A little extra love and attention has helped a once-troubled canine find a family.

Nyla, a three-year-old German shepherd mix with a distinctive blue eye, was surrendered to the Susquehanna Animal Shelter in April when her former caretakers were moving. She was terrified in the kennel and became aggressive when approached.

“We give them time to transition,” said shelter director Stacie Haynes. “Unfortunately, it seemed that giving her more time was making it worse. We hemmed and hawed for two months about what to do.”

The shelter considered euthanizing Nyla before a dedicated volunteer and skilled foster parent stepped in. She was also helped by anti-anxiety medication.

Haynes credited volunteer Daphne Mower with making difficult dogs her mission, including Nyla. She slowly gained the dog's trust and began taking her out for walks and short excursions.

The stress of living in a kennel with the constant noise and smells of other animals in close proximity drives some dogs crazy, Haynes noted. Researchers from the University of Bristol's Anthrozoology Institute recently examined videotapes of 30 police-trained German shepherds as they spent time in their kennels after work. They found that the animals showed tell-tale signs of extreme stress and even temporary mental illness. The breed is known for becoming particularly stressed when left alone.

“Sometimes it's just getting out of the shelter that makes a difference,” Haynes said.

In September, Nyla was taken to an appropriate foster home. Brittany Amore of Fly Creek has been around German shepherds since she was seven years old and is a dog trainer. To shore up positive results she saw after working with Nyla for a few weeks, Amore signed her up for the “Diamond in the Ruff” training program at Canine Sports Unlimited in Whitesboro.

“All of her aggression was kennel aggression,” Amore said. “I wanted to make sure it would stick, and she's doing fantastic.”

Malindra and Brianne Ratnayake of Norwich spotted Nyla on Petfinder.com and thought she would make a great addition to their family, which includes five-year-old German shepherd mix Kona. They fell in love upon meeting her, and Amore delivered her home on Sunday.

“She's not shy” and she's adjusting well, Brianne said.

Haynes said that it's important for shelter staff to recognize that for some animals, kennel life feels like a nightmare. Susquehanna partners with a Vermont animal shelter that has an animal behaviorist on staff, Haynes said, and they send up troubled dogs in exchange for hound dogs that sometimes have better luck being adopted here.

“When we have the community and the network available to make a difference it saves lives,” Haynes said.

Haynes added that she doesn't believe Nyla was mistreated by her previous owners.

The shelter has been inundated with abused and neglected animals this year; they are on track to have accepted 600 animals by the end of the year and regularly assist in Otsego County animal cruelty cases.

Haynes said she intends to renew her efforts to petition the county for funding, saying that “it is only fair the county take responsibility and pay for the service they are receiving.”

Erin Jerome, staff writer, may be reached at (607) 441-7221, or at ejerome@thedailystar.com. Follow her on Twitter at @DS_ErinJ .

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