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Life in the shelter had been hard on Heather. It was much different than being a stray on the streets of Texas. It was confusing. Heather no longer had to spend the entire day foraging for food or finding a safe, cool place to rest but the hustle and bustle of people and dogs walking by her kennel at all hours was new and stressful.
Austin Pets Alive! put out a plea for Heather, asking if anyone would be interested in fostering her. An in-home foster experience would not only offer Heather a more quiet, consistent routine but it would also allow Heather the opportunity to work on vital social skills that would ready her for life as a domesticated companion animal.
Ishmeet saw that plea. He had been volunteering for Austin Pets Alive! for about a year and had long since considered becoming a foster. “The pandemic was the push I needed maybe,” says Ishmeet. He agreed to foster Heather at his home in Austin, Texas.
The transition from a shelter to a home was not without challenges. Like most dogs who pass through rescue, a long decompression period was needed in order for Heather to begin to adjust to this very new life. Survival on the streets meant that Heather was always needing to scan and assess her environment around her for threats albeit humans and other animals. But life with Ishmeet would look very different: she would need to trust him and learn that he was making decisions with her best interests in mind.
If you think about it from the perspective of the dog, that type of sudden change is inevitably psychologically and emotionally demanding. We generally and unfairly ask that stray dogs who are freshly rescued, undergo transition with a good temperament and likeable qualities that will make them more adoptable i.e. friendly, social, playful etc. We instead owe it to our dogs to understand why they might be shut down, submissive, fearful, anxious, and stressed out at the shelter. Austin Pets Alive! recognized this and was able to secure a foster home for Heather so she could begin the long healing process that would better ready her for her now brighter future.
When dogs are newly rescued, they often undergo a great deal of shuffling where they are transferred from the care of one animal rescue group to another and oftentimes, transported long distances to partner rescue groups (for example, from Texas to Oregon). In Heather’s case, Austin Pets Alive! took Heather in when the municipality shelter that had previously taken her in became full. It's a lot of moving around with sudden and dramatic changes to the dog’s environments including new people, new sleeping arrangements, new sounds, sights and smells, a new diet, and new kennel neighbors.
Dogs who undergo these shuffles are at the complete mercy of the person at the other end of their leash. They get little if any say in where they will go and what will happen next. It can be absolutely terrifying and the only way we can really communicate to them that everything will be okay is to show them through our actions and behaviors towards them.
Ishmeet provided Heather with the one thing that she needed more than anything else: time. Time to decompress and time to figure out her very new and different life. In time, Heather learned what life inside of a house and off the streets was like. It meant consistent meals, a room full of toys, cute outfits, lots of walks, squirrel and bird chasing, and the most important part of all: a consistent and predictable routine. Heather quickly learned that every time Ishmeet left the house, he always came back to her.
Ishmeet is the kind of foster that every rescue group crosses their fingers and hopes to get. His dedication and commitment to Heather is clear in every photo you see of them together. Despite knowing that a day would come along where Heather would be leaving Ishmeet to live with her adoptive family, he did not hold back from giving her the best foster life possible. Ishmeet was dedicated to not only the more immediate tasks of feeding Heather and walking her but he also introduced Heather to a life of love and security. His guidance and patience allowed her a pathway to finding a home and as of last weekend (July), that’s exactly what happened: Heather was officially adopted.
I asked Ishmeet what happens next and he said that he would like to take a few months off and do some traveling before committing again to another foster dog.
As someone who has seen first hand, the urgent pleas for fosters from rescue groups across the nation to grapple with the sudden uptick in dogs in their care, I couldn’t help but make Heather’s story largely about Ishmeet. Throughout the 20+ stories we have published so far, we talk a lot about the behind the scenes of dog rescue groups across the nation. There are so many incredible moving parts that make up rescue and a large part of that are the fosters who care for the dogs in their homes, better preparing them for a life of success with their adoptive family.
In honor of Heather’s adoption success, we especially want to thank Ishmeet for his love and dedication to Heather in the year plus that he has been her foster and for being a beacon of hope and possibility for a Texan street dog who so many people had previously overlooked. A big thank you to Austin Pets alive! and the incredible work that they do. You can find out more about Austin Pets Alive! By clicking here.
All photos courtesy of Ishmeet
Part 1: The Beginning
A dog in a ditch. That’s how Dixie’s story starts, at least the part of her story known to us. Dixie’s story before the ditch is only known to her. Did she belong to someone? Was she part of the local stray population? Did she wander off from her home or was she abandoned on purpose? Questions that we will likely never have answers to.
When Dixie was fist spotted by someone on their way to work, they didn’t think much of it. After all, in many parts of Alabama, seeing a loose dog is not an uncommon sight. Maybe the dog was just taking a quick rest by the roadside.
But when the same person returned home from work hours later, they became immediately concerned when they saw the same dog, lying in the same spot.
They quickly pulled over, a gesture that alone is astonishing, considering that most people would have kept going. We know this because at the absolute core of Mutt’s Coffee is our strong desire to help our Alabama partner Free State Four Paws, not just with monetary donations, but to tell their stories and help raise awareness about what’s going on in their towns and cities when it comes to animal welfare.
It’s through these stories that we have become familiar with the lived experiences of those who try so desperately to make their home state a better place for dogs. In short, a stray dog is an ubiquitous sight in many parts of Alabama and stopping for a dog who might need assistance is unfortunately not as common as one would hope.
The generous stranger quickly ran to the dog in the ditch. It was worse than they had imagined. The dog was alive at least but barely. Through her rain soaked fur and limp body, it was clear that she was badly injured.
Fast forward a little and the gravity of Dixie’s situation was now becoming more clear. The diagnosis was grim: two bullets with their own trajectories of damage: one that transversely made its way through Dixie’s abdomen, just barely missing her major organs, the other one, severing her spine, leaving her with paralysis in her hind legs.
“You should consider putting her down,” they said, the “putting down” part being veterinarian speak for euthanasia. After a full examination, it was agreed upon that the damage to Dixie’s spine was irreversible: she would never be able to walk using her hind legs again and would also be incontinent (unable to control bladder movements).
An organization by the name of Society of Humane Friends of Georgia (SOHFGA) heard about Dixie’s case as these things often go in the rescue community. Like in the case of Pharaoh (# 18), calls were made and social media posts were shared until an agreement was made between two rescues.
Troy Animal Rescue project of Alabama was the initial group that took Dixie in. This group, just like our partner Free State Four Paws works in an area where animal neglect and abandonment are rampant.
The shelters in Alabama are always overcrowded, dogs and boxes of puppies being dropped off at all hours of the day and night. Employees are used to the sight of dogs tethered to the front door when they arrive to start their shifts. And even so, these dogs are considered the “lucky” ones because their chances of long term survival are better than the dogs who are simply dumped in rural areas when their owners decide they no longer want to keep them. Many of the rescues and shelters in Alabama are simply not equipped to take on cases like Dixie’s because of the lack of resources including time, space, and especially funding.
Rescue commitments for a dog in Dixie’s conditions can be sparse, considering the time and costs associated with their care. Unlike a ready-to-adopt dog who spends days, weeks, maybe months waiting for adoption, a dog with special care requirements can often be overlooked years at a time.
But despite all of the odds stacked up against Dixie, SOHFGA went ahead with taking her in. After all, Dixie was a fighter. She spent hours in that ditch, in agonizing pain, and unable to move. Dixie was doing everything she could to survive and SOHFGA recognized that.
Part 2: Fostering Change
In recent years, more and more dog rescues have moved away from the shelter model. Instead of having one large structure for housing dogs, they are instead disbursed across a network of foster homes.
Foster based rescues have been proven to have tremendous benefits and have achieved more long term success in terms of a drop in the number of dogs returned. An adoptable dog living in a foster home with a family and even other animals provides the dog with vital life skills, learned from the replication of routines and real life experiences. It also allows for the dog to undergo one-on-one observation by their foster and for them to get to know their dog's specific personality, behaviors, and characteristics. Adoption profiles for dogs in foster homes are often incredibly specific, especially compared to shelter descriptions.
Rescue dogs often come with a lot of question marks and though a pet foster won’t have all the answers, they can provide you with information that is largely important to shaping your overall decision as to whether you believe a certain dog will be a good match, based on their needs and that of your own. For example, a high functioning dog with a strong working drive might need a home with a big yard to run around in as opposed to an apartment lifestyle.
How does the dog do around cats? What about children? What is their prey drive like? What are their leash skills like? What areas of training will be important? How much activity will they need? Will they do better in a house with other dogs or will they need to be the only animal? How are they around strangers? What’s their bark like? What kind of treats do they like? How much do they sleep? What times of the day are they most active? What’s their favorite toy? Do they like to be pet? Do they jump at certain sounds or movements? Do they prefer chicken or salmon? Do they like water? Do they bark at the mailman?
These are all questions that fosters can typically provide answers for, giving potential adopters an idea of what life with that dog would entail. Many pet fosters will fiercely advocate for their foster dogs, making sure that their dogs don’t just go home with anyone. They will work directly with their rescue organization to find the best and most qualified home possible for every dog they take in under their wing.
They do all of this knowing that their time with each dog is very temporary and that there eventually will be an inevitable goodbye once their foster dog is adopted. And though that ambivalent goodbye is always emotionally charged, it is also a marker of another success story of saving a dog from what could have been. Quite literally, fosters save lives.
When society of Humane Friend’s of Georgia took Dixie in, they knew it was going to be a long, unknown road. In the beginning, they weren’t quite ready to believe that Dixie’s paralysis was permanent and wanted to do everything they could treatment wise, to provide her the best care possible, especially if there was even the slightest possibility that she may regain some of her mobility back in her hind legs.
But that road would inevitably require a lot of shuffling to and from medical appointments, physical therapy sessions, aquatic therapy and more. It was absolutely vital that she went home with a foster who could be fully committed to providing her with more than just the basics: someone with an equal balance of patience and compassion.
When Paula first heard about Dixie’s case, she knew fostering Dixie would look a little different than her experiences with the other differently-abled dogs she has looked after. Dixie would be the first dog that Paula had fostered with paralysis. Paralysis meant incontinence and so Paula would have to work hard to become familiar with Dixie’s bowel and bladder habits so she could determine a schedule that worked the best so she could eventually wean Dixie off of diapers.
Incontinence meant that Dixie was not able to empty out her bladder completely when she did go, making her prone to urinary tract infections (UTI’s). It also meant figuring out which foods Dixie couldn’t have, not because she didn’t like them but because her digestive system was more fragile now.
Bowel expression was a whole other area of importance. Paralysis meant that Dixie would need several expressions, throughout each day. No easy task, especially considering that it was probably just as unpleasant for Dixie as I imagine it has been for Paula at times.
Despite the demands this level of care required, Paula did all of that and so much more. If you follow Dixie’s Facebook page, many of the videos shared are videos of Paula and Dixie in the water, during their aquatic therapy sessions. Aquatic therapy coupled with physical therapy were critical in ensuring that Dixie’s muscles in her legs did not atrophy. They even tried acupuncture to see if it would stimulate the nerves in Dixie's legs and perhaps “wake them up” a little.
Paula did all of this while caring for her own pack of dogs simultaneously, all with their own special care requirements. There is Bow who is bow legged who Paula pulled from the euthanasia list, 14 years ago. There is Penny a border collie who was tied to a fence when her previous owners moved away. There is Juno who was returned 3 times and was also pulled from the euthanasia list, all because of his black coat and high energy drive. And in the time that Paula has had Dixie, she lost a few of her own too: Daisy who was “the mayor of the pack” and Tess, who was chained to a tree and bred by a local dog fighter so many times that she couldn’t be medically spayed due to advanced scar tissue.
When you are a certain kind of dog lover, you just do it, the “it” part being anything and everything. You’ll eat cups of cheap ramen if it means affording your dog’s prescription diet food. You’ll take on a second or even third job to pay for life saving medical treatment. You’ll rush home on your lunch break to make sure you can break up a long day of being away from the home, so your dog doesn’t get lonely. You’ll miss a day of work so you can comfort your dog when they are ill. You’ll push two couches together to sleep next to your dog while they recover from an injury, in case they need something in the middle of the night. It’s a powerful kind of love and it manifests in many ways. It’s a love that is ubiquitous in the dog rescuing world and if you’ve been fortunate to see it or even be part of it, than you are very lucky.
At the core of every animal rescue organization is a network of volunteers and fosters who are made up of some of the most hard working and empathetic humans you will ever meet. It’s the kind of people who have boundless altruism. To them, compassion is oxygen. It’s people like Paula who these rescue organizations come to rely on. When Hurricane Katrina hit, it was Paula who stayed behind and spent 5 weeks transporting animals out of shelters. There is no end to what Paula does for others, especially dogs.
Some people don’t always get it. There’s a possibility they never will. They say, “it’s just a dog,” but people like Paula say, “that’s my dog.”
I’d like to think it is the Paulas in this world that offer us all some sort of hope. That if there were more people who would go to leaps and bounds for all of the Dixies out there, rescue work wouldn’t be as scary and hopeless as it feels at times. But it’s not on the people that do care to cancel out the people that don’t. Balance is not the goal. Prevention is.
We can’t always change hearts but the next best thing is to change laws. We’ll touch more on this another time.
For now, all you need to know is that Paula has been Dixie’s number one advocate for two years now. And in those two years of medical appointments and acclimating Dixie to a life without lower body function, Paula remained hopeful that an application would come through eventually from someone who just like Paula, looked at Dixie and saw a dog who was deserving of a good life and wanted to take over being the person who provided it for her. But an empty inbox went on for two years and it seemed as though Dixie might never find her home in this world. That is, until they learned of a place out west that could provide Dixie with everything she could ever need and so much more...
Part 3: No End
A sanctuary for differently-abled dogs. A plot of land tucked away at the end of a long stretch of country road, surrounded by long evergreens and just minutes away from breath taking views of Mt. Saint Helens and Mt. Rainier, which provide the perfect backdrop to pastures of running horses and farmhouses. Magical right? It is.
But it’s a beautiful chaos too.
For Jeff, the mornings always start early. 5am to be exact. The first rays of sun have yet to reach the horizon but the requests of 11 dogs are about to start filling the house, first in asynchronous barks but eventually in songs of hungry howls.
But before breakfast can be served, bladders need to be expressed and supervised potty breaks need to be had. First Chariot, then Jeb, then Dora. Dixie, the newest angel, is next, followed by Holly, Benjamin, and Hemi and then Santo. There is also Jack, Remy, and Iris and depending on which day of the week, niece Halligan who stays over three nights.
Breakfast is warmed up and served to the tune of the angel’s ever so impatient chorus. It’s delicious and the only reason an angel would ever refuse their meal is if they weren’t feeling well. It's delicious because it is made fresh and consists of vegetables and various meat proteins. These angels are fed food from the fridge, not food from a bag. It’s time consuming but Jeff spends several nights a week pre-prepping large batches of it.
Once breakfast is over it’s time to administer medications and supplements, eye and ear drops, change diapers, clean up the kitchen, start a load of laundry and eventually update a post to social media and try to answer questions or respond to comments from a previous post.
I’m sure I got the order wrong and that’s okay because this part of the story is really Jeff’s to tell anyway. He does it each and every day while I have only provided bits and piece of it, mostly by combing through Instagram posts where followers like me can get little snapshots here and there of life on the sanctuary.
And if you get as deep in as I did, you might start to have favorites and you’ll most likely join a team of some sort, whether you had set out to or not. I’m team Jeb, partly because I have a ridiculous soft spot for senior german shepards but mostly because I’ve come to admire Jeb’s quiet and yet seemingly confident disposition. If you are an introvert like me, perhaps you too will join team Jeb, unlike the more extroverted and dramatic angels who clearly spend every day as if it were a living audition for a daytime soap opera... looking at you Holly and Remy!
It’s fun to watch from the distance which for you and I is behind a glass screen. We tap, scroll, and swipe until we’ve had enough and go on to do something else. But for Jeff, husband Michael, and Jeff’s parents (lovingly known as gnomepa and gnomema), there is never a start or finish. There are no “snapshots.” Everything about life on the sanctuary is constant.
When I set out to write this final part of Dixie’s story, I really struggled with what direction to take it. Sure, I could tell you fun things like how Angels with Misplaced Wings got its name or how it all started with Cesar the paralyzed Great Dane and Megan, Jeff and Michael’s first Dalmatian.
But I feel that I would be doing a grave disservice by telling the parts of the Angel’s story that Jeff has already told, across multiple platforms and in a variety of formats.
Angels with Mispalced Wings may be new to some of us but it isn’t new to the world. It’s been operating for over a decade and if you’d like to learn more, all you have to do is a quick google search where you will find past stories written about the angels as well as a wealth of social media posts that walk you through the day-by-day life on the farm.
Don’t get me wrong, I showed up last Monday like a journalist, fresh out of college with all the wrong questions. How did you get your name? What inspired you to do this? Tell me more about the angels and the kind of care you provide for them. Poor Jeff. And Jeff when you read this, I’m sorry! I say this laughing of course.
Yes, I asked all of these questions and Jeff was more than happy to provide each one with all the right answers. But for the following week that went by, I kept trying to work out how I would write this third and final piece without the reader satisfaction you all came here for.
Wait, what? But doesn’t Dixie’s story have a good ending? Heck yes it does. But that’s a little too convenient for both you and I and I think we can do a little more than end things here.
It’s been a long week for Jeff. I can feel it in his posts. Acclimating Dixie has especially been challenged by a wound that became infected and needed emergency treatment. She is becoming restless and is eager to explore her world outside of her pen but it’s necessary for her to stay confined, not only to assist her and all the angels as they become aquatinted with one another, but also so her mobility is restricted long enough for her injury to heal. Cleaning the wound has been especially difficult, partly due to its location but also because it has to be done in the shower.
Dixie is in good hands. She is doing great! You can continue to follow her journey simply by following along on social media. She got the kind of ending that we all wanted for her.
But Dixie’s story wouldn’t be complete without telling you the side of rescue and sanctuary work that is incredibly daunting for all who have ever experienced it: a lack of funding.
When I asked Jeff if he has volunteers come out to the farm and help, he said something that really resonated with me. He said he does sometimes but that he is careful in doing so because a lot of the times, the volunteers want to come out for all the wrong reasons.
Let’s be honest, to no fault of their own, most volunteers just want to pet dogs. It makes them feel better, like they are contributing something that the dogs are in need of. There are many shelter dogs who this of course would be a terrific service to offer but not for the angels, at least not these ones.
The angels have quite the Ohana (family) to ensure their lives are full of love, attention, and enrichment. They are not isolated as there are plenty of farm visitors like the nice contractors who come out to do repairs, pet photographers, or visiting family and friends. Not to mention the rotating Monday visits to Portland (the big city) for physical therapy, massage therapy, acupuncture and wellness checkups and if they are lucky, a post-visit to Dairy Queen for an ice cream cone.
These dogs are not deprived of anything- everything about their lives is whole from their holistic treatment plans, to their home cooked meals, to the love and companionship that surrounds each one of them by the Ohana (both nuclear and extended).
Jeff also doesn’t need toys and dog food donations. He has all those parts covered. What he so desperately needs is monetary donations. This isn’t the part where I ask you to go donate. This is simply the part that I may be able to add a little bit of anecdotal experience to make this third and final part of Dixie’s story a little more powerful.
I can’t end this piece with an official “the end” because there never is an end. Taking care of dogs will never know an end.
See we all crave a good ending. We turn to social media accounts like Angels with Misplaced Wings or our favorite dog rescue groups so we can get our feel-good endings through adoption stories and incredible rescue stories like Dixie's where a dog who was shot twice and left for dead is now a permanent resident of a dog sanctuary that specializes in specially-abled dogs. These are the kinds of stories that rack up views, likes, and shares, and always have the potential to go viral because we all use these stories for own own therapeutic purposes.
But the hard truth is there are not enough Jeffs and Paulas in this world to keep up with all the dogs who so desperately need sanctuary resolutions. Dogs like Dixie die every day because there aren’t enough people to rescue them. I see it every time I open up my social media accounts. Rescues scramble to find last minute commitments for dogs who are running out of time, not because they are sick and dying but because the shelter has given them an artificial expiration date. Not to dress this up- what I mean is the dog will be euthanized because of strict budgets and lack of space.
So what can we do? We have to recognize our role in all of this. Are we the volunteer who wants to pet dogs or are we the contributors? Are we here to take or are we here to give?
We can not take from Jeff. He has nothing to give to us because he gives it all to the angels. He runs his social media as a courtesy to all of us. It’s a delight, and you can of course enjoy it. You can have favorites and pick teams and no one will fault you for that. But I think it’s also important to make note of how concerned I was of how many social media posts Jeff had to dedicate to asking for donations. He needs more than a “like” or a “share.” He needs continuous donors and sponsors.
Because Angels with Misplaced Wings is a sanctuary, it’s disqualified from receiving the grants that are designated for shelters. This means Angels is 100% donation funded. I can’t imagine the anxiety that this must cause, not knowing if donations will consistently trickle in before the current balance hits 0.
If we want groups like Angels With Misplaced Wings to exist so dogs like Dixie have a chance, then it is absolutely critical that we monetarily take care of them. If we want our small town rescues, like the ones I report on so often, to exist, we have to support them. If we want more satisfying endings like Dixie’s we have to recognize that often the one resource that stands in a dog's way of it is funding. It takes a Jeff, a Paula, a group, a village, and an Ohana. It takes you.
For more information on Angels with Misplaced Wings and to keep up with Dixie and all of the other angels, you can follow them on Facebook and Instagram. Want to help? Go here.
A huge thanks to Paula and Jeff for being such critical parts of Dixie's story and for allowing me to write about it. All photos are courtesy of Paula.
We hear the saying a lot in the rescue community, “a second chance.” A second chance can mean many different things; it can refer to an owner surrender situation where a pet owner surrenders their dog to a shelter and a second attempt is made at finding a lifetime adoptive commitment; it can mean that a dog was close to succumbing to injuries or disease and was allowed a second chance when a gracious organization stepped up and offered to cover the costs of lifesaving, medical treatment; it can be the stranger who pulled over and opened their car door to a stray, getting them off the streets; it can be the kind hearted people who feed their displaced and homeless pet population or the people who stay behind to rescue as many animals as they can during natural disasters like hurricanes and earthquakes; it’s the anonymous call to an animal abuse hotline that alerts authorities of a hoarding situation or reports an animal abuser. It’s the pilots in the sky and the drivers on the streets, transporting cargos full of hopeful, adoptable dogs. In the rescue world, second chances are ubiquitous.
Second chances especially come by way of organizations who work to pull dogs who are at “high risk” of euthanization. These are often dogs who are on the older side, dogs who have had injuries or medical complications, dogs who “look” mean or dangerous, dogs who growl a little too much or tremble in the corner of their compound, and it's especially dogs who are wary of people and other animals. Whatever the case, if you are a dog in an overcrowded kill shelter who is continuously overlooked for one reason or another, time is of the essence. It’s where a second chance becomes both your last chance and your only chance. This is where some of the most incredible rescue work in the dog rescuing communities can be witnessed.
For Pharaoh, time was working against him in more ways than one. At 7 years old, Pharaoh was no longer the puppy or young adult that so many adoption seekers set out to find. His senior status coupled with hip dysplasia made him an easy dog to pass over, again and again.
And when they say “it took a village,” well they were not wrong. It’s the great shuffle where one rescue group gets in touch with another, conversations are had and decisions are made. And it’s that “great shuffle” that very well saved Pharaoh’s life. It’s when Rescued Pets Movement of Houston of Texas contacted Do OverDogs a Second Chance at Life of Colorado and asked if they would be interested in rescuing Pharaoh from BARC Animal Shelter. “We are a sucker for the seniors, so we said yes!” says Gina, the Media and Marketing Coordinator for Do Over Dogs A Second Chance at Life.
Their name says it all, Do Over Dogs, a foster-based, 501(c)(3) organization that gives at-risk dogs from the shelter environment a second chance at life by focusing their rescue efforts on dogs and puppies that are at high risk of euthanasia in states like Texas, Oklahoma, and New Mexico. Do Over Dogs knew that Pharaoh would have significantly better chances at becoming adopted in Denver, Colorado than in Houston, Texas. In fact, a significant number of dogs are being sent from Texas to other states where there is a healthier balance to the amount of people looking to adopt a dog vs. the amount of available dogs.
In 2017, Hurricane Harvey devastated the amount of displaced dogs and cats and since then, Houston has not been able to ever fully recover. That same year, BARC, the very shelter that Pharaoh came from, estimated that there were over a million stray dogs in Texas alone. And if one million stray dogs didn’t seem like a critically high number in and of itself, the stray population only continues to grow with more and more animals becoming displaced or abandoned and is further complicated by large litters of puppies from unaltered females. So in a city like Houston where hundreds of stray dogs roam the streets, a spot at the local shelter is prime equity and a spot that a dog like Pharaoh wouldn't have been able to keep for very long.
Now that Pharaoh is in the care of Do Over Dogs, he is so much more than just “another stray.” Pharaoh is an 80 pound dude with an even bigger personality. He LOVES bully sticks and walks and his youthful mind says, “let’s walk forever!” although his hips say, “slow it down, please!” If he trusts you, you are his person. A dog who has been through so much, yet has so much to give. He is smart, loves driving in the car, and has mastered a strong recall. At the shelter, Pharaoh was a dog who was wary of new people and other dogs, but you’d be surprised what a little consistency, patience, and routine can do for a dog who has been through so much.
And if you look into Pharaoh’s eyes, you’ll see it: despite a life of struggles, hardships, and experiences that we will never fully understand, you will find love, hope, and a sense of wonder.
We don’t know if this is Pharaoh’s true second chance. If I had to guess, I’d say it is likely his third, fourth, fifth, or even more. Seven years of being shuffled around, neglected, abandoned, and ignored has not been easy for Pharaoh but Do Over Dogs is giving Pharaoh a chance at a lifetime. And even if that “lifetime” is just a handful more of years to us humans, it’s everything to Pharaoh.
Will you be Pharaoh’s final forever? You can head here to find out more information and to fill out an application. Pharaoh has made quite the strides under the care of Do Over Dogs and once he has completed some extra dog training, this beautiful boy will be ready for you to take home. Please help us raise Pharaoh’s digital visibility by sharing his story in your social circles and together, we hope to help find Pharaoh the home he has waited his whole life to go home to.
Want to buy coffee to support Pharaoh? Head to our online store and you'll have a chance to selet "Pharaoh's story" at checkout. 25% of profits from all bag purchases featuring Pharaoh will be donated to Do Over Dogs.
Promise the Wonder Dog
In July of last year, a family walked into Grand Strand Humane Society (GSHS), in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina holding a 5 month old puppy. “We want to surrender this dog to you,” they said. It was clear right away that something was different about the puppy. The family rushed through a quick explanation- “It was an accident,” they said, “we closed the car door on her.” The family quickly handed off the little puppy and promptly left and that’s where Promise has remained, ever since: in the care of Grand Strand Humane Society, waiting to be adopted.
Promise can’t tell us her version of events so we can only repeat what was told to us by her previous owners. In any case, whatever event occurred prior to Promise being surrendered, it caused paralysis in her back legs, leaving her incontinent.
Owner surrenders are exceptionally hard on dogs. The only family they have ever known simply leaves one day and never comes back. It's confusing and we have no way of really explaining it to them. All we can do is forge forward and try to show them a life of love, kindness, and second chances.
Owner surrenders can be exceptionally hard on the shelter staff as well. Work at a shelter long enough and you've likely heard almost every excuse in the book. Excuses range from, "we got a new puppy and can't care for our senior dog anymore," to "we are moving."
Grand Strand Humane Society is no stranger to local problems that greatly exacerbate the number of intakes they receive in a year (about 3,000). The city of Myrtle Beach is rapidly growing and animal friendly housing is becoming increasingly harder to find. That, coupled with the tourist sector has greatly impacted the number of surrendered and abandoned pets. It is not uncommon for animals to be left behind at hotels and condominiums.
GSHS, like many shelters across the U.S is often overcrowded and underfunded. But despite a shortage of funds and a steady stream of intakes, GSHS remains a no-kill shelter meaning they won't euthanize dogs because of space or time. This allows dogs like Promise extra time to find adoption commitments without the pressure of time constraints whereas a kill shelter would have likely euthanized her by now given her long term commitment and special care considerations.
The real heroes in Promise’s life are the shelter employees and volunteers who have gone above and beyond for Promise to make her stay as comfortable as possible. Volunteers like Lindsey who is also a member of the Board of Directors for Grand Strand Humane Society and who took the time to be interviewed by us. These ladies have been exceptional in their efforts to coordinate and facilitate care for Promise. So much, that unlike most of the other dogs who wait out their stay in kennels, Promise spends her days behind the front desk where staff can keep a thoughtful eye on her. At night, she has special sleeping accommodations in a quieter area of the shelter, where she won’t be overwhelmed by the coming and goings of staff or the verbal demands from noisy kennel neighbors.
Thanks to the relentlessness of the GSHS staff, Promise now can move around comfortably in her new set of shiny wheels, compliments of Walkin Pets, a company that specializes in pet mobility equipment.
The staff has done everything they can think of to help get Promise adopted. Promise even has her very own Instagram account, managed by Lindsey. But despite professional photos of Promise smiling from ear to ear, videos of her cruising around in her mobility device, social media updates, and a rise in visibility by being featured on high profile social media accounts, Promise remains where she has been for this last year: in a shelter.
And despite a constant steam of shelter visitors and a steady supply of people looking at adoption profiles online, Promise has been continuously overlooked. It's heartbreaking but it's also the reality of Promise's situation.
So far, everyone who has seen a photo of Promise in her wheelchair or saw the word "incontinence" in her profile bio has quietly said, “No, not that dog,” and moved on with their search. It can be especially frustrating considering this last year had record breaking adoption numbers with more and more people spending an increased amount of time at home and therefore wanting a companion animal to correct some of the boredom and monotony that a pandemic life has brought on.
A year of life at the shelter has been hard on Promise. She is wary of new people and that coupled with her paralysis and incontinence has undeniably made it hard for her to find an adoption commitment.
The reality of her situation is hard on GSHS staff. It’s incredibly obvious how much they care about her and how hopeful they are that she will find the right home, but the more and more days Promise spends at the shelter, the deeper it saddens the volunteers who have come to love her so dearly.
“Promise needs a hero. A whole year is a long time for a scared, paralyzed pup to live in a shelter environment,” says Lindsey, “[...] we are holding out hope for the perfect person to come along and show her she will be loved forever. I KNOW Promise’s perfect home is out there somewhere… we just need the stars to align for this perfectly imperfect girl!”
Promise needs a promise. A promise that if you adopt her, you won’t give up on her; a promise that you will understand how hard her journey has been so far and allow her the time she needs to decompress, heal, and grow; a promise to understand that it may not be a linear line of transition and progression and that every dog’s emotional journey will have peaks and valleys; a promise to stick out the hard days and celebrate the many good ones that will follow; a promise to never leave her or give her up for when her special care requirements become tiresome; a promise that when you look at a photo of her, you don’t see “a lot of work” but instead, “a lot of opportunity;” a promise to let her run free and have a fair chance at being a dog as much as any other dog; and above all, a promise at forever.
On behalf of the Mutt’s Coffee team, our friends at the Unstoppables Project, Lindsey and the incredible staff at the Grand Strand Humane Society, and the good folks at Walkin Pets, we ask that you share Promise’s story far and wide and help raise her digital visibility and increase her likelihood of becoming adopted soon. We know there is someone out there that will see a photo of Promise and say, “that’s her! That’s my dog!”
To find out more or to complete an adoption application, please go here.
The first thing you will notice about Hati are his heterochromic eyes. One bright blue eye, the other brown. The second thing you will notice about Hati is his thick coat, filled with long black fur and just a touch of white on his front paws and chest, rare colors considering he is mostly German Shepherd and Siberian Husky. The third thing you will notice about Hati is his gentle and regal demeanor. He is absolutely stunning. It’s no surprise that Hati’s name was inspired from Norse mythology and based on a wolf-like creature that chases the moon across the night sky. “Hati'' is also Indonesian for “Heart” and to his owner Lynsey, that is exactly what Hati is: her heart dog.
When you see photos of Hati, it’s hard not to imagine him walking right off a page from a fictional story of lore, mysticism and magic. But as majestic and mythical as Hati is in appearance, his early life was far from a children’s fairy tale. In fact, it started in a closet. Yes, a closet. A small, dark space where he and his siblings remained for the first eight weeks of their lives, covered in their own feces. The real magic in Hati’s story was by way of the heart of a woman named Jamie who found out about the puppies and moved quickly to rescue them. Two of the puppies died and four survived. After about a year, Jamie decided it would be best to find Hati a home and that is where Lynsey entered Hati’s life.
Hati is now 2 and has been with Lynsey for a year. He loves sushi and the beach. He is gentle, sweet, and dorky. Sometimes he doesn’t know how to respond to all the love his life is filled with now. Sometimes he can be awkward and clumsy. Lynsey says that he is an “eternal puppy.” Everything Hati does, he does with his own flare.
The beautiful thing about dogs is that no two are alike. If you’ve had dogs in your life then you know exactly what I mean. They each have their own unique personality. All dogs are their own blend of curiosity, loyalty, intelligence and altruism. Dogs are hati. They are heart. They can love a human for showing them kindness while looking past the human that showed them neglect. They are eager to forgive. We can be as imperfect of a human as they come but we will still always be perfect to them.
That’s not to say that dogs are impermeable to human neglect. If you strike a dog once, they might flinch at the sight of a raised hand forever. But human love, empathy, and understanding has the power to heal a dog’s past. Considering Hati’s start in life, it’s truly incredible that he went on to form such incredible bonds with his humans. The first 8 weeks of a dog’s life are the most critical: this is where nurture will matter the most. The mother teaches vital life skills to her puppies. Things like bite inhibition and social manners will prepare that puppy for a life around humans and other dogs. A puppy stripped of that critical learning stage is sentenced to inevitable trouble and misunderstandings in the future. To hear about a puppy kept in a closet for 8 weeks who grew up to become a wonderful human companion is as incredible as these stories come.
Hati’s story is a reminder of canine resilience. When I hear the saying “humans don’t deserve dogs” this is what I think it means. It means that dogs like Hati didn’t have to ever trust a human or want anything to do with one. But despite his misgivings when he was a puppy, he was capable of forming an incredible bond with his humans. He didn’t have to love again but he did.
When we asked Lynsey if she could tell us about a memory that really stands out to her, she shared with us a time where Hati broke a major house rule in order to comfort his human. Lynsey’s husband had received some upsetting news and was lying in bed, and despite a strict no-being-on-the-bed rule, Hati jumped up on the bed anyways to lay with Lynsey’s husband and comfort him. Hati understood his human was in emotional distress so much that he was willing to breach training and a major house rule to be close to him. It is those small acts we hear about all the time where we are left thinking that surely dogs must be magical afterall.
It’s important to remember that Hati’s unfortunate beginning to life was the product of a careless and illegitimate breeder. Lynsey shares a message that resonates with us all in that she wants everyone to understand how important it is to adopt a dog, not purchase one. Puppy mills and backyard breeding have greatly contributed to the already crippling problems that are faced by the dog rescuing communities. “Every dog that’s purchased from a breeder is one less shelter dog that’s going to get to go to a cozy home,” Lynsey says. Even if it’s a purebred you seek, we greatly encourage you to research rescued purebreds first. Remember that when you adopt a dog, you save two lives: the dog that you adopted and the one that will take its now vacant spot at the rescue.
In honor of Hati’s story, we would also like to invite you to sign the following petition that is calling on greater protections for our beloved canine’s ancestor: the gray wolf.
To see more photos of Hati and to keep up with his journey, you can follow him on Instagram here.
***7/9/21 Update: Tori has been adopted!
Age: 3 y.o
Breed(s): Great Pyranees, Anatolian Shepherd
Location: Austin, Texas
Dog Rescue: Final Frontier Rescue Project
Profession: Squirrel Chaser
Instagram Account: go here
Facebook Video: go here
In need of foster and/or adoption
Special Care Consideration: Tori was born with a deformed front leg
When I first came across Tori’s profile, my first reaction was, “how the heck is this dog still available for adoption?” Tori is 75 lbs of gentle, loving, silly, tail chasing, squirrel loving dog. Great Pyranees are known for their gentle, loving, and loyal temperaments, despite their large stature. Tori is no exception and she is just stunning, inside and out.
Tori has been available for adoption for over a year now. She was found as a stray on a country road and has been in the care of Final Frontier Rescue Project ever since. For the last year, Tori has been fostered by Eric and his husband, who wanted to get involved with fostering at the beginning of the pandemic when many animal shelters had to temporarily halt operations. They specifically wanted to assist with animals who were at high risk and so they opened their home this last year to Tori. She has been with them ever since, waiting for that right family to come along and welcome her into their lives for the rest of her’s.
But she is still waiting …
Home based fostering is a terrific alternative to shelter based placement. Instead of living out her days in a kennel, Tori has gotten a real taste of what life in a home and with a family will be like. As an outdoor stray, that transition into a home has taught her many life skills and has helped prepare her for when she gets to go “home” one last time.
Eric says that Tori was very timid in the beginning as can be the case for many dogs transitioning from street life to life in close quarters with other humans and animals. Eric reports that fostering Tori has been a wonderful experience because they got to watch her transform over the months as her true big dog personality came to light. Her friendship with Eric’s resident dog Huckleberry has enabled Tori to form positive bonds with other dogs and build her confidence around them.
But what about her leg? Does it prevent her from being a dog?
Last we checked, Tori’s dog scan came back with the following reading: 100% dog. So no, her leg does not get in the way of Tori living her best life. Her walks may have to be shorter and she may need to take breaks in-between her bouts of squirrel chasing but she is perfectly able.
Enough about Tori, what about you? Are you the right fit?
Tori is in need of a home with a fenced yard so she has space to do what Great Pyrenees/Anatolian breeds do best: patrol! Rest assured, with Tori on patrol, your yard will be clear of all small prey. No squirrel will dare the likes of Tori, your private and professional squirrel chasing security personnel.
Are you interested in welcoming Tori into your life or know someone that is?
You can find more information about Tori’s home requirements to ensure you are a good match here. Ready to apply? Go here.
A year is a long time to wait for forever. Let’s help get this big, beautiful, sweet girl adopted, today!
Tori's Coffee Cover Art 4/26/21
Meet Jojo (球球), an 8 year old Pembroke Welsh Corgi from California. Jojo is a multifaceted career dog who has two important roles: he is both a service dog and a therapy dog and knowing the difference between the two is incredibly important! Today, Jojo will be our teacher and he is going to instruct us on the differences between these two very important areas of working dog roles. Be sure to take notes because there may or may not be a pop quiz at the end. Okay, maybe not a pop quiz but we do hope you find Jojo’s lesson a valuable one!
Speaking of pop quiz, remember the absolute dread when 5 minutes to the end of class, our teacher would say, “Okay class, pop quiz! Get out a piece of paper and pen.” Ugh, talk about stress. And if you're someone who suffers from test anxiety, those surprise quizzes could especially bring about some major stress elevations. School is undoubtedly a host to many stressful events for most students. Deadlines, exams, essays, more essays, oh look another essay, having ten minutes between class to get from one side of campus to the other with the hope that you have time to grab a snack on the way since coffee doesn’t actually count as food.
It’s events big and small that can make school an especially difficult time for many: it’s the constant state of being constant; always moving forward at a rate so fast you hardly ever have time to take a quick break and just take a few deep breaths of air to reset. It’s this bizarre state of time moving by too fast but not fast enough; an entire term can come and go in what feels like just a few minutes but the classes you find the least interesting seem to drag on for days at a time.
I remember at the beginning of every term, when I would be preparing for classes and buying the books I needed, I would always put them in one uniform stack and give them a good long look and say to myself, “I will have read this giant stack of words by the end of the next eight weeks.” I still have the occasional nightmare that I “forgot” to read a book or write an essay, only to find out it’s due that day and it’s the last day of term and the professor will make absolutely no exceptions for grace periods. It’s the kind of dream that pulls you out of a deep sleep and leaves you in a state of panic for a few seconds, before you eventually reach the conclusion that “it was only a dream” and the sense of relief that follows.
And if you are reading this right now and nodding in silent solidarity, you will probably agree that during that time in your life, any opportunity to release a little stress is especially vital to your overall mental health. And lucky for the students of University of California, Berkeley, they have Jojo, the campus therapy dog. Jojo is a certified therapy dog with the Alliance of Therapy Dogs. In order to become certified, a dog must show that they are a right fit for therapy work which requires them to have calm reactions to different environmental stimuli. Therapy work often takes place in environments that will have specific machinery, noises, and smells that most dogs don’t encounter in their day-to-day routines.
For example, for a therapy dog to work in a hospital, they would need to be desensitized to working around elevators, hospital beds and equipment, and the coming and going of staff members at all times. And if you remember Finn’s story from a few weeks ago, Finn works as a therapy dog in an airport which requires him to be comfortable working around large groups of people, escalators, elevators, loud announcements from the overhead speakers, and the frequent sounds from the airplanes taking off from the runway. It’s not for all dogs and many have entered an early retirement when they failed to pass the certification exams needed to become officially certified. Simply put, it takes a lot of calm and cool and Jojo is both those things and much more.
A therapy dog is a dog who is trained to offer emotional support to multiple people whereas a service dog is a highly trained dog who works with an individual and offers assistance with their disability(s). When Jojo is on campus, he wears a special vest that lets students and staff know that they can pet him. And pet him they do! It’s been scientifically proven that petting a dog can release the feel-good neurochemicals like dopamine that help calm us down and relieve stress in our bodies. Petting Jojo right before a big exam sounds like the best way to get into a better mindspace and relieve some of that pre-test anxiety. And though petting Jojo is not a guarantee that you will get that passing grade you so badly want, it is a neurological and emotional benefit that can help improve your overall mental state and boost your mental health.
What made Jojo a good candidate for campus therapy work? Part of Jojo’s certification process was confirming that he was welcoming of strangers being in a close proximity to him and petting him. This is absolutely essential to being eligible for this line of work: it’s important that a dog is not only okay with being petted by strangers but also that they enjoy it. If that spontaneous touch were to cause stress to a dog, it wouldn’t be safe nor fair to put them in that vulnerable situation. The certification process is essential and it is carried out by a group of professionals that work to ensure that each dog has had the right training needed to become certified and that they are a good fit for therapy programs. Once Jojo was certified, he joined the UC Berkeley’s Therapy Dog club as a part of the Berkeley Destress with Dogs program.
It’s also important to note that therapy dogs work in spaces that they have obtained previous approval for. You can’t simply take a therapy dog just anywhere for work- they are trained and approved to work in specific environments and the handlers work with program coordinators to ensure they have the proper permissions to do so. For example, the grocery store is not a place where you will commonly find therapy dogs though you may see plenty of service dogs.
Remembering the difference between the two is very important because service dogs are not dogs you should ever approach and try to engage with unless given prior permission from their handler. These dogs are highly trained to work with their handler and assist with their handler's disability(s). Interfering with their work could distract them from being able to perform life saving measures to their handler in the event of a medical emergency.
In addition to being a certified therapy dog, Jojo is also specially trained to mitigate his handler’s disabilities through trained tasks, an area of work that required several years of training and examination. How does Jojo know the difference of when he is working as a therapy dog versus a service dog? Different uniforms! Jojo has special vests/harnesses for each role and he is so smart, he knows what each uniform means in terms of the job duties he will be asked to perform. Jojo’s calm, relaxed temperament and high intellect has made him exceptional at being a multifaceted career dog.
Okay class, we hope you were paying attention because it's time for that pop quiz! We are just kidding but we do hope that you now understand the key differences between working dogs and therapy dogs. Though Jojo is both a service dog and therapy dog, it’s important to remember that plenty of career dogs are one or the other. The biggest takeaways to remember is that therapy dogs offer emotional support to many whereas service dogs provide support specific to their handler’s individual needs. Examples of service dogs are guide dogs for the blind, diabetic alert dogs, seizure alert dogs, PTSD dogs, Wheelchair assistance dogs, and dogs that help children with autism. Service dogs have specialized training and you should never interfere with the work that they are doing. However, If you see a therapy dog with a “pet me” vest, it is okay to approach and engage with them.
We hope you enjoyed today’s story and the second edition of our working dog series. Thank you to Christina for submitting Jojo’s story and for allowing us to feature him. You can keep up with Jojo by following him on Instagram at @jojothepembrokecorgi
(All photos are courtesy of Christina)
Jojo's Coffee Cover Art
Jojo's Coffee Cover Art
Paisley (Part 3/3)
(This story is part 3 of a three part series and continued from story #12 above)
And then there was Paisley, the third and most recent member of Anna's crew. Paisley's owner recently died of Covid-19 and suddenly found herself in need of a new home. At 9 years old, Paisley would inevitably have a difficult time securing adoption prospects: her senior status would undoubtedly hinder her opportunities. Word got out about Paisley and for Anna, it was an obvious choice. Without hesitation, she loaded up Oscar and Piper into the car and together they drove 13 hours one way to meet Paisley for the first time.
Not a lot is known about Paisley's previous life but it is important for me to tell you that she was incredibly loved. Paisley's sudden circumstance of being without a home was another unfortunate byproduct of a universal pandemic that has only ever known how to disrupt, devastate, and take and in ways that may never be fully understood.
The love that paisley knew and understood in those first nine years of her life, though different now, would continue on and would even unfold in a few unexpected ways. It was never known if Paisley had ever visited a beach before but when she stepped onto the sand for the first time, it was as if she woke up from a long nap. The smell of the saltwater in the air and the touch of the loose sand beneath her paws, suddenly gave her a burst of energy and a zest for life. Paisley LOVED the beach and it was a place that would become part of her normal routine. Imagine being able to visit your favorite place in the world, just about every single day. Paisley had found her paradise.
And that saying “you can't teach an old dog new tricks?” That would quickly be disproved by her ability to learn simple things like “sit” that she had never been taught before. A lot of Paisley's new life is a story unfolding each and every day. I can't tell you much more about her past story but I think it's fair to say that all of us can imagine her future together: one filled with the company of Oscar and Piper, daily trips to the shoreline, and all the love and security a dog could ever need.
Behind all of these wonderful stories that we share with you every week are people like Anna who care deeply about the well being of dogs and value the bond between dog and human a little more than most. We wanted to end this week's story by thanking Anna for her unequivocal love for her dogs. That love is the adhesive that binds these three stories together: Oscar the shadow, Piper the teacup rescue puppy, and Paisley the orphan: together they make one invincible unit- a family.
You can keep up with oscar, Piper, and Paisley and see weekly photos of their visits to the beach by following them on Instagram.
Coffee Label by Jaclyn L.
Piper (Part 2/3)
(This story is part 2 of a three part series and continued from #11 above)
Before Oscar, there was Piper. And though Oscar is the older of the two, Piper was adopted first in 2015. Piper was small for her age, so small that Anna had to carry medicated shots around with her in case Piper had a seizure. Piper was the “runt” of her litter, so small she could fit in the palm of your hand. A teacup rescue, if you will. But unlike Oscar, Piper did come with a clean slate as some rescue puppies do. If they are lucky, they will find a family on the first try, willing to provide them with a lifetime commitment and preventing them from ever knowing a life of shuffling from one home to the next.
Some aren't always that lucky. When the excitement of a new puppy begins to fade, all that remains in plain sight is responsibility: a living, breathing, mammal that requires care, supervision, attention, training, time, money, and effort. Every dog rescue and shelter who processes owner surrenders or owner returns has heard the excuses before: not one rolls off the tongue without the word “time” somewhere in the sentence: “I don't have time for this dog.” It's sad but it happens every day. The very minute you read this, someone, somewhere is giving up their dog.
But Piper was among the lucky ones. She was not an impulse add-on to the household. If she came home with Anna, there would only ever be one life that she would know. And that has been the case, ever since. Piper has had one family, her entire life.
The security that having one home has offered Piper is clear in the way that she presents herself. Small, yes, but fierce. She too sits proud in her photos with confidence radiating from her. Like Oscar, she is intelligent and has a very impressive vocabulary: among her many talents, she especially loves being asked to “hold my hand” and “shake.” In some ways, Piper never stopped being a puppy. She is playful, energetic, and happy-go-lucky. She has only ever known a life of love and adventure, one filled with daily trips to the beach with her brother Oscar. Piper undeinably has the "it" life, the one that every dog rescue worker, volunteer, and foster has ever wanted for any and all of the dogs that come through their care.
(Part 3 continued below in #13)
Coffee Label Designed by Jaclyn L.
Oscar (Part 1/3)
His name was Shadow and he was exactly that: a shadow of the dog that he is now. Shadow sat in a shelter, watching the little bits and pieces of the world go on around him that he managed to make out through the long, unkempt locks of fur that draped over his eyes. He was both desperate and terrified of attention, trembling whenever someone would approach him, but hopeful that someone would swoop him up in their arms and carry him out the door and into a new life. It was clear that he had a complicated history but as the case with so many rescue dogs, it was one filled with many question marks and unknowns.
Shadow was the kind of dog that many adopters would look at once and keep moving on, not bothering to give a second glance. He was just another small, scared little dog, not a unique sight to anyone who has visited an animal shelter. But something about Shadow was special to Anna's family. They knew right away that behind the unkempt fur and trembles was a dog with great potential. They signed the paperwork the same day they met him.
It wasn't easy at first. Rescue dogs rarely come with clean slates. “Home” doesn't carry much meaning, at least in the beginning. Even with a new name, a new haircut, a predictable feeding schedule, a reliable bowl of water, and plenty of people offering affection, Shadow, who was now Oscar, would still lie on his back when a hand was extended out to him or cower towards the ground when his name was called. Though surrounded by all the love and security a dog could possibly ever need or want, it would simply take time. It would take time for Shadow to become Oscar and for Oscar to distance himself from the memories and associations that he had previously established in a life only known to him.
And like humans, dogs too change. They adapt; they learn; they heal; they become wiser and more intelligent; they gather life experiences as they go along and those experiences shape the versions of who they are today. And if you were to see a recent photo of Oscar, you wouldn't recognize that older version of him, at least not the one we described above. Oscar stands tall in his photos, his eyes alert, his stance grounded. He is confident. He is radiant. He is all the things that Anna's family knew he could be if only they patiently waited. “With patience and love, we redirected his chronic fear to irrepressible love,” says Anna. ”He has showed us something we would all do well to remember. There's always a bit of happiness hidden inside even the darkest of shadows.”
Oscar's story is part 1 of a three part series. Continue reading #12 (part two) and #13 (part three) below
Coffee Label Designed by Jaclyn L.