Thursday, 28 October 2021
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Fort Collins couple creates support group for people with special needs pets


Married couple Beth Friedman and Wayne Bolen felt isolated when their foster dog, Chobani, had severe separation anxiety. That inspired the pair to create a support group for pet parents going through similar things. Mikaela Rodenbaugh

For about six months, Chobani would¬†scream¬†and bark¬†“like he was being stabbed” whenever his foster parents left the house.

Fort Collins¬†couple¬†Beth Friedman and Wayne Bolen met the stray, panicky puppy while they were volunteering at Larimer Humane Society. Fostering Chobani wasn’t easy. Essentially, they were on house arrest.

“People don’t understand,” Friedman said.¬†“They say, ‘Oh it’s just a dog,’¬†but they are part of the family, and you feel isolated.”¬†

Luckily for Chobani, they never gave up. With great perseverance, the couple treated his anxiety. Since then, Chobani, now 6, has found his forever home with them and is now like a different dog.

This difficult experience inspired them to start a monthly support group for pet parents with special needs dogs. The group, which launched in February, gives an outlet to owners caring for pets with issues ranging from separation anxiety, behavior problems and health problems. 

Beth said¬†she hadn’t¬†heard of many groups aiming to address the difficulties of owning a dog with special needs. She had heard of one in Chicago¬†but said¬†the concept is still catching on.

“It’s a newer thing,” Friedman said. “I guess if you had to think about it, you could call it veterinary social work.”¬†

Beth has a background in social work, and Wayne has a background in education.

The couple sees Fort Collins as an ideal location for this type of work ‚ÄĒ CSU¬†is home to one of the best veterinary schools in the nation, and Fort Collins hosts events¬†like Tour de Corgi and opens City Park Pool¬†for dogs at the end of the season.¬†

“We’ve lived in different places that were nowhere near as dog-friendly,” Bolen said.¬†

The couple have owned Canine Companion Consulting, a dog training business in Fort Collins, since 2007. In addition to their support groups, they offer training services including group classes and private sessions. 

“We often go to people’s homes and they’re crying and their dog bit someone,” Friedman said.¬†

“Or they’re just completely flustered because they don’t know how to manage their dog and they feel like they’ve failed,” Bolen said. “They’re hard on themselves.”¬†

As part of their training sessions, they invite owners to try some simple techniques and journal their observations. They even offer advice on how to handle aggressive dogs. 

“Usually aggression is not true aggression, it’s actually fear,” Friedman said.¬†

Wayne said they aim to give their training clients the tools they need to overcome difficult canine behaviors.

“We want to give people the understanding and knowledge to know what we’re doing; we don’t just stand behind a curtain and say, ‘Ta-da! Your dog is trained!'”¬†Bolen said.

Need to vent about your special needs pet? Register for a support group

Beth and Wayne’s support group for pet parents meets in their Fort Collins home on the third Thursday of every month.¬†The cost of each meeting¬†is $10. They invite¬†pet parents who cannot leave dogs with¬†separation anxiety to meet remotely in a¬†free online support group.¬†

More information and online registration is at 

Canine Companion Consulting’s basic dog training tips:¬†

  • Use the food you’re already giving your pup at breakfast and dinner as a treat to reinforce tricks or good behavior.
  • Keep a journal to record your dog’s behavior.
  • Give your dogs mental stimulation. Try food puzzle toys like a Kong.¬†
  • Break training down into smaller, more manageable tasks throughout the day.¬†
  • When a dog is acting naughty, give them something positive to do instead.¬†
  • Treat the root cause of a behavior, not the behavior itself. Barking and aggression are usually a sign of fear, so address the fear first.¬†

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