A Michigan dog having a tough time at a shelter now has his own private castle ― a pink princess-themed tent.
Starsky, a pit bull around age 2, came to I Heart Dogs Rescue and Animal Haven late last year. But he’s been stressed and fearful in the shelter, volunteer Megan Synk told HuffPost.
“In his kennel, Starsky is on edge, defensive, and unsure,” she said in an email. “His pupils are dilated, ears pinned forward, furrowed eyebrows, barking, pacing, and toy shredding.”
Synk has spent a lot of time with Starsky and knows there’s another side to him. When he’s out of his kennel and with someone who has earned his trust, he’s a “bouncy, affectionate, curious boy” who loves getting scratches on his head and body.
Synk had recently learned that hiding spaces can help alleviate stress for shelter animals, since they can block out the goings-on around them and help them feel “protected,” she said. Since dog houses can be pretty expensive, Synk had the idea to try out a kids pop-up tent.
Originally, she was going to grab a dinosaur-themed tent for Starsky, but ultimately went with a unicorn one because it was a little cheaper and she “wanted to soften up his bad boy image.”
But after Starsky started chewing up the poles on the unicorn tent, Synk had to get a replacement. “I couldn’t find another unicorn pop-up tent, so I went with the next best theme — princess,” she said.
Though the tent hasn’t magically transformed Starsky, it’s been a big help to him.
“The tent has given him a place to hide in times of stress or anxiety,” Synk said. “Instead of pacing and barking, he has grabbed a nearby toy to take in his tent with him and lay down instead.”
After the way the tent helped Starsky ― and the positive response the organization has gotten from the undeniably cute photos ― I Heart Dogs announced this week that it will be collecting new and used kid tents for other animals in the shelter, too.
Starsky is generally still “nervous with new people and situations.” To deal with that, he’s been working with a certified trainer and is “doing GREAT,” Synk said.
While he completes his training, he isn’t currently listed publicly for adoption, though Synk noted the rescue might consider placing him in a home “if the right people came along to help him.” (Synk and her husband already have multiple dogs of their own, so they aren’t able to adopt Starsky.)
“We’ve become such good friends and it’s a wonderful feeling seeing others love him as much as I do,” she said. “It means everything to have so many people rooting for him.”