Living His Best Life After Being Surrendered: Timber’s Story

By Judy Layne

It’s easy to automatically assume that someone who surrenders their pet is an uncaring person. But we shouldn’t judge because we don’t know the circumstances behind why someone surrendered their pet. Imagine how sad and painful it must be for people forced to give up their beloved pet if they feel they don’t have any other choice. Surrendering a pet is not a bad thing and it doesn’t mean that you failed. It is putting that pet’s needs first. The Nova Scotia SPCA recognizes that unexpected life situations occur and they are always here to help. Case in point – Timber.

A beautiful Shepherd mix, Timber was adopted by a family when he was just 10 weeks old. The family was loving, but the arrival of a newborn baby meant that they couldn’t give Timber the time and attention he needed and deserved. Timber was super-active and it was important that he had a family who could keep up with his adventures and give him the mental stimulation he required. They wanted Timber to have the best life so when he was 9 months old, they selflessly made the decision to surrender him to the SPCA’s care. They trusted that the SPCA would find this special boy the perfect home. And that’s just what they did.

Enter Fran and her family, Jason and Zoe. Their beloved dog Woody – a lab-staffy mix – had passed away at the age of 12 in 2016. The time just wasn’t right to get another pet until November 2022. Fran explained “We had been looking to adopt a dog and when we saw Timber on the SPCA adoptions page and read his description, he seemed like he would be a great fit for our family. We were drawn to Timber by the fact that he was still fairly young, so there was time for training before he became a ‘teenager’. We also liked that he was a little older than some other puppies (and already house-trained – yay!)”

The family went to visit him the next day at the Kings shelter. “His big head was really the first thing I noticed when meeting him in person”, said Fran. “I’m a sucker for dogs with big goofy heads! We could see immediately that he was a fairly large, strong dog but he was also very gentle, with no jumping up. He was just keen to get outside and walk with us.”

It didn’t take long for the family to fall in love with Timber. Fran shared “Another reason I felt that Timber was meant to be ours was his name. To go from ‘Woody’ to ‘Timber’ felt like this was a forest-related sign! Timber was definitely well taken care of at the shelter and he clearly felt comfortable with staff – so comfortable that he didn’t want to leave at first and when we tried to put him in the car, he ran back to the shelter!”

The family has had Timber for 10 months now and he feels 100% at home. “Reflecting on bringing him home, it’s clear that there were adjustment periods,” said Jason. “We kept him close to home for the first several weeks, so he could learn that he was safe and that his needs would be met. The first few nights we heard him whine a bit at bedtime, but he’d settle himself after. Soon, we could just say ‘Time for bed, Timber’ and he’d head straight to his bed. Another challenge was walking down the basement steps (which lead to the garden). He was very reluctant to do this at first, so we didn’t push it. We tried to tempt him with a whole sausage at the bottom, but he was having none of it!  After a month, we managed to get him to take a few steps and when he’d managed it once, he was up and down the steps all the time.  We knew he was feeling more confident after a few months when he walked into the living room with a tennis ball in his mouth and looked at us as if to say, ‘I want to go and play.’”

The family is committed to training Timber to be his best self. Fran related “We have completed basic and intermediate classes and are currently taking part in urban-dog walking classes. The classes have helped my confidence with Timber and build trust in his capabilities. Timber’s a smart dog and we are working hard to improve his on-leash behaviour. He was a real puller on-leash at first, and being a bigger dog, we knew it was something we had to work on right away. We use a head collar which helped immediately and in obedience classes, we have worked hard on loose-leash walking as well as building his (and my) confidence to walk past other dogs calmly.”

Timber is clearly living his best life. Jason said “He is a very affectionate dog and would love to be petted endlessly! He also enjoys being outside as much as possible – hiking, relaxing in the garden, or walking around the neighbourhood. He didn’t play fetch when we first adopted him, but Zoe was determined to teach him and now he likes chasing balls. He also loves playing soccer- we’ve gone through a few balls in the past year! Zoe loves to play hide-and-seek, so we have made it a game to play with Timber. He gets so excited when he’s told to ‘Find Zoe.’”

And how does Timber relate to his four-legged siblings? “L.C is our 16-year old cat,” stated Fran. “She was one of our main considerations when adopting Timber, but she’s dog savvy and she established her place in the hierarchy with Timber. They seem to happily co-exist with enough love and food for each of them. I think Timber would love to cuddle with her, but she’s not going to let that happen! Mini is our daughter’s hamster. He lives upstairs so there’s not much interaction between Timber and Mini, other than Timber loves to sniff any place that the hamster has been!”

Timber has brought so much to the family’s life. Perhaps Zoe sums it up best – “Timber is amazing!”  Fran added “He does a great job of getting us up and out. Even on rainy days, Timber is ready to go so we don rain gear and head out. Timber’s always so happy to see us when we get home, and there’s nothing better than the full helicopter-wag he gives when he’s excited to see us and ready to play.”

The family’s final thoughts? “We are so happy and grateful to have Timber. We’re sure that it is never an easy decision to surrender a pet, but Timber was clearly well taken care of by his first family as we were given his veterinary and immunization records. The Kings SPCA gave Timber a safe, kind, caring place to land when he was surrendered. They were clear about his strengths and challenges when talking to us, to ensure a great match. We are certain that we will have many wonderful years ahead.”

The Nova Scotia SPCA has an open admission policy and does not charge surrender fees. They accept animals into their care regardless of age or health. They never judge and understand that unexpected life situations happen. If you need to rehome your pet, please call to schedule a time to come in. This allows the shelter to prepare a cozy space for your pet to make the transition as smooth as possible. They understand how difficult emotionally it is to surrender a pet and thank all owners who are able to make the best decision for their pet. If you or someone you know is struggling with the decision to surrender a pet, please contact the Nova Scotia SPCA for guidance. Please help us share this important message.


Judy Layne

Judy is a dedicated volunteer with the Nova Scotia SPCA and proud adoptive fur-mama to Linc. She is committed to speaking for animals who cannot speak for themselves.