When a senior dog can't understand why his owner is not there, the shelter he's at dresses up a mannequin to look like his owner so that he doesn't feel sad and alone.
It's hard to leave your dog knowing that they have separation anxiety. For Marc Peralta, the bond he has with his 15-year-old pug Shorty is a very strong one. And after being together for such a long time, it's understandable that all Shorty wants to do is cuddle up with his favorite human being.
The two spent time together even when Marc had to travel for work or chores. But as Shorty grew older, he couldn't travel with Marc. This led to his anxiety grow all the more. He would bark often and sometimes break into a cry when Marc left for work. There was even a point the little dog got disoriented and at times, inconsolable.
Watching their pet dog is such a troubled state moved Marc's wife, Kristen. She tried comforting him by holding him, gave him Marc's shirt, and even snuck a pillow into his shirt to make him feel like he was close to Marc. None of it helped.
“The relationship between Marc and Shorty is very special. Marc is Shorty’s person. He just adores him and is the happiest when he is in Marc’s arms. When he was younger, Shorty would travel with Marc everywhere, but it’s not possible now with his age. Marc calls Shorty his ‘angel’ dog. Shorty really taught Marc how to love and care for another living thing,” Marc’s wife, Kristen, told PEOPLE.
“Unfortunately, Marc has to travel a good amount for work and Shorty gets very anxious when he is away. Shorty will bark and cry and nothing will calm him down. He won’t even calm down if I am holding him. In the past, I tried putting one of Marc’s shirts on a pillow, but it didn’t really work. I felt so helpless trying to calm him down when Marc was away,” Kristen continued.
Seeing how distraught Shorty was when Marc was not there, Kristen's mother came up with an out-of-the-box idea. She went to a Halloween store and purchased a life-size mannequin. Kristen did admit that she thought her mom "was nuts" but decided to go with her flow. After bringing home the mannequin, they dressed it in a shirt worn by Marc and clubbed it with his hat, since both carried his scent.
They even went a step further and attached some fake tattoo sleeves in order to look like Marc's real tattoos. Dubbing him [the mannequin] "Farc", short for "Fake-Marc", they put him on the couch and stepped back to see how Shorty would react.
Needless to say, Shorty was quite happy with Farc. Kristen said, “Shorty’s reaction was truly incredible. He had been crying and barking all day. I put him on Farc’s lap and wrapped the arms around him. He snuggled into the shirt and he was asleep within a half hour. He slept like that through the night. I was amazed. I really could not believe that it worked!”
Since Marc and Kristen run an animal shelter called Vintage Pet Rescue in Rhode Island, which hosts senior dogs and cats, they knew that separation anxiety was a big concern.
But it wasn't long before other members of the senior dog pack decided to cozy up with Farc, too. Soon enough, the mannequin was the cuddling companion for a slew of dogs. The shelter then started to post pictures of Farc with his canine friends on social media and not surprisingly, they went viral. Kristen mentioned that there were now tons of people who told her that they were thinking of getting a mannequin for their own dogs who suffer from separation anxiety.
“Since posting Farc on social media I’ve had a few people reach out to me to tell me that they also bought a mannequin for their dog that has separation anxiety. I really think this might be a great thing for shelters!” Kristen explained.
Initially, the living, human Marc was a bit pouty about the attention his furry friends were giving a "brainless dummy". But that didn't last long when he saw how happy his best friend and the other dogs were with Farc.