by Matthew Moran

Abandoned Dogs, Rehabilitation, and the Team

Aug 05, 20148 mins
IT Leadership

Time, patience, and expectations

Meet Bailey. Bailey is an American Staffordshire Terrier (she’s a pitbull, but I didn’t want to frighten anyone). A few months ago, someone drove up our street (we live on a cul-de-sac), dumped Bailey out of their car, and drove away.

Bailey smiling

looks pretty happy

We are no strangers to strays. In the past year and a half we’ve probably rescued – found original owners or re-homed – 10+ dogs.

In fact, we found my dog, Beaux, (Frisbee Video 1 | Frisbee Video 2) running down the street. We found the owners right away and the first thing the man said was, “I need to find a home for this dog.”

A week later, he was catching frisbee and a few other tricks.

Back to Bailey!

Abused & Abandoned

I had not seen Bailey being dumped out of the car. My neighbor told me about that.

I saw her skirting around the edges of the neighbor’s yard. When I came outside, she backed away, head down, tail tucked – obviously frightened. I called her, but she was not going to come any closer.

I called “the girl” – note: when referring to “the girl” online or with social media, that is my youngest daughter, not my wife (I’m divorced) or a girlfriend (I don’t date). She came outside with some crackers and then hot dogs. She was able to get this terrified pup to approach, but not take any food directly from her.

She led Bailey – a name we gave her a few days later – into our backyard. I’d moved Beaux into the house. I tried to follow and close the gate, but Bailey saw me and darted out before I could keep her in. She ran down the street and we got in my car to try to find her.

No luck! We drove through the neighborhood for awhile, but could not locate her.

That is when our neighbor told us he had seen her dumped out of a car about an hour before. People!!!

The Capture

The next day, Bailey showed up at our house again. Hot dogs have that effect on hungry puppies.

But it was apparent that she would not be lured into the yard again. She stayed a safe distance away from “the girl” and I. Eventually, she ran away down the street, but we were prepared and went after her in the car.

I got to the bottom of our street. I asked someone who was sitting in their car if they had seen a dog run by – a pit bull. No.

So “the girl” and I started driving slowly back up the street, looking into people’s yards. Lo and behold, there she was.

She was in a neighbor’s backyard with an open gate. We closed the gate and went in.

Bailey retreated to a space beneath an extra room that had been added to the house.

“The girl” climbed into the crawl space, hot dogs in hand, and was able to get a leash over Bailey. She could not pull her out, however. And I was uncomfortable with “the girl” and a frightened dog in a small crawl space.

Eventually, I crawled under, attached a 2nd leash to the first leash so I could stand outside the crawl space. I had to pull Bailey out.

Once out, Bailey walked furtively on leash. She would NOT get into the car, so “the girl” walked her home and we put her in the back yard.

We kept Beaux away for a day or two – and “the girl” repeatedly brought food out to Bailey.

We had been calling her Baby – just by virtue of trying to coax her to come to us….

ie: “It’s okay baby.” “Come here baby.”  Etc.

“The girl” suggested “Bailey” and it’s been that ever since.


We introduced Beaux to Bailey after 2 or 3 days. They did very well together and now play daily.

At first, Bailey would not approach me. She would only approach “the girl” – but I put no pressure on her. It took her about a week to approach me willingly. And initially, she would only approach me and then fall into a crawl about 8-10 feet away and crawl the rest of the way.

She still does this from time to time, but we are working with her. She is difficult to train as almost any stern posture or voice elicits fear.

But there are things we do to make life and training easier.

  • Time:
    There is no escaping this fact – working with a challenging dog (one that was abused) takes more time. You have to modify your approach based on the personality and background of the dog in question.

  • Act normal:
    During July 4th it sounds like a war zone in Los Angeles. Especially where we live – on a hill looking over the city. Beaux is unaffected by firecrackers, so I would take them both out in the evening and when something cracked and Bailey freaked out, I would simply walk around the yard with Beaux, and without a big reaction to Bailey. Bailey would stay close and slowly freaked out less – we acted unafraid and she picked up on that energy.

  • Patience:
    We have to assess where Bailey is from her starting point. I can’t use Beaux as a gauge. Beaux is hyper-confident. Bailey is hyper-fearful. Training Beaux is almost too easy. Training Bailey is frustrating, but ultimately especially rewarding.

Matt – have you forgotten that this is a blog for CIO

Oh…. hey! You’re right. No, I did not forget. There is a point in here somewhere…. let’s see if we can find it.

Projects and People Need Rehabilitating Too

I work with CIO’s, Business owners, IT groups, etc.

Whether people or projects, I feel as though I learn a lot about both by working with dogs.

No!!! I’m not suggesting your people be kept in a kennel – or that you force them to sit quietly before they can eat!

But I will suggest the following:

  • Training in short bursts:
    I’ve helped a few people train their dogs. I always tell them, you are better off with 15 minutes once or twice a day than 30 minutes or an hour every other day. All day workshops are not as good as 3-hour workshops….3 hours with a couple 15-minute breaks.

  • Play time matters:
    Yep. I don’t mean after hours, grabbing a tall frosty one, and talking about work. I mean, during work. Doesn’t have to be lengthy, but I promise you, give people freedom and time to work on a pet project/technology – or better yet, something everyone can do together – something that is not deadline driven, and you’ll get better results during other deadline/project time.

  • Model actions and reactions:
    If you want people to be able to stretch and grow, you have to model the behavior you want to see. If you react BIG to mistakes, you are certain to create nervous people. Nervous people do not achieve greatly. Nervous people (and pups) make mistakes and act… well….. odd. They do not know what to do to get the right response from you. Similar to dealing with fireworks, mistakes happen. You have to address them – but more or less with a sanguine, “this is normal” reaction. In order to get the best performance and results from your people, maintain calm while asking for and EXPECTING the desired outcome.

Taking the long view

Bailey is a pain in the ass! I’ll be honest. “The girl” and I both have to combat frustration. She makes the same mistakes over and over. At times, her energy causes Beaux to act up – vying for attention because Bailey requires more work – work equates to attention.

But Bailey is a really fun addition to the family. She’s cute! She’s smart (in her dumb sort of way)! And she loves us. She now approaches both of us – and other people – largely without fear. She’s a puppy who was abused and requires us to take a long view of what she can become.

People are NOT dogs

Yes! I wouldn’t suggest they are. I’m not suggesting that every technique and approach to dealing with people equates directly to dealing with dogs.

However, we often treat people worse than we treat our animals, but expect better of them. We work to make our pets feel like they are part of the family….even our pets with quirky and challenging behaviors and traits.

Maybe we need to rethink how we treat our team.