, radio and television personalities, and other celebrities model the latest fashions. As the celebrities walk down the runway, each is accompanied by a dog. Some bring their own dogs; most use dogs from the shelter.

Tuxes and Tails always gets wide media coverage, so Megan arranged for Zorro to be in the show. Maybe someone in the audience or watching news clips on TV would want to adopt him. She practiced walking with him, helping him remember how to act on a leash.

The celebrity wore a black tuxedo; Zorro wore a crisp white bow tie—plus his usual black fur coat and white bib. Zorro pranced down the runway, tail wagging. The audience applauded loudly for the handsome pair—but nobody asked to adopt Zorro.

Megan and her husband, Ken, discussed adopting Zorro themselves. They already had two dogs. Buddy, a mix of German shepherd, Lab, and husky, had a seizure disorder and needed special medical care. Lester, a beagle/basset mix, had been abused before Megan and Ken found him abandoned in a park, and he was still fearful of new situations.

Megan and Ken worried that bringing a huge, rambunctious dog like Zorro into their home would not be fair to Buddy and Lester. They weren't sure it would be fair to Zorro, either.

"Zorro is so special," Megan told Ken. "He deserves to be the only dog in a loving family—not the third dog."

Megan often cried with frustration when she arrived at the shelter and found Zorro still there. She always took him to the outdoor courtyard for exercise. Other volunteers exercised him, too, but these brief encounters were not enough for such a large and lively dog.

As weeks became months and Zorro remained in the kennel, he slipped back into his old habits. Without regular practice, he forgot the obedience lessons he had learned. Zorro became hard to handle again.

As the days slid past, Zorro gradually withdrew. He was always glad to see Megan, but other volunteers could no longer coax him out of the kennel. Zorro was quickly becoming unadoptable. If he quit interacting with people, he would have to be euthanized.

Finally Megan could not stand to watch Zorro deteriorate any longer. She and Ken agreed to give Zorro the only chance he would get; they adopted him themselves.

While Ken drove, Megan sat in the back seat with Zorro. All the way home, he licked her hands as his tail beat against the car window. Happy sounds bubbled from his throat, and he physically shook with joy.

"I promise you," Megan told him, "that you will never, ever go back to the Humane Society."

At home, Buddy and Lester met the newcomer. They sniffed Zorro, and Zorro sniffed them. Tails wagged. Low-slung Lester walked under Zorro and stood there; when Zorro jumped out of the way, Lester walked under him again. Buddy sat down to watch. It quickly became a game, and both dogs seemed happy to have a new playmate.

When Megan and Ken took Zorro inside, he calmly followed them through the house, carefully keeping his tail under control.

"Zorro was absolutely no trouble," Megan says. "We expected it to be a huge adjustment for all of us. Instead, he fit right in. Although his head reaches the kitchen counter, he has never tried to take food. He is gentle with Lester and Buddy, and he loves his daily walks in the park."

Megan enrolled Zorro in a novice obedience class. He did so well that she continued with an advanced class.

One day the obedience instructor invited Megan and Zorro to attend a Flyball competition.

"A what?" Megan said.

"Flyball. It's a dog relay race. There are two teams of four dogs each. When the starter says 'Go!' the lead dog on each team races down a lane, jumping across four hurdles, and triggers a ball box with his paw. That releases a tennis ball. The dog catches the ball, makes a quick U-turn, and carries the ball back over the hurdles to the starting line. As soon as he gives the ball to his handler, the second dog on the team starts off. The race keeps going until all four dogs are finished. The team that's fastest wins."

Curious, Megan went to watch a Flyball race. She saw dogs of all sizes and breeds, including mixed breeds like Zorro, playing Flyball. The dogs and the people all seemed to be having fun. The dogs waited eagerly for their turns, some of them barking with excited anticipation.

Thinking that Flyball would provide good exercise for Zorro, Megan taught him the Flyball routine. He loved running fast and going over the jumps. He quickly caught on how to release the tennis ball from the box, and he always raced back to Megan with it, eager to get her approval and a treat. Before long, he did so well that he was invited to compete.

Right from the start, Zorro was good at Flyball. Soon he won a Flyball title and then another and then a third. He won ribbons and medals.

He was asked to join the Puget Sound Flyers, a Flyball demonstration team whose purpose is entertainment rather than racing. Zorro's team performs at half-time during many sporting events.

Megan took him to do shows at the University of Washington during basketball and soccer games. They traveled to Vancouver, British Columbia, in Canada, where they were the special guests of the Vancouver Grizzlies, a National Basketball Association team.

Zorro was classified as an "entertainer" as he crossed the border into Canada. After the Flyball performance, the Grizzlies provided Megan and Zorro with their own hotel suite for the night. It was definitely more luxurious than a kennel at the Humane Society!

"People tell me how lucky Zorro is that I adopted him," Megan says. "But I am the lucky one. He has enriched my life in so many ways."

Megan used to take the bus to the Humane Society because she didn't drive. After Zorro began Flyball competitions, Megan learned to drive and got her own car so that she could transport Zorro to his meets.

The obedience instructor who taught Zorro's classes saw the expert way Megan handled this large dog and offered her a part-time job. Megan now teaches obedience classes.

Zorro sometimes goes along to demonstrate the proper methods. Zorro also took the necessary training to qualify as a therapy dog so Megan can take him to visit hospitalized children. Even the sickest children smile when they pet big, friendly Zorro.

Zorro's Flyball team was invited to provide the halftime entertainment at a Seattle Sonics basketball game. Each dog on the Puget Sound Flyers wore a new auburn-and-gold coat. With his black fur and golden eyes, Zorro looked particularly handsome.

The Key Arena in Seattle, where the Sonics play, was sold out that night, and when Zorro finished his routine, the crowd gave him a standing ovation.

As the applause echoed from the rafters, Megan stood with tears in her eyes. She thought of all the lonely months Zorro spent in the Humane Society shelter—months when no one wanted him.

Since then, Zorro has demonstrated Flyball at a New Jersey Nets game at the Meadowlands in East Brunswick, New Jersey; at a Cavaliers game in Cleveland, Ohio; and at New York Knicks games in Madison Square Garden in New York City. His team donates any profits from performance fees to animal welfare organizations or uses the money to buy new equipment and coats for the dogs. The team also does many free shows for charities, senior centers, and the University of Washington.

Whether it's a small group or a crowd of thousands, the response is always the same: everyone cheers for Zorro, the shelter dog who became a champion.

About Kennel Cough

Kennel cough is caused by a highly contagious virus that can be prevented by vaccination. A dog with kennel cough has a dry, raspy cough and may need a cough suppressant, anti-inflammatory drugs, or antibiotics. If untreated, kennel cough can lead to pneumonia. If you suspect your dog has kennel cough, take her to a veterinarian and keep her away from other dogs until she is well.

About Flyball

Flyball began in California in the early 1970s. Herbert Wagner made the first Flyball box that launched tennis balls and used it in his dog obedience classes as a fun activity for the dogs. When he demonstrated his new game on The Tonight Show, interest in Flyball spread quickly.

The North American Flyball Association, Inc. (NAFA) was formed in 1985 and adopted specific rules for Flyball competitions. For example, the jump heights must be set at four inches below the shoulders of the shortest dog competing, with the lowest hurdle eight inches. So the jumps for one team might not be the same height as the jumps of the opposing team. It all depends on the sizes of the dogs who are running. For this reason, most teams like to include at least one short dog.


Tracker began life as an unwanted puppy. Along with his eleven brothers and sisters, he was left at the Humane Society before he was old enough to be separated from his mother.

When this happens, the Humane Society places the puppies in foster homes with volunteers who will give them the extra care and attention (often including middle-of-the-night feedings) that such young animals need. The volunteers take the place of the mother dog.

Animals who go to foster homes as babies are often especially loving and gentle as adults. Because they receive lots of affection and tender care at an early age, they give great love in return. Pups who are left alone and not handled regularly do not learn to enjoy human companionship.

Tracker is a mixed-breed dog—probably part collie and perhaps part German shepherd or Akita. Perhaps. It's hard to tell for sure, and the people who brought the puppies in did not know or care. Tracker has a face like a collie's, with a long snout and expressive eyes. He has smooth white fur with a few large brown spots. A long, waving tail and one ear that flops over at the tip give him a distinctive look.

Whatever his breed, he got along well in foster care, and when he was old enough to be adopted, he was returned to the Humane Society. That's where he was at the age of eight weeks when Anne Gordon found him.

Anne is an animal trainer. With a college degree in biology and a minor in animal behavior, plus three years' experience as a zookeeper at Seattle's Woodland Park Zoo, Anne started her own company: Anne's Animal Actors. She trains wild and domestic animals of all kinds and prepares them to act in television shows, commercial productions, and movies. They also model for magazine and newspaper ads.

By the time she found Tracker, Anne was well known and highly sought after. Her credits included the movies Homeward Bound, Free Willie 2, The Good Son, Home for the Holidays, and the television series Rescue 911.

Anne did not need another dog, but when she saw Tracker she was so taken by his good looks and eager-to-please personality that she decided to give him a home.

Anne had adopted other dogs and cats from the Seattle/King County Humane Society. She had also adopted animals from the Portland, Oregon, Humane Society and from the shelters of other animal welfare agencies. All became part of her business and members of her family.

Tracker went to Anne's home, deep in the woods in northern Washington State, where her other animal actors also live. Home for Anne Gordon and her four-legged friends is not merely a house. It is wooded acreage where each animal's needs are met.

Four wolves live in a half-acre of fenced forest. A pair of beavers, one male and one female, have side-by-side pens, each complete with its own swimming tub. When Anne bought these beavers from a fur farm, she saved their lives.

Two red foxes run to the fence to greet Anne whenever they see her coming. A pair of mule deer, veteran actors with many credits, have an entire fenced acre of woods all to themselves. Two raccoons, who were found orphaned as babies, amble about in their special enclosure.


Excerpted from Shelter Dogs by Peg Kehret, Greg Farrar. Copyright © 1999 Peg Kehret. Excerpted by permission of ALBERT WHITMAN & Company.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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Shelter Dogs: Amazing Stories of Adopted Strays 4.5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 21 reviews.
PRBooker68 More than 1 year ago
A totally heartwarming look at the wonderful things that can happen when we give our animal friends another chance at life!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Shelter dogs is a great, expiring book. Every chapter is about another dogs life. Every dog has a very expiring story to tell. Great book!!!!!!!!!!!
Guest More than 1 year ago
So many people over look rescued dogs and the wonderful things that can happen to them when someone actually takes the time with them to adopt, love, and respect the animal. I got two such books for my birthday (being a dog lover and rescuer) and I must say they are books that should be a must-read for everyone.'Shelter Dogs' is a book you will want to read more than once. Congrats to Peg and Greg!
Guest More than 1 year ago
It is a quick read, but its a GREAT read. What wonderful stories. I have always been a shelter adopter. And these stories just touch your heart.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This a great book for all ages. If you don't believe in a good shelter dog then you haven't read this book.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This was one of my favorite books of all times and absolutly fabulous! i convinced almost my whole class to read it and they all loved It!
Guest More than 1 year ago
Great book. Lovely stories about dogs who got adopted by sweet people. Good things that people can do to the dogs to change their lives and vice versa are in this book. Recommend for dog lovers.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Shelter dogs is about 8 different dogs that came from shelters, and made a difference in their owners. I recommend for all animal lovers!!!!
Guest More than 1 year ago
I loved this book about eight different dogs that have been adopted from Humane Societies around Washington. It was heart-warming and I loved hearing about very lucky dogs that were adopted by such nice people. I also liked hearing about such lucky people that raised those dogs. I recommend this book to anyone that really loves dogs!
Anonymous 7 months ago
I am violent
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
The only kind of dog I have ever had. Theyre the best any kind of dog or cat you can fid in a shelter and it just makes you feel good to save a life.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Such a good free trial im buying it!!!!!!!!!!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Super great!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Great short stories about such great pets they have just waiting to find a good home. Hope it make people think of all these pets just waiting to find a good home some day.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Shelter Dogs was an amazing book! This is a book of true stories that happened to dogs that were in shelters. I really loved how each dog had a special gift, and how Peg Kehret really emphasized them. My favorite dog was Bridgette, because I think it is truly amazing that a dog can predict seizures. This book should be read by all animal lovers out there.