Visitors to the Jacksonville Humane Society in Florida never really understood Chaz the pit bull.
He was constantly nervous, jumping with fear whenever he heard a strange sound and constantly barking while on his leash. When he was alone in his kennel, he’d sit and shake, causing potential foster and adoptive families to pass over him. But fostering by U.S. Army veteran Travis Wycoff, 34, who served three tours of duty in the Middle East, and his girlfriend Lisa Nommensen, 31, allowed Chaz to normalize and find a forever home.
“When we first got him, he was Mr. High Strung,” said Wycoff. “He had social issues. We have photos of him curled up like a baby in Lisa’s lap. He was found as a stray in Jacksonville and has a lot of characteristics I understood. Knowing the trauma the little guy went through, well, in some ways it was the same for me … but looking at him, I know I didn’t have it that bad.”
Wycoff spoke of the difficulties he faced transitioning back to civilian life after military service. His thought was that Chaz, who was fostered through the “Promote a Pet” program, was experiencing the same difficulties after fending for himself on the streets of Jacksonville before he was rescued.
It seems Chaz also sensed the camaraderie. Only a day after joining the family, the dog began to acclimate. to his foster home. He proved that by accompanying the couple to dinner and sitting patiently by their feet as they dined outdoors.
“I was in the infantry and one thing you learn is you never want your back exposed,” said Wycoff. “When we first got him, we took him to our favorite restaurants and sat outside. I was facing one direction and he was facing another. I said ‘You know what? He’s got my back and I’ve got his.’ ”
Soon Chaz was wearing the “Adopt Me!” vest supplied by the Humane Society when he went out of the house with the couple.
“It was kind of funny,” said Wycoff. “We’d take him places and always be surprised by how many people knew and would talk to Chaz. It was interesting to watch him change. I understood after having been in combat and coming back. But he responded so well to a regular schedule, discipline when he did something wrong, rewards when he did things right. He is a very loyal dog.”
So loyal, in fact, that the couple were unsure if they wanted to surrender him for adoption. They did after about three months of fostering. They recently visited Chaz at his new home and found him happily enjoying his new life.
“The moral for us is we went into it with reservations, and there was definitely frustration on certain days, but overall it was a wonderful experience,” said Nommensen.
Denise Deisler, executive director of the Jacksonville Human Society, said foster families are the key to finding the right people to adopt such dogs.
“Chaz is a good example of a dog that does better in a home,” said Deisler. “Some dogs don’t do well in a kennel environment. If you go to one and see a dog jumping, barking and pacing, remember that behavior might be specific to the shelter. That’s one reason the “Promote a Pet” is such a positive program. It allows people to see the dogs out in public, behaving in positive ways.”