Pit bull terrier brightens a boy’s life.
January 9, 2015
By Kelli Harmon
To some people, Roxy might look intimidating. When the 50-pound, steely blue-gray pit bull terrier found herself homeless in a Los Angeles Animal Services shelter, she joined many, many other dogs who look a lot like her. But today she’s one in a million — a priceless companion to a boy who needed her just as much as she needed a home.
A good girl
Roxy was probably confused as to why she was dropped off at the shelter one day. It’s an understandably scary place for pets who have only known life in a home. Roxy knew things, too. She was house trained and knew how to sit and shake hands. If only someone would adopt her, she’d get to show off the skills someone had taken the time to teach her.
Best Friends staff spotted Roxy at the shelter and brought her to the Best Friends Pet Adoption and Spay/Neuter Center in Los Angeles. All pets at the center come from one of six Los Angeles city shelters, as part of Best Friends’ goal to make Los Angeles a no-kill city by 2017. Thousands of pets die in L.A. city shelters each year and the moment Roxy entered the shelter, she could have become a statistic. Instead, she settled into her new digs at the center to wait for someone to choose her.
Meant for each other
Just two days after Roxy arrived at the center, a staff person came to take her out of her run and brought her into a small room where Amanda Granados and her 13-year-old son, Joey, were waiting. Roxy walked right past Amanda and climbed up into Joey’s lap, nuzzling him as though the two were best friends who hadn’t seen one another for years. “She was all over him,” Amanda says. “Their connection was immediate.”
Both Amanda and the Best Friends adoption specialist couldn’t believe what they were seeing. Because Joey has Asperger’s syndrome, a form of autism, it’s difficult for him to accept or give back hugs and cuddles. But kids with Asperger’s can sometimes develop close relationships with pets. It’s one of the reasons Amanda thought about adopting a dog. When Joey reciprocated Roxy’s single-minded affection, it was clear that the two were meant for each other.
Roxy was the only dog Amanda needed to meet that day. She filled out the paperwork, and Roxy was on her way home.
A dog’s dream
In the weeks since she arrived at Joey and Amanda’s home, Roxy has been living a dog’s dream. She quickly learned the ropes, showing off her skills and learning a few new cues. She’s also changed at least one person’s perception of pit bull terriers. Amanda says, “In general, I thought pit bulls were mean dogs. The news is always showing bad stories about them, you know?”
But the main goal for Roxy is to stick by Joey’s side wherever he goes. She’s a lap dog, she snores when she sleeps, she’s polite when new people come over and she gets along with the family’s other dog (who Joey never really connected with). Every night when Joey goes to bed, Roxy climbs in next to him and curls up until morning. In short, there’s not a mean bone in her body. Amanda says, “She completely changed the way I think about pit bulls.”
And Roxy has changed Joey’s life, too. “He’s more loving. He’s not a very affectionate person, but he hugs her all the time and lets her kiss him. They’re always together,” Amanda says. “She’s opened up his heart.”
Photos by Lori Fusaro and Amanda Granados
Rescued dog, adopted from the Sanctuary, rescues his new person.
January 14, 2015
By Christelle L. Del Prete
Darby’s life started out rather bleak. He’d been in and out of shelters in Los Angeles, and then ended up getting hit by a car. The adorable little terrier mix with giant ears and a wiry coat needed specialty surgery and cage rest, so Best Friends–Los Angeles staff transferred him to the Sanctuary where he’d get expert care, and hopefully soon find his forever home. Little did anyone know that Darby would one day show he belongs in the same category as Lassie or Rin Tin Tin.
Once he arrived at the Sanctuary in Utah, the little survivor quickly got the surgery and medical attention he needed at the Best Friends Animal Clinic, and it didn’t take long for him to bounce back. After a few weeks of crate rest, he was up and about.
Although he still had a little “hitch in his giddyup,” as Dogtown caregiver Haven Diaz affectionately puts it, Darby’s mobility issues weren’t severe and didn’t get in the way of his enjoyment of life. During the month he spent recuperating at the Sanctuary, Darby was friendly with people and got a lot of one-on-one socialization time with his caregivers and Dogtown volunteers. He even strode happily out of his building to greet the visitor tours that stopped by each day.
“The way it was going to be”
Then, one day, it happened. Repeat volunteers Ray and Machelle Lyons were helping out at the Clubhouse, the area of Dogtown where Darby lived. Active world travelers and adventurers, Ray and Machelle had settled down to the point where they knew they could provide a great home for a dog. During that trip, they were on the lookout for a good match — so Haven introduced them to Darby.
As soon as Ray sat down in the kennel with the dog, “Darby walked straight over and adopted me,” says Ray. “We knew that was the way it was going to be.” But their love story doesn’t end there.
Rescued dog turns hero dog
About two months after Darby went home to Colorado, there was severe weather with lots of snow and ice. Ray was outside with Darby, when he slipped and fell. When Machelle returned home from work that evening, she says, “Ray seemed dazed and confused. He didn't know what had happened to the last several hours and was surprised to see it was dark outside. He had no recollection of the day except that he took Darby out for a walk, and he woke up later with Darby licking him on the face and nose.”
The fall had apparently caused a concussion, and Ray didn’t even remember how he got home. “If Darby had not woken him up, he could have frozen to death,” Machelle says. But Ray does remember one other thing from that day — how concerned and worried Darby was about him. “He sat by my side for hours, and every time I almost fell asleep, Darby would wake me up. He’s a real rescue dog, in every sense.”
Though Darby was a little shy and not particularly confident when he first went home, being a hero seems to have helped with that. “He has made himself part of the family,” Ray says. “He's a real treat and treasure — just a joy.” And Ray and Machelle are just as thankful to have Darby as he is to have them. After all, this is one dog who knows how to pay it forward.
Photos by Best Friends staff and courtesy of Ray and Machelle
Best Friends helps a sick puppy find a brighter future.
By Best Friends staff
With her giant German shepherd puppy ears, Kaya immediately wiggled her way into everyone’s hearts at the Redlands Animal Shelter in California. Found on the street emaciated and constantly vomiting, she was in trouble. Her rescuers quickly began working on a plan to get her the medical care she clearly needed.
Luckily, the city shelter is supported in multiple ways by the nonprofit group Redlands Friends of Shelter Animals, which found a veterinarian who determined Kaya couldn’t keep food down because of a condition called megaesophagus. A vessel near her heart was constricting her esophagus, making it impossible for her to swallow normally. Kaya’s particular type of megaesophagus is one of the few that’s potentially correctable through surgery. That was the good news. The bad news was that the cost for such a surgery is about $6,000, and expensive specialty surgery for puppies isn’t in the Redlands city budget. However, Redlands Friends of Shelter Animals knew where to turn for help.
Best Friends to the rescue
Since the Redlands group is a Best Friends Network partner, it is eligible for various types of assistance from Best Friends. The Best Friends No More Homeless Pets Network is a program that works with rescue organizations and municipal shelters across the country to end the killing of dogs and cats in our nation’s shelters. When network specialist Diane Young received the email about Kaya’s case, she set the wheels in motion to make it possible for her to have that costly surgery and the recuperative care that goes with it. Although Kaya already had a foster home, when she was ready, she’d need a special type of forever home.
In short order, Kaya’s once-bleak outlook turned around. Volunteers committed to fostering her until she was ready to go home. Coastal German Shepherd Rescue (also a Best Friends network partner) stepped up and agreed to take Kaya into their organization and eventually find her a home. In addition, Kaya’s other immediate need also was taken care of. She could have the surgery done by the highly skilled clinic staff at Best Friends Animal Sanctuary in southern Utah.
Within a month of rescue, Kaya was on her way to receiving lifesaving medical treatment. Best Friends veterinarians performed the surgery and Kaya came through like a champ. The medical director at the Sanctuary, Dr. Mike Dix, says: “The prognosis for a return to normal function is fair, but the prognosis for a good manageable level of function is great, as Kaya’s been doing very well since surgery.”
She’ll likely need to eat in an upright position for the rest of her life, but aside from that, she has a great chance of being a normal, healthy dog. “Kaya is a sweet dog and I am glad we could help her out,” says Dr. Mike. “I hope she continues to do well and thrive as time goes on.”
A soaring spirit
Of course, Kaya doesn’t know there’s anything wrong with her. She knows that she’s “special,” but not “special needs.” “Kaya has a huge personality. She’s very affectionate and acts just like a typical German shepherd — smart and outgoing,” says Stacey Turnpaugh, the person who’s fostering her.
The key to Kaya’s future wasn’t just one person or one organization. It was everyone pitching in. She’s proof that when people work together, even the most challenging situations can have a happy ending.
Former puppy mill dog wins hearts, educates folks on pet store cruelty.
June 20, 2014
By Denise LeBeau
When Lindsay Reeves, self-proclaimed cat person, visited Best Friends Animal Society in Kanab, for the first time, she was amazed. As a longtime animal advocate, the Sanctuary was hallowed ground for special needs animals.
During her second trip to the Sanctuary, she asked about volunteering with puppy mill survivors. The puppy mill issue was heating up in her home area, Los Angeles County, and she wanted to help victims who had been through so much.
Fate must have intervened that day because it just happened that some newly-arrived dogs needed socialization, a canine group recently been rescued from Midwest puppy mills. One particularly timid Yorkie quietly captured Lindsay’s attention and for her sparked a new passion – educating folks on the connection between puppy mills and pet stores.
When Lindsay met Eliza
Thrilled to help socialize the dogs, Lindsay was drawn to the shyest of the group, a little Yorkie named Eliza Doolittle.
“After a week of spending an hour a day with the dogs, for some reason Eliza still was not interested in attention,” says Lindsay, who had to leave the Sanctuary knowing she would be back to see how the tiny dog had progressed.
On her return six weeks later, Lindsay found Eliza had become a different dog. “She was eating out of a bowl and sitting on her caregiver’s lap. It was wonderful to see her improve,” says Lindsay, who took the little canine for a sleepover. While Eliza still was very reserved, Lindsay was already hooked. At the end of the visit, she filled out an adoption application.
Once settled back with Eliza in Southern California, Lindsay knew she wanted to help all the other Elizas still stuck in puppy mills. During a peaceful pet store demonstration outside of now-closed Pets of Bel Air in Los Angeles, Lindsay met Elizabeth Oreck, national manager for the Best Friends puppy mill initiatives.
“Lindsay is the perfect animal advocate, always professional, calm and well-educated on the issues. And since Eliza is always with her, she’s the perfect one to gently open the dialogue about the horrors of puppy mills,” says Elizabeth.
Lindsay and Eliza have since become volunteer cornerstones for peaceful pet store demonstrations and are able to make compelling statements during city council meetings dealing with the pet store (and puppy mill) issues.
“Lindsay is also such a positive presence at so many of our events beyond the puppy mill initiatives,” adds Elizabeth. “She and Eliza volunteer for pretty much every Best Friends event, from NKLA Adoption Weekends to the Strut Your Mutt. They wholeheartedly support the Best Friends mission.”
Putting a face to the issue
Beyond being incredibly adorable, Eliza Doolittle, has an endearing and interesting face that definitely ups the cuteness ante, her tongue constantly sticking out of her mouth.
“People are always asking about Eliza,” says Lindsay. “When they learn that her tongue hangs out because of so many years of puppy mill neglect (her teeth were so bad they all had to be pulled), it shocks people and forces them to face the realities of puppy mills.”
As Lindsay and Eliza Doolittle celebrate five glorious years together, the two are inseparable. Lindsay marvels at how far her best friend has come.
“With a lot of patience and understanding, Eliza now loves people, other animals and, of course, is an advocate for pet adoption.”
Photo courtesy of Lindsay Reeves
Feisty Chihuahuas get help at the Sanctuary.
March 3, 2014
By Christelle L. Del Prete
Anyone who loves little dogs can tell you that big personalities often come in small packages. Paco and Lil Brave, two feisty Chihuahuas, came from a shelter in Los Angeles to the Sanctuary because they had some behavioral challenges that needed extra attention. So, when they arrived this past October, they were promptly enrolled in what caregiver Tom Williams calls “remedial Chihuahua school” at the Clubhouse (one of the areas in Dogtown).
On the road to purple
Although tiny and irresistibly cute, when they arrived at the Sanctuary, both dogs were assigned red collars. In the three-tiered collar color system at Best Friends, green means a dog is safe for anyone to handle, purple means a dog can interact and go on walks and outings with volunteers over 18, and a red collar means a dog can only be handled by staff members to ensure everyone stays safe and no dogs are put in situations too difficult for them. Dogtown caregivers and trainers work with red and purple collar dogs with the goal of getting them to the next level. If Paco and Lil Brave could graduate to purple collars, they’d have more social opportunities, like outings and trail walks with new people. And their new skills would help them find homes, too.
Both Chihuahuas needed some help on the road to purple collar status. Because they were suspicious of people, neither of them wanted to be handled. And Lil Brave displayed some guarding behaviors, which could make it difficult for him to find a home. He’d guard people he knew, his bed, and even his friend Paco – snarling if anyone got too close. He was just trying to protect the things he loved, but, in spite of his underlying fear, Lil Brave was showing a little too much bravado to make new human friends.
Becoming more adoptable
To help both dogs relax and not feel like it was them against the world, Tom and fellow caregiver Harlee Day spent one-on-one time with them. They began by sitting quietly on the floor and hand-feeding them – a common practice with unsocialized dogs in Dogtown. Once the dogs grew comfortable with hand-feeding, caregivers started gently touching their sides, then their ears and paws. Gradually, Paco became accustomed to Tom handling him, and Harlee can sometimes bend down to scoop up Lil Brave.
Though they are both still “little pistols,” Harlee says they’ve made a lot of progress in a short time. Paco has relaxed enough around people that he’s now wearing a purple collar. He can stretch his little legs on the Dogtown trails with some volunteers, and he’s been hanging out in the accounting office once a week, enjoying leisurely days as a Best Friends office dog. Lil Brave is also coming along. He’s still working on earning his purple, but he’s relaxed his guarding behaviors a bit, and is beginning to warm up. “They’re both really sweet little lap dogs once they get to know you,” Harlee says.
Calmer and more confident
As young dogs, they also love to play and run “free.” One warm Saturday in late February, Paco and Lil Brave enjoyed a romp at the Best Friends dog park, soaking up the desert sun. Paco ran around with another dog, while Lil Brave watched the birds fluttering around. “Living in this environment has helped them calm down a bit and become more confident,” Tom says. And the calmer and more confident they become, the bigger the world will get for these two little dogs.
Learn more about Paco, Lil Brave, and other adoptable dogs at the Sanctuary.
Photos by Molly Wald
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