Chewie Hit the Big League: Stealing Home!

Chewie first came into our lives in August of 2014. He arrived from the Kanawha Charleston Humane Association on August 18, 2014 after having lived in kennel A-13 as “Brownie” since he was admitted there as a stray on March 27, 2014. “Brownie” became “Churchill” with us at Secondhand Mutts.

He was extremely social with all the dogs he met in the daycare pack, we had him neutered and an application to adopt arrived shortly after he was posted on our website. Chewie was matched with a dog he connected with who happened to be a former Secondhand Mutt himself. Chewie was officially adopted just a few weeks after his arrival on September 6, 2014.

His new family named him Chewie and a few months into his settling into their home they started to report some behavior concerns in the home and sought our help to work through the struggles at home. His predominant struggle was barrier based and fear and those were complicated by what we came to believe are some memory issues. Chewie’s list of fears is long (but improving): men (men with beards were worse), almost anyone in a hat or sunglasses, skateboards, bicycles, rollerblades, strollers, buses, SUVs,  pretty much anything with wheels. He’s more afraid if you come into his space than if he comes into yours but mostly this went both ways.

Chewie’s new owners loved him. They invested time, energy and money into training and lifestyle changes. Their dog, Tommy loved Chewie too but his in-home behaviors were becoming too much to manage, he couldn’t even ride in the car without being contained in a crate and the crate completely covered. If Chewie laid his eyes on one of the things he feared he went from zero to ten in a split second and he became impossible to transport in the car without aids and constant verbal correction: he was attacking windows and became inconsolable. This too crept into their day to day life. Despite being contained in a crate anyone going by the house talking would trigger Chewie, friends and family couldn’t and wouldn’t try to come over anymore. Chewie was physically isolating his family and after months of trying: lifestyle changes, training, medications and all the while working closely with us, the collective decision to return Chewie to Secondhand Mutts was made; he had always loved coming to The Mutt Hutt (and had maintained his visits with his dog brother Tommy even after he was adopted) and has never really met a dog he didn’t like. We knew him, he knew us and frankly, living here kind of closed off from the world was a huge plus for him: he was comfortable here and we were in it for the long haul with him. He returned to Secondhand Mutts and his life at The Mutt Hutt June 28, 2015 and his Extra Mile journey started.

Since that day in June of 2015 Chewie has made his way into the heart of every staff member at The Mutt Hutt and many of our devoted volunteers. Chewie became so comfortable with some of our most frequent chaperone and dog walker volunteers (Brooke, Julie, Lara) that he was able to be walked by them and was able to go to adoption events and even visit a ‘Yappy Hour’ or two at the Tremont Taphouse.

For folks who’ve never seen it, it can be hard to imagine this 40lb love bug go from zero to ten in a split second: barking, lunging, biting at the air (while never redirecting on his handler), a true frenzy of fear and madness. Not only could it be scary to witness, it was also in many ways heart wrenching…this living in fear for this otherwise gentle, lovable, cuddly, fun dog. With help from a trainer and the experienced handlers assigned to work through his issues, we weaned him off of his medication and allowed him to reset so we could determine who he really was and what he really needed. We learned through his training sessions that he likely was not wired right and that he seemingly had some short term memory issues. However, with praise and positive reinforcement and the use of the same words and commands we saw a glimpse of hope for improvement.

With practice and experienced handlers on the other end of the leash there was improvement on his walks too! Sometimes the walks and the visits were short lived, depending on whether or not Chewie became triggered by anything, sometimes he’d get to hang out for hours but you never knew going in what kind of experience you were going to have. But he loved a walk in the park or rest at a bench and being loved.

We know Chewie well and because he was so deeply loved whenever he got out of his comfort zone, we were there to take him away from whatever caused him angst.

But here’s the thing: Chewie (aka Big League Chew – one of the many nicknames the staff at The Mutt Hutt has dubbed him with) has been leading a good, comfortable life. He went home on occasion with a trainer that also worked part time at The Mutt Hutt but his fear always got in the way: he couldn’t shake it and he or we weren’t going to force it. He loved living at The Mutt Hutt and many times would get foster vacations with the various staff members; everyone who took him home always enjoyed his company even if the car ride to get him home was a little rough! He was healthy and happy and comfortable.







Living primarily on concrete with a pack of dogs can be tough for long periods of time and it’s not recommended for most, if any, dogs but Chewie was a trooper. The concrete did take a toll on one of his front paw when a growth suddenly appeared in between his toes. Working with our partners at Gateway Animal Clinic we tried topical treatments, antibiotics and finally determined the growth had to be surgically removed. Chewie was always a gem going to the vet and managed his foot surgery well. He trusted us to clean his wound and change his bandages after having a painful growth removed. Even when he was in pain or worried, when he knew you and trusted you, when you were in his circle, you were good.

Chewie was a staff and volunteer favorite, someone clients of The Mutt Hutt always asked about, beloved by our partners at Pet People in Rocky River.

We worked through his fear issues when new staff members joined the crew at The Mutt Hutt, we all watched him run up and down the stairs to get up to the office and quarantine area with Becca and Leah to get out his zoomies and nap hard and play with toys and get as many treats as he liked! He became friend to almost all Secondhand Mutts that came and went during his time: he truly made new dogs feel comfortable and helped show them the way. It’s like he was a magnet and the host with the most for new arrivals!

It seemed Chewie would be a Secondhand Mutt forever and live out his days (for however long it was) at The Mutt Hutt and that was just fine by all parties involved.

What we suspected but didn’t know for sure was that he had worked his way deeper into heart The Mutt Hutt’s Pack Leader Sam then maybe some of us knew. Sam loves all animals and already had two dogs (one former Secondhand Mutt named Sally) and two cats and had fostered Chewie a few times in her apartment on the west side of Cleveland. Apartment living was not for Chewie: too many sounds, the neighborhood was too active so Sam stopped taking him home. But then Sam bought a house and after several years of work history at The Mutt Hutt she made a career decision to leave her role as a Pack Leader and expand her knowledge of working with animals at a local veterinary clinic and pet store; but she wasn’t leaving Chewie behind!

Sam took Chewie home with her the last weekend she worked at The Mutt Hutt and we haven’t seen him since: really! We’ve seen pictures and videos but Chewie has officially left the building!

Sam and Becca, the Founder and Director of Secondhand Mutts, talked at length about what it means to own Chewie, appreciating his limitations, protecting him from himself and his fears, accepting him for who he is and always making sure he is set up for success.

Plans have been made for Chewie to come back to The Mutt Hutt (he is missed by everyone there!) for at least occasional daycare days to keep him acclimated so that Sam always has a place for him if she needs to go out of town or have extended visitors or have any service people in her home. Afterall, despite Chewie now having a family of his own he’s got a forever extended family at The Mutt Hutt.

And so it is…the dotted line has been signed and a dog more beloved than most we have known in these three years made it home, a journey along The Extra Mile we were all happy to be on. We are so happy to take his adoption poster off our adoption table clipboard, his profile off our website and make the biggest announcement of 2017. Congrats to all involved and gratitude to everyone who helped us get there…and the Happiest New Year of all to Chewie and his whole family.

Help us continue our work and support The Extra Mile fund and donate today. Your contribution is tax deductible and today is the last day of 2017 to share your generosity with us.

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Our Adoptables Are
  • Socialized in a cage-free dog daycare environment
  • Dog-Friendly
  • Cat Tested (upon request)
  • Fostered in real homes
  • Spayed or Neutered
  • Temperament tested
  • Veterinary Health Checked
  • Fully Vaccinated
  • Distemper Vaccinated
  • Rabies Vaccinated
  • Bordetella Vaccinated
  • Heartworm Tested
  • Microchipped
  • Flea Preventative
  • Heartworm Preventative
  • Groomed prior to adoption

Services provided by
Gateway Animal Clinic

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