June 20, 2016
Merlin’s Magical Transformation: One dog’s journey from juvenile delinquent to search-and-rescue star
Oakland, CA– It’s a little-known fact that dogs need jobs to succeed. But if you think about it, some are the guardians of their humans’ laps, some herd sheep and round up cattle, others provide comfort to hospital patients, some keep intruders away, while some watch over the youngsters in their families.
Merlin, a gangly black Labrador Retriever who arrived at Oakland Animal Services’ shelter in 2014, seemed to have the job of driving everyone crazy. This adolescent’s behavior was cause for worry: Who would want to adopt a dog that went from timid and fearful to bad-mannered and aggressive?
At many shelters, staff and volunteers would have given up on him. But not long-time volunteer Jamin Hawks, who saw a special spark behind the naughty boy’s façade. She began to work intensely with him, enlisting the help of other volunteers who specialize in obedience-challenged dogs.
“Our volunteers are invaluable for the animals in our care,” said Rebecca Katz, OAS Shelter Director. “They socialize and train our animals while we try to find homes or rescues for them. For Merlin, Jamin made it her mission to rehabilitate him, working on his behavior and, ultimately, for his transfer to one of our partners.”
Meanwhile, Merlin improved – a little. He began to warm up to people and went from an assessment of “unmanageable” to “trainable.” But at a municipal shelter, it’s almost impossible to give the dedicated attention it takes to really change a dog with severe issues. Luckily, partner group Golden Gate Labrador Retriever Rescue (GGLRR) stepped up and took Merlin into its program.
At GGLRR, the young dog became kind of a punk, especially when it came to other dogs. So a professional trainer worked with him and noted that he was obsessed with balls and had an almost insatiable search drive. Bingo! Just the traits for his new resume. Next step was to contact the National Disaster Search Dog Foundation (SDF), hoping to get Merlin a new job.
Not only did SDF accept Merlin – they did such a good job that the former juvenile delinquent graduated from the program and is now working with a hazardous-materials technician at the Unified Fire Authority.
“There is a severe shortage of Certified Canine Disaster Search Teams in the U.S. Dogs like Merlin are trained through Search Dog Foundation to provide a precious, lifesaving resource” said Kate Horwick, Program Manager at SDF.
Well hot dog!
Oakland Animal Services is the city’s only open admissions shelter: OAS accepts all of Oakland’s homeless, injured and mistreated animals (both wild and domestic), regardless of age, breed, temperament or medical condition. Visit the shelter to adopt, volunteer or donate. OAS is located at 1101 29th Ave., Oakland. For more information: www.OaklandAnimalServices.org
Golden Gate Labrador Retriever Rescue is a nonprofit organization that fosters, rehabilitates and houses Labrador Retrievers in the Northern California. For more information: www.labrescue.org
Search Dog Foundation is a nonprofit organization focused on strengthening disaster preparedness in America by partnering rescued dogs with firefighters. For more information: www.searchdogfoundation.org
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