Angie Berry and others at Helping Strays of Monroe County share the same Christmas wish: a home for Demi.
Demi is a 4-year-old, 66-pound mixed breed female dog who came to Helping Strays two years ago after being found in pretty bad shape in the parking lot of an East St. Louis convenience store.
“She had wounds all over her,” Berry remembered. “She was in heat and fighting for her life.”
Berry is a volunteer with Helping Strays who has worked with Demi for the past two years.
“I started with treats and love just to get her to start trusting humans,” Berry said, adding it took over 30 days and “a lot of hot dogs” just to be able to pet Demi.
Berry is not Helping Strays’ trainer, but she does work as a volunteer and helps train animals at the shelter. She has taken basic dog training courses online and attended training conventions through organizations such as Best Friends Animal Society, Dogs Play for Life and Maddie’s Fund as well as what she described as “on-the-job training” while working with different animal professionals.
She began to learn animal training after trying to help with an adopted dog that needed extra attention after leaving Helping Strays. Berry found that hiring personal pet trainers was too expensive to be a feasible option, so she began taking classes to be an asset to the shelter.
Berry says she has always been drawn to “harder dogs – the ones that take a little extra.”
Demi has been one such case.
“There was a lot to work through just to make her adoptable,” Berry said, noting that when Demi arrived two years ago she was very “reactive” to wearing a collar and her food bowl and would lunge at people who got near her.
Through time and training, Berry says Demi has proven to be “unbelievably smart” and she has been a natural with agility course training.
Another thing that helped Demi was behavior classes and, after a year, the discovery of a condition that requires her to take the mood-regulating medication fluoxetine.
Berry says the training and addition of the medication have made a “night and day” difference from when Demi arrived at Helping Strays.
Videos are available on Demi’s Helping Strays website page that introduce Demi and show her on an agility course and interacting with Berry.
Demi is also part of the foster program. She spends time at two different foster homes and now only spends two nights per week at the shelter.
Berry said the fosters, Scott Kipping and Tina Grossman, have been “super helpful” in keeping Demi ready for adoption.
Berry also noted a special dog like Demi will need a special person to adopt her.
Demi needs a person who will be in control in a structured environment with adults or older teens and not a lot of traffic. Demi can be with other dogs, but only males that are around her size.
“Demi doesn’t like cats, or she would already have a home,” Berry said.
“She would probably do best as someone’s ‘one and only,’” Berry continued, adding Demi is “still protective” in certain situations and that her “prey drive” is still activated when she sees other animals run from her.
Demi is also crate trained, muzzle trained and is happy with differing levels of activity.
“She can run around or just go for a walk and still be happy,” Berry commented.
Demi is the type of dog who “picks her own people,” so anyone who would be interested in adopting her would need to meet her a couple of times to make sure she would be a good match.
The first step for any adoption is to fill out an application online at helpingstrays.org and listing the name of an animal of interest. Someone from the shelter will call to make sure the house would be a good fit. If it is, a meeting will be arranged.
The first meeting would be at Helping Strays. If the pet and adopter seem like a good match, the adoption committee will set up veterinary recommendations and contact a landlord if the adopting party lives at a rental property before finalizing the adoption.
Berry explained that the adoption process for “harder dogs” is similar to the regular adoption process, but takes more time.
In Demi’s case, there would need to be a series of meetings. Helping Strays staff, but not Berry, would attend the first meeting at the shelter. Berry says she could not attend because Demi would ignore everyone else except her and there would not be a clear indication of how Demi would be around her potential adopters.
If everything goes well, there would be several more meetings to ensure Demi would be a good fit.
“We love Demi, but we don’t want her back” at the shelter, Berry explained.
Another bonus for Demi’s adopters is that they have a built-in support team of Berry, Grossman and Kipping to help with the transition.
“If the adopters live within an hour, they get me and the fosters, too,” Berry said, adding she would continue with Demi’s training and the fosters are willing to help with any questions or issues that may arise when Demi finds her forever home.
Berry says she and others are really pushing for a “Christmas miracle,” and will be promoting Demi in an upcoming collaboration with Three Tails Parlor and Pantry.
Demi is also this week’s Republic-Times Pet of the Week.
If you or someone you know are interested in adopting Demi or any other pet, contact Helping Strays at 618-939-7389 or visit helpingstrays.org.