The Western Pennsylvania Humane Society works hard to place animals into wonderful furever homes. But occasionally, we take in an animal that requires some extra work and pushes us to think outside of the box as we try to overcome the odds and find that animal a perfect home.
That’s exactly what happened when Jay Jay, a medium-sized dog who resembled a mix of cattle dog and border collie, arrived at our door. Jay Jay traveled from the Guernsey County Ohio Shelter to the Western Pennsylvania Humane Society in need of extra care. After his medical issues were treated, his personality really began to shine through – and he was quite a handful.
Jay Jay never sat still. While Team Dog is certainly used to handling all sorts of dogs, none of them were as over the top as Jay Jay. The dog just had a “working dog temperament.” He was active and had to be busy 24/7. He never sat still, wanted to play constantly, and often destroyed the items he played with.
When spending the day in Joy Kealey’s office, he was what she called a “busy dog.” He often went up to her desk, took one piece of paper, set it down in the corner, and came back to the desk repeating the process. Joy never saw him napping or relaxing during the day.
“He was a sweet kind boy, no aggression at all in his temperament, but he was much more interested in exploring and staying busy than he was in interacting with or pleasing people,” said Shelley Rosenberg.
Shelter staff members began to discuss Jay Jay’s possible future. Trainer Annette Sexton, who used to work at the humane society, heard about Jay Jay through Shelley and wondered if Jay Jay’s temperament made him a good candidate to be a search and rescue dog. Through a network of contacts, the dog’s story was passed along to over 65 across the country, until it reached the ears of Idaho Search and Rescue Dogs, Inc. While most SAR teams were full with potential candidates – dogs who had been bred specifically to be a SAR canine – the Idaho unit had room for another dog and decided to give Jay Jay a chance.
The group sent our shelter staff thorough instructions detailing ways to test Jay Jay. The dog was put through an obstacle test where he had to hunt down a toy hidden somewhere in a maze of boxes. The test revealed how much drive the dog really had. He dove through the boxes, ignoring anything that fell on him, determined to find the toy hidden in the obstacle course.
The Search and Rescue team in Idaho took one look at the footage of Jay Jay’s tests and they wanted him to join them immediately. So Jay Jay traveled to Idaho in February, where he immediately began charming the SAR staff, jumping into laps and giving tons of kisses.
“He was a pleasure to be with, but you wouldn’t want to live with him,” Joy said about Jay Jay. “He had to be into everything. Our fear was if we adopted him out, he’d be returned. We didn’t want that. So we felt this was the best direction for him.”
Jay Jay’s story is incredible. Approximately one dog in a thousand has the right temperament for Search and Rescue work; almost all SAR dog owners have animals that have been specifically bred to do the work, and even then many of those carefully bred dogs wash out in the training.
The fact that Jay Jay, an unknown mixed breed from a shelter, was selected to do this is almost unheard of. His energy, focus and determination to find a hidden object makes him an incredible off-the-street candidate for search and rescue.
Jay Jay has settled into his new home in Idaho just fine. Now called Cajun, he continues to impress everyone with his abilities and has a wonderful future ahead of him thanks to the efforts of people all across the country.
by Larissa Gula