If you’ve never seen a male dog lounge inside a pink princess-themed tent, you have to meet the adorable Starsky.
Since November 2020, the pit bull, who is now two years old, has been living in I Heart Dogs Rescue in Warren, Michigan. He came to the shelter with his brother Hutch (also a stray). After a few months, Hutch got adopted by his forever family, but his sibling wasn’t as lucky.
Starsky had been in the shelter for so many years that he began to feel stressed. Starsky began to exhibit unwelcome behaviors such as lunging at anyone who passed by.
Starsky became nervous about being handled by staff and volunteers, so the shelter moved him into a more isolated kennel close to an exercise yard. It did him good because he’s more relaxed when playing outside.
However, the placement didn’t shield him from the barking of other dogs and the birds flying through a hole in the wall of his room, which required him to stay vigilant against the winged intruders.
“In his kennel, Starsky is on edge, defensive, and unsure,” Megan Synk, a volunteer adoption coordinator, told HuffPost in an email. “His pupils are dilated, ears pinned forward, furrowed eyebrows, barking, pacing, and toy shredding.”
But when he’s outside his kennel with someone he trusts, the dog transforms into a “bouncy, affectionate, curious boy” who loves getting head and body scratches.
Megan discovered that shelter animals can feel more secure and relieved when they have hiding places. Megan bought Starsky a Unicorn Tent because dog houses can be costly.
“I set it up and put a brand new toy in there and a bunch of treats,” Megan told TODAY. “When I saw him go in there and lay down and chew his toy and kind of be able to hide from the world, it felt really good.”
Starsky was happy for about a week in his new place, until he discovered that the tent poles make great chew toys.
With the unicorn tent ruined, Megan bought him a replacement—a pink princess tent, and without poles this time.
Starsky loved it!
“The tent has given him a place to hide in times of stress or anxiety. Instead of pacing and barking, he has grabbed a nearby toy to take in his tent with him and lay down instead,” Megan said.
Starsky also gets to stay with her for weekend sleepovers once a month, so she can give him a break from his shelter life. Megan and her husband already have other dogs who aren’t interested in adding a new member to the pack, so they can’t adopt Starsky.
Starksy’s princess tent photos were shared online by I Heart Dogs. The cute photos received an overwhelming response.
“We’ve become such good friends and it’s a wonderful feeling seeing others love him as much as I do,” Megan said. “It means everything to have so many people rooting for him.”
The shelter recently announced that it will be collecting used and new kid tents.
Starsky is still nervous around new people and situations, and he’s currently working with a certified dog trainer to help him with his behavioral issues. Starsky is also seeing more volunteers. They will soon be able take him on sleepovers.
Megan said that Starsky is “doing great” in his training. The dog isn’t currently listed for adoption, but Megan said the shelter might consider placing him in a home “if the right people came along to help him.”
I Heart Dogs hopes that he finds a loving family who will work with him and make him feel secure. But until then, Starsky stays with them—in his pink princess tent.
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