Performance Communication

Is it time to get out of a toxic environment?

Is it time to get out of a toxic environment?

At the animal shelter where I volunteer, there’s a dog named Chloe. She’s been at the facility since March of 2019 – longer than any other animal there. She’s a pit bull mix, which is one strike against her in many people’s eyes. Add to that her charming kennel behavior, which includes barking at people who walk by, using the walls of her kennel as a launching pad to jump 6 feet into the air all day, every day, and the fact that she “paints” the walls and floor of her kennel with poop on a daily basis. It’s no wonder she’s been passed by for 10 months.

Chloe wasn’t doing all these things when she first came into the shelter. Her behavior slowly escalated over time as she lived 24×7 in a concrete kennel that’s cold, noisy, confining, and not very comfortable, with very few opportunities to get out.

We recently had a discussion about what we are going to do with Chloe, knowing full well that it was unlikely that anyone who came in and saw her was going to adopt her. We wondered if getting her out of the facility for awhile would allow us to see some different behavior. However, no one wanted to be the one to bring Chloe into their home knowing how she acted, so I felt I had no other choice but to bring her home myself.

After a good bath, I loaded her in the car, fully expecting her to go ballistic when I put her in the crate. She didn’t. She sat down and rode home quietly. When I got her out, I brought her inside and into my bedroom- where she basically slept for about 24 hours, just going out to go potty when I woke her up. 

She doesn’t bark, she doesn’t jump, she doesn’t chew on things, and she doesn’t potty in the house. She’s been here for four days and has been a model citizen. It’s a bit shocking. So much so that I keep taking pictures and video to send to people because I know they’d never believe me if I just told them how she’s doing.

This experience got me thinking about the impact of environment on health, happiness, and behavior, not only for dogs, but for people too.

I’ve come to realize three important things. First, how much our environment  impacts us. Chloe’s changes over time are proof of that. I’ve seen the same thing with people I’ve coached. When they’re in a toxic work environment for too long, they change and become toxic themselves. Some get sick, while others get mean, sarcastic, or uncaring. The second thing I realized is that the impact of a toxic environment is very individual. Although Chloe didn’t do well in a shelter environment, some dogs do just fine. It’s the same with people, some thrive in environments that others would not be able to handle. Finally, I realized that when you’re not in the right environment for you, it’s time to get out and make a change. If you don’t, you might not like the person you become and others won’t either.

To follow Chloe’s journey, visit the Starlight Outreach and Rescue Facebook Page.

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Comments (5)

  1. Betty
    12:59 pm

    Wow Amy what a beautiful happy ending thank you so much for sharing this story really brought a smile on my face you were such a blessing for Chloe you gave her chance when no one would. Your story is truly inspirational I wish there were more people like you. It just comes to show not to judge a book by its cover. I myself also have a mix Pitbull named Charlie and he’s a real sweet heart people are always scared of him but he’s like a big baby. My small chihuahua that I have is a thousand times more aggressive than he is it just comes to show sometime. but you are right we have to come out of a toxic place to live a better life or well never be happy. Change sometime can be scary but it can be the best thing that could have happen to you. send my love Chloe and once again thank you for sharing have a great day.

    1. 11:42 am

      Thank you for the kind words Betty! I’m glad the story had such a positive impact on you! – Amy

    2. 12:36 pm

      Glad you enjoyed it! Pets are my passion!

  2. Beverly A Brooks
    12:53 pm

    This rings so true for myself. 30 years as a 911 operator has altered who I was, who I became and who I will be. Now retired, and out of that environment, I feel some of the negativity falling away. I didn’t like who I had become, and my friends called me on the phone less frequently (at my request – since I talked on the phone all day long). I became short tempered with my family in order to have them “get to the point” in a conversation (at work I had other ringing phones to get to). I’m only retired 1 year, and I wish I could bounce back like Chloe, but my environment by the sea is helping me pump the brakes.

    1. 12:37 pm

      Everyone needs a different amount of time to decompress! Some bounce back quickly and others need a bit more! Enjoy your life by the sea!!

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