‘We’re not seeing him held back’: Shelter director envisions a bright future for Nash the dog

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Nash sits inside a circle of Lawrence Humane Society employees and volunteers. Eyeing a bag of cheese cubes, Nash looks ready to meet some new people, and he’s eager for a special snack.

After downing more than a dozen cheese cubes, Nash stares up with his captivating brown eyes — a tiny dot of caramel-colored fur above each eye — and it’s difficult to tell him no. He oozes charisma. The love for Nash feels palpable inside this circle.

The one holding the cheese bag tells Nash to stop looking into her eyes “that way.”

“I can’t take you home,” she says.

But soon, someone will. It’s been more than six weeks since Lawrence resident Richard Renner found the long-haired black and tan dog in his yard, bleeding from wounds to his groin, chest, torso, legs and feet. 

Nash had suffered deep abrasions to his paws as well as broken bones throughout each of his four feet. He endured two surgeries at the shelter, and community members donated thousands of dollars toward his care. Then the healing commenced, along with his favorite — tummy rubs.

Molly Adams / Lawrence Times

The approximately 2-year-old dog has now reached a point where shelter staff believe he’s ready for transition to foster care — a stepping stone toward finding his forever home.

“As Nash’s recovery has continued, he’s become increasingly more energetic and he has been cleared for longer walks, play time in the yard, and short meets with other dogs,” Shannon Wells, executive director at Lawrence Humane Society, said in an email. “He’s also expanded his social circle to include more staff and volunteers.”

Shannon Wells

Although Nash’s visible wounds have mostly healed, behavior modification training remains a large part of Nash’s recovery plan, and potential fosters are expected to continue the protocol prescribed by shelter staff.

Nash was sedated in Renner’s yard back in March in order to move him safely, ease the pain and prevent biting. Once Nash achieved pain management care and his wounds were treated, he transitioned “from air snapping in anticipation of pain” to loving on shelter staff and volunteers.

“He quickly became affiliative with staff, seeking out social connection, and making friends with his caretakers,” Wells said.

Wells holds a master’s degree in veterinary medical science, veterinary forensics and has maintained certification since 2012 as a professional dog trainer with the Certification Council for Professional Dog Trainers. She supervises the shelter’s three staff members who specialize in animal behavior to formulate behavioral plans for the shelter’s cats and dogs.

Shelter staff have noted that since Nash’s social opportunities have expanded, they’ve noticed he can be uncomfortable with strangers who rush to greet him. He might even bark defensively at them. Wells referred to this as a “distance-seeking behavior” that’s common among dogs who aren’t ready to engage. The barking creates a comfortable distance between themselves and the stranger.

But Nash responds quickly to counter-conditioning, a commonly used behavior modification technique.

“He is extremely food-motivated so we pair greetings with all strangers with high-value rewards,” Wells said. “With each greeting we reinforce him with extra tasty treats to teach him that good things consistently happen when new people approach.  As a result, he is eager to greet and interact, and accepts people as friends quickly.”

Molly Adams / Lawrence Times Nash accepts a treat from Ava Matkovich, one of his favorite staff members at Lawrence Humane Society.

Some of Nash’s behavior could be attributable to the stress of extended confinement — another reason why foster care is vital for shelter animals. Nash is “restless in his kennel in the medical clinic, and he cries when he sees his favorite staff,” Wells said. She looks forward to learning how Nash responds to an in-home setting.

Has the trauma Nash experienced contributed to his recent “stranger-danger” behavior? Wells said she wouldn’t speculate.

“His injuries do not paint a clear picture of what happened, and behaviorally and medically speaking, it’s ill advised to make up a story about his history,” Wells said. “Even if we knew his past, it wouldn’t change how we move forward.”

Laura McCabe, a spokesperson for Lawrence Police Department, said in an email the investigation into how Nash was injured “is inactive right now pending further leads or information.”

“If new information comes to light, we will re-open the investigation,” McCabe said.

Wells said Nash’s future possibilities looked “pretty positive at this point.”

“He’s been extremely responsive to behavior training. It’s possible he could experience some later in life arthritis from the fractures he sustained to his toes, but at this time we’re not seeing him held back.”

For information about fostering a shelter pet in Lawrence, visit lawrencehumane.org/foster.

Molly Adams / Lawrence Times
Molly Adams / Lawrence Times Nash gets a hug from Ava Matkovich, community caseworker in the Pet Resource Center at Lawrence Humane Society. Dr. Jennifer Schneider-Frederick, aka Dr. J., pets Nash at right.
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Tricia Masenthin (she/her), equity reporter, can be reached at tmasenthin (at) lawrencekstimes (dot) com. Read more of her work for the Times here. Check out her staff bio here.

More coverage: Animal Control

‘We’re not seeing him held back’: Shelter director envisions a bright future for Nash the dog

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It’s been more than six weeks since a Lawrence resident found a dog — now named Nash — bleeding from wounds all over his body. Nash is healing well, and he’s ready to transition to foster care.


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