BramBram. "You can see it in his eyes," said Maryanne Bell. "There's hope." (Photo by C. R. Wagner)

What would it be like to spend the first years of your life without any human touch?  Impossible for a human, you think. Humans would not survive if left to fend for themselves. 

Not so impossible for a dog. Dogs have been known to survive; hunting and scrounging for food, and finding shelter. But dogs are social animals that get along so well with humans. Their socialization with humans has been bred into them. It is almost a necessary part of their life. A dog could do it, but not without sadness and stress.

So, what is it like for a domesticated dog to live without humans for the first years of its life?

That’s the story of Bram, a Burnese Mountain dog mix who is about two years old, according to Maryanne Bell, executive director of the Bradford County Humane Society (BCHS) in Ulster.

Bram and at least one sibling were born under a porch in the Granville Summit area. According to Bell, the puppies were left behind, probably when the family moved. As a result, Bram and his brother had to fend for themselves, roaming the community. 

Eventually, when the community realized the two dogs were strays, they became concerned and called Jim Johnson, dog warden for Bradford and Sullivan Counties.

According to Johnson, he felt the community was concerned for the welfare of the dogs and showed no animosity toward them. The dogs stayed around there because the community had probably been feeding them. In turn, the dogs showed no aggression toward people – just leeriness when people tried to approach them.

When Johnson arrived, he tried to lure the dogs to his truck but they wouldn’t come. He realized he would have to live trap them. He obtained the property owner’s permission and set up the trap. 

When Johnson came back, Bram was in the trap but his sibling was nowhere to be found. Johnson doesn’t know what happened to him.

That was last summer. The next stop for Bram was BCHS. 

“Every stray I take to the Bradford County Humane Society is the first step to the rest of their life,” said Johnson. “The first step to finding their way home or to their forever home.”

Unfortunately this is a common story – dogs abandoned or dropped off in rural communities, left to survive on their own. Remember Newton, the abandoned dog who became a therapy dog that gave back to his community? Remember Pup Pup, the Lake Dog? She was a stray, probably dropped off, who was discovered by some tenants renting a cottage at Lake Ondawa. When the cottage owner found out about her, it took him three years to finally get Pup Pup to come to him. After that it was a happy ending that Pup Pup was adopted by a family member and found her forever home.

So many times, rescued dogs like Newton and Pup Pup turn out to be the most thankful and loving dogs, even though their start in life was so horrific and fearful.


Bram at Bradford County Humane Society is waiting for just the right person with lots of patience and love; someone who is “ready for the long haul with training,” said Maryanne Bell. (Photo by C. R. Wagner)

Since Bram has been at BCHS, Bell has found that he is fearful, but not aggressive in any way. Is it any wonder? He lost his only companion and he is now in a very different environment. 

His socialization is coming very slowly. According to Bell his gains are very slow, but once in a while he will wag his tail. They are hoping Bram will find just the right person to adopt him.

“Bram needs someone who is ready for the long haul with training,” said Bell. “He needs an outdoor area and warm shelter for this winter. But Bram will have to come to them.”

Bell explained that it would take a common sense approach and commitment to him. 

“The person has to realize he’s not going to like them right away. He gives a warning growl and moves away from people,” said Bell. “But dogs do naturally like people. They are very attuned to people and Bram is not a wolf, he’s a dog.”

“He’s all there,” continued Bell. “You can see it in his eyes. He doesn’t give you that flat stare like some dogs do. In his eyes there’s hope; not just fear.”

For more information call the Bradford County Humane Society at (570) 888-2114 or email

“Bradford County Humane Society does a wonderful job of taking care of the animals and finding them homes,” said Johnson.

“We would never let just anyone adopt Bram,” said Maryanne Bell. “They would have to prove they could handle this special situation.”

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