Archive for the ‘Rescue Stories’ Category

Rescue Story #6 – Baron   12 comments

The lovely story of Baron, a Weimaraner, from Maggie Miller.


You should know: I didn’t rescue Baron so much as he rescued me.

I’d wanted a Weimaraner for years. Initially taken with their eerie beauty, my attraction developed into full-blown obsession. I read about the breed, talked with breeders, and consulted the national Weimaraner rescue organization. Over and over, I read and was told the same thing: the breed wasn’t a good match for me, a twenty-something apartment-dwelling corporate PR flack. They need lots of training, attention, exercise and space, I was told. They’re beautiful, but they’re not for you.

While I accepted that acquiring a puppy from a breeder and trying to raise it on nights and weekends wasn’t any good for anyone – and that no responsible breeder would place a puppy with me – I was resolved to have a Weimaraner in my life somehow, some way.

Enter Friends For Pets, the local Weimaraner rescue. They needed volunteers to handle dogs at weekend adoption showcases, and Big Sisters and Brothers to take dogs for occasional outings and weekends. Sold!

When I began handling dogs at the adoption showcases, I didn’t know how to hold a leash properly, let alone manage big dogs that were bewildered and wounded by the circumstances that brought them to the rescue, and rowdy from being cooped up in kennels all week. But I quickly found my footing, and as my relationship with the dogs and the rescue grew, I was approved to be a Big Sister and take dogs home on weekends.

Diane, Friends For Pets’ compassionate founder and director, has an innate skill for matching the dogs she rescues with volunteers, foster families and forever homes. She knew I was licking wounds of my own – the recent death of my father and the slow, creaking end to a five-year relationship with my then boyfriend – and that the right dog could heal me as much as I could heal it.

I was lonely and isolated. I’d moved to Los Angeles from San Francisco mostly for a job and partly to be with the one person I knew in all of Southern California: my soon to be ex-boyfriend. I lived in a tiny but cute apartment where my neighbors rarely made eye contact, let alone said hello. I drove an hour each way to and from a stressful corporate job where I was 15 to 20 years younger than my colleagues.

Baron, an adult male Weimaraner of unknown age and little-known origin, was so depressed when he came to Friends For Pets, he was at risk of starving to death. He’d come to the rescue via a Riverside County animal shelter, where he’d been left in the middle of the night. At 90 pounds, Baron was passed over by families looking for younger, smaller dogs. On the day he was to be euthanized, a shelter worker alerted Diane, who drove out to Riverside and bought him out of the shelter. Back at Friends For Pets, bereft at the sudden and inexplicable loss of everything he had ever known, Baron curled up in the corner of his crate, cried incessantly, and refused to eat.

A phone call from Diane changed both of our lives for the better. “Maggie, I have a very sad male Weim who needs you. He’s beautiful and heartbroken and has obviously been a house dog. Can you take him this weekend?”

I began picking up Baron from the Friends For Pets kennels after work on Fridays and returning him on Sunday evenings. In our 48 hours together, we’d lie on the floor and watch movies, snuggle in my bed, and walk around my neighborhood. He was terrified by the sounds of traffic, cars backfiring and the people coming and going in my apartment building. His paws, unaccustomed to walking on concrete sidewalks, would blister and bleed if we walked more than a few blocks.

Weekend by weekend, Baron’s paws developed calluses, he regained a healthy appetite, and he became confident and interested in the world around him. And as he took up residence in my heart, Baron formed a supple callus where it had been broken. I became his person, and knew he couldn’t ever go back to the kennels. So he didn’t. It took six months, but I moved us to a little house with a fenced yard in a beach community where I made friends and talked to my neighbors and ran races. I got a job with less stress and more flexibility. And I let go of my dying relationship with the boyfriend.

By then Baron had ceased to be afraid of most things, but he was still spooked by the sound of waves crashing at the beach. Determined that Baron should know the joy of running on sand and feeling the foam wash up between his paws, I took him to a cove in Malibu where dogs were allowed off leash. A long path led down to the beach, and I spent two days getting him down it, tugging at his collar, cooing reassurances, and coaxing him with treats when he cowered at a crashing wave. Finally, just before sunset on the second day, I got him onto the sand. I removed his leash and let go of his collar. He took off across the beach, bucking and kicking his back legs like a horse and running a series of goofy figure eights before flinging himself into the frothy water. I was awestruck at the sight of such pure and utter joy in an animal in which so much pain and fear had once lived. Baron and I played together well past dark, and I thought, this is what people mean when they talk about being made whole again. This is what it feels like to let go and just…be.

Three and a half years later, I had to let go of Baron forever.

Unbeknownst to anyone, he’d had a brain stem tumor. Extremely slow growing, the tumors are silent until they reach the size at which they press on the spinal cord and interrupt the flow of fluid. One morning Baron became disoriented and stumbled, and by the end of the day he was unable to eat, drink or walk. The next few days were a blur of hospital stays, neurological consults, an MRI and a spinal tap. The conclusion: the tumor was inoperable, and Baron had no chance of making a meaningful recovery. Moreover, he was in agony — hungry, scared, immobile.

Hefty doses of steroids and painkillers bought us another 24 hours together, enough time to say goodbye and arrange for his usual vet, Dr. L, to come in on her day off to euthanize him. I brought him home from the hospital for one last night, where he slept with me in bed under the covers. On the way to the vet the next day we stopped at our favorite walking trail, where I helped Baron onto a sun speckled patch of flowers. We lay there for a good hour, him smiling ear to ear and me memorizing the image in my mind and the feeling in my heart.

And then we went to see Dr. L, and I held Baron in my arms and buried my tear-streaked face in his soft fur and thanked him for rescuing me while Dr. L administered the drugs that allowed him to peacefully slip away.

In the years since Baron’s passing, I’ve continued to foster and adopt Weimaraners, mostly the “senior” dogs who get left behind. Every time I walk them past the spot on the trail where I took Baron that last day, I call up the memory of him lying in the flowers with that goofy smile on his face, and I silently thank him for giving me this new life of mine.

People often ask me how I can bear to foster and adopt older dogs, knowing I’ll have to say goodbye. My answer is always the same: what they add to my heart is far greater than what I leave with them when they go.
-Maggie Miller

Posted November 20, 2010 by julieklam in Rescue Stories

Rescue Story #5 – Decibel   7 comments

I feel very lucky that Michelle shared this story with me.

The Little Puppy That Could

You probably have to be a dog person to understand how this could happen. One minute my husband and I were talking about getting a companion for Piglet, our five-year-old Golden Retriever, and the next we were in a shelter staring at the saddest little ball of pathos a cage has ever held. Her nose was running, her coat was filthy, and her eyes were wet, desperate and pleading. At the same time, her tail was thumping like a jackhammer. She was one sick puppy, but there was something indomitable about her. At times like this, rational people leave. We, however, formed an instant rescue committee. We paid our “donation” and took the little mess straight to Dr. K, the veterinarian who’d looked after my dogs since I was in high school.

Dr. K listened to the puppy’s lungs for a moment, removed his stethoscope and said she had one of the worst cases of distemper he’d ever seen. He didn’t know if he could save her, but he could try. It was up to us. But the decision had already been made. That panicked look on her face, that thumping tail. The puppy had picked us. We were her Obi-Wan Kenobi, her only hope. We had to try.

After almost a week with Dr. K she came home with piles of antibiotics. Several times a day we had to run the shower until the bathroom filled with steam and sit with her for ten or fifteen minutes while she wheezed. She was too sick to be vaccinated, so she had to stay indoors. The unintended consequence was, whenever we took Piglet for a walk, the puppy went into a frenzy. After a few days she started to whine and howl every time we left the house, with or without Piglet. She was so loud, the new neighbor across the hall reported us to the ASPCA for animal abuse. That’s when we figured out her name: Decibel, dB for short.

As Decibel’s health improved, boredom turned her into a one-dog wrecking crew. In a single day she chewed almost completely through the legs of a table that had belonged to my grandmother. We bought a puppy gate, but she climbed over it. We bought a second gate and stacked them. Did I mention we have high ceilings? The next day I came home to find she had scaled the two gates and eaten the couch. It was an 82-inch, Tuxedo-style sofa with lots of pillows and cushions, and she had chewed through all of them. The living room was knee-deep in mounds of white pillow stuffing. It was a little like that Rolling Stones video for “It’s Only Rock ‘n’ Roll” where the boys are in sailor suits and at the end they’re nearly swallowed up by bubbles. Except it wasn’t bubbles, it was my couch. I bought a third gate. She climbed that, too, but she couldn’t get over it. It was too close to the top of the doorframe.

When Decibel finally was healthy enough to go outside, no one would ever have guessed she’d been sick. She ran and jumped and caught balls in the air like an all-star outfielder. She was also my little early warning system. Every once in a while the hair on her neck and shoulders would stand straight up and she’d start to bark. Sure enough, I’d see some dodgy character. Unfortunately, Decibel was a disaster in the dog run. Her muttly mix was full of Border Collie and the herding force was strong. She chased the other dogs around in circles, barking and nipping at their heels until they cowered together in a corner.

Gradually she grew up, calmed down, and became the dog that sits on your feet because sitting near your feet wouldn’t be close enough. The dog that looks guilty whether or not she did it. The dog that sidles up with a toy in her mouth and a look in her eyes that says “playtime” at 5 o’clock in the morning. The dog that makes you laugh really hard. Decibel was a great, crazy dog.

And then she was nine. Piglet, now 14, was developing the kidney problems that tell you an old dog’s time is getting short. It was winter when we took her to Dr. K and finally let her go. When spring came and the ground thawed and filled the air with aromas that make a dog’s heart sing, Decibel seemed to smell Piglet everywhere. She ran through the park wagging her tail, sniffing the ground and searching expectantly for her lost friend.

That summer, for the first time in her life, Decibel wasn’t interested in running. Her feet seemed a little swollen — not all the time, but sometimes. Her appetite wasn’t great either. Then, out of nowhere, she collapsed. We rushed her to the nearest emergency hospital, the Animal Medical Center. She spent two days there hooked to an IV while they tested her for everything from Lyme disease to exotic parasites. Every test was negative. Probably a virus, they thought. When she collapsed a few weeks later, we raced back. Another day on an IV, more tests, and still no diagnosis.

In September she started to go downhill again, and I took her to Dr. K. By the time we got to his clinic on Long Island, he had already reviewed her test records and figured out what was wrong: Decibel had Lupus. Lupus? He said there was reason to be hopeful. Canine Lupus can often be managed with steroids. It would all depend on how far the disease had progressed.

If this were a fairy tale we would all have lived happily ever after. But that’s not what happened. With daily doses of steroid pills, Decibel ran, jumped and bounced around like a puppy for 14 days. And then, on our morning walk, she collapsed. I carried her home and sat down on the floor. She lay across my lap struggling to breathe. I hugged her and told her it was okay to let go. The little puppy that could simply couldn’t anymore. Just like that, she died in my arms.

Reading this, you might wonder if it was worth it. If all the worry and ruined furniture and veterinary bills were worth the nine short years we had with Decibel. The answer is yes. It was a bargain.

— Michele Hush

Posted November 14, 2010 by julieklam in Rescue Stories

Rescue Story #4 – Olive   4 comments

Here is the sweet and astonishingly photogenic Olive, loyal companion to Bridget Pilloud.

Olive was found on January 4th 2009 by the Los Angeles County Animal Control. She had a broken pelvis and a big gash on her face that went down to the bone. They thought that she had been hit by a car. In Los Angeles, no dog that can be made well is euthanized. They make dogs well and then, because of a lack of space, they euthanize them.  It’s weird.

Anyway, Olive spent 2 months in the Los Angeles County Harbor Hospital. And then she was released to the shelter where they put her on a list to be euthanized in 6 days.

Nicky LeGore is the volunteer coordinator there and she decided that Olive needed a home. So she did everything she could think of to get Olive out. She emailed everybody she knew. Through twitter, and 5 degrees of separation, I found out about Olive.  I work as a pet psychic, and I’m on twitter a lot, so I thought I’d just call down and see if I could talk with Olive and find her a home. I was NOT LOOKING FOR A DOG.

Nicky said, “Would you consider being her foster home?”

And I said, “Listen, I live up in Portland. Surely someone in LA will want to foster this dog.  But if you need a last-ditch place, let me know.”

That Thursday, she called me and said, “We’re driving her up to you.”  Nicky and her husband put Olive in their car and drove her to my house in Portland. That’s 967 miles away. They used their own money to get her to me. They wouldn’t take a dime from me.

I didn’t want another dog. My sweetheart really didn’t want another dog. We had two already. We were fine.

Olive made the case that she was indeed our dog.  She was perfectly house-trained except when we took her to potential new homes and then she’d find the expensive rug to take a dump upon.  “See,” she’d say, “I can’t be trusted.”  She did this in seven potential homes!

To us, she was an expert at marketing herself. She is very good at catching tennis balls and snuggling and being cute. When she shakes hands, she looks like Winston Churchill. She likes cats and teenage boys.  So, it only took about 2 months for her to wear us down.

We love our Olive.  She’s awesome.

Posted October 16, 2010 by julieklam in Rescue Stories

Rescue Story #3 – Sydney   2 comments

This little sweetface comes our way via Erica Callahan. I, personally, see many good kissing spots.

Our girl Sydney is a happy, healthy 4 year old hound. But, when we got her, she was 9 months old and severely malnourished. She was found walking the streets of Newark and brought to a local shelter. She was nameless, with a broken tail and all skin and bones–she looked exactly like Santa’s Little Helper. As soon as we saw her big velvety ears and dopey brown eyes we knew we had to take her home. She is the sweetest, happiest, most lovable pup and she completely changed our lives.

Posted October 9, 2010 by julieklam in Rescue Stories

Rescue Story # 2 – Maisie   3 comments

Thanks to Vick Mickunas for this wonderful story!

About 5 years ago we were pulling out of our driveway to go to Sunday
brunch. We live on a country road in rural Ohio. We were astonished to see
a black lab appear just to the right of our driveway alongside the road.
She was soaking wet. There's a creek nearby.

We took her into our home. We advertised in the local newspapers to see if
we could return her to her family. There was no response. It became
apparent that someone had just dumped this sweet girl along our lane.

We took her to the vet. She had a lot of health issues and she was old. We
named her Maisie. We have taken care of her ever since. She is the
sweetest dog. She has the most soulful eyes. She has some trouble climbing
the stairs but we help her out when she needs it.

Maisie still likes going for a swim (see photo) and her appetite remains
consistent with her breed; she lives for her meals and her treats.

We assume that whoever discarded her had used her as a hunting dog. She
gets really excited about gunfire in the distance.  She
derives tremendous pleasure from her sense of smell. And she has a soft
mouth. I have recovered unharmed field mice from inside her mouth. They
scampered away without any clue as to how lucky they were to have been
unearthed by our wonderful, gentle Maisie.

We rescued her that day that she crossed our path.

We love this old girl so much.

Posted October 2, 2010 by julieklam in Rescue Stories

Rescue Story #1 – Puma   6 comments


This is the first rescue story I’m posting. It’s from Erica Mueller and I cried ten times. Thank you, Erica.

This is my late greyhound, Puma.  When you have greyhounds, strangers always ask if you rescued them. I explain that virtually all pet greyhounds come from dog tracks because although there are AKC-registered greyhounds, they are few and far between, while many thousands of greyhounds are excessed by the racing industry every year.  In fact, I didn’t rescue any of the 7 former racers I have adopted in the last 15 years.  They were already safe in adoption kennels.  I did save 7 greyhounds, but I’ll never know their names.  When I adopted my dogs, it created kennel space so those unknown 7 could reach safe havens, no longer at risk for the needle, bullet, or crowbar because they were injured, or just not fast enough.

I used to refer to Puma as my “dumb blonde”.  He was dainty and gorgeous, but not the quickest, intellect-wise.  He was faster than his “greymate” Dutch, who did have a racing career, but Puma never raced because although he liked to run, he wouldn’t follow the lure. He’d been in a pet home before, but hid in a closet because the husband was abusive to his family. When the wife managed to leave, she was unable to take Puma with her and returned him, at age 3,  to the adoption kennel.
Fast forward to 6 yrs ago, Puma was 12 yrs old, which is about 80-ish in greyhound years. Dutch, his security blanket, had terminal cancer.  Knowing how Puma relied on Dutch for reassurance that he was safe, I adopted a third greyhound, 5yr old Rorschach, as soon as I knew Dutch was on borrowed time, so that Puma would not be “alone” once his best friend died.  The hound trio got along well, and Puma did not appear to grieve for Dutch, but he wasn’t deeply bonded to Rorschach. Meanwhile, I was diagnosed with cancer, and had major surgery.  Before the operation, a dog door was installed because I knew it might be hard to cater to the dog’s toilet needs. There were complications, leading to a prolonged recuperation.  In January 2005, about 6 weeks after the operation, we had a sunny, 60-degree day that melted much of the heavy accumulation of snow.  I’d been able to keep the stairs leading down to the fenced backyard shoveled, though I wasn’t supposed to exert myself like that.  In the middle of the night, Puma scratched at the bedroom door. Before the dog door, he’d only wake me at night if he was going to have diarrhea. Once the dog door was in, he didn’t need to.  I told him to go back to sleep but he persisted.  I thought he’d either forgotten he could get out on his own, or that the snowshovel on the porch had fallen over and blocked the door. Following Puma, I hobbled weakly to the porch door and turned on the light – at which point he bolted back onto the living room sofa, his favorite bed.  It was then that I saw Rorschach at the bottom of the stairs.  After the warm weather, the stairs were like glass, the sheet of ice-melt having re-frozen.  Rorschach had gone down to the yard, but was unable to get back up.  He was standing nearly chest-deep in snow, hypothermic and, as always, too polite to bark.  I spread paw-safe ice melt onto the 8 stairs, carefully descending them, and had to lift Rorschach onto the stairs, one leg at a time, half-dragging him by the collar.  He was too cold to help much.  Had Puma not come to his aid, he would very likely have died by morning.
Prior to this stunning display of canine altruism, I never doubted the many stories of hero dogs, but I certainly never thought that one of my own pets was capable of  such valor.  Certainly not timid, scatterbrained, elderly Puma!  Maybe his disinterest in chasing a lure was not so dumb, after all…

Posted September 25, 2010 by julieklam in Rescue Stories

Tagged with

Rescue Stories Wanted   3 comments

One of the loveliest parts of writing YOU HAD ME AT WOOF has been hearing from all the wonderful rescue people

Starting immediately I am inviting YOU to submit stories and photos of your rescued dogs. Each week a team of four legged judges will be selecting a story which will be displayed on the blog (clap, clap, clap).

We’re starting with dogs, but we will add other animals later.

Your submissions can be sent to with RESCUE STORY in the subject line.

I’m really looking forward to reading your stories! xox

Posted September 19, 2010 by julieklam in Rescue Stories