Taking the Pit Out of Puddin’: Nebraska Humane Society
Some time ago, a fighting dog from the illegal pit-fighting underground in Nebraska (now almost nonexistent) came to the Nebraska Humane Society (NHS), the nation’s fifth largest of its kind, with 150 employees. The dog’s name was Puddin.”It was an unusual name for a vicious animal, agreed Denise Gurss, director of shelter training and behavior. It didn’t take long to discover the reason for the name.
“There was nothing wrong with her except she chased cats and, if she didn’t want to do something, she flattened herself to the floor like a puddle of pudding,” Gurss laughed. Gurss manages an animal behavior modification program at NHS that serves dangerous dogs as well as shy, fearful animals.
“We see how they respond to different situations,” she says, “then we write a bio, so new owners can work with them confidently.”Free educational programs are also available on the 13-acre campus to help new owners and pets.
Before Gurss joined NHS 14 years ago, she was a dog hobbyist. “Learning about dog body language made me a better owner,” she said. “I wanted to make a difference, and working here allowed me to do that.”
Although Puddin’ the pitbull was really a softy, Gurss said it was difficult to find her a home, because she hated the camera. When someone tried to snap a photo, she lowered her ears and flattened her body against the floor. With a little work, volunteers got her to sit nicely and allow herself to be dressed up. Then Gurss held a kitten in front of the camera. Puddin’ raised her ears and her eyes lit up. The photo caught the eye of an Omaha couple, who now spoil Puddin’ rotten.
“I went to visit her,” said Gurss, “and she was no longer a pile of pudding — she was fat and happy.”