Animal rescue is something very near and dear to my heart, and dog rescue is something that I’ve been lucky enough to actively participate in. It’s gut wrenching, heartbreaking, stressful, tragic, inspiring, and extremely rewarding. It’s taught me that every life counts and every life is worth saving and fighting for.
I want to tell you a story about a very special dog named Pretty Girl. She’s taught me a lot and I’m very proud of her. If you look closely at the photo above, you’ll notice that Pretty Girl is missing one of her front legs. This by no means defines her, it merely makes her extra cute & unique.
If you’ve ever rescued, adopted, or loved a dog, maybe you can relate to this post and the struggles I went through for this girl. Regardless, I think everyone can relate to fighting for something they believe in and for someone they love. This “someone” just happens to have a shiny fur coat and a wet nose.
Death Row & Stormy Weather
I was working for a no-kill animal shelter in Austin, Texas in March 2013. I already had 3 dogs and a cat at home from prior rescue situations. One late afternoon I was scrolling through my Facebook feed when I came upon a photo of the saddest looking dog. What drew me to her was the fact that her front leg lay limp and twisted as she gazed into the camera with a pleading look. Below that was information stating this dog was to be euthanized at a San Antonio shelter at 5 pm. I looked at my clock. That was in 30 minutes. I felt I had to do something, so I very quickly emailed the shelter and told them I might be interested in fostering if I was able to pick her up the next day. They said yes, very enthusiastically. I filled out the foster application and hit submit at exactly 5 pm. This dog was safe. I just made the difference between her life and death. But what was I getting myself into?
The next day, April 1, I got into my car to make the hour long drive into San Antonio. The weather was terrible but I wasn’t about to delay this dog’s freedom. It began pouring, thundering, & lightning on the highway and I was forced to drive about 15 mph. I couldn’t see anything and it was difficult to find this shelter I had never been to before. But lo and behold, as I pulled into the parking lot, the skies cleared and the storm was over.
I told them I was there for “Pretty Girl,” the name that the shelter had given her upon intake, and waited while an employee went to get her. I stood outside and I still remember the first second I saw her. The employee came around the corner carrying Pretty Girl, who was nearly as big as she was, and this dog had a huge smile on her face and her tail was wagging. She greeted me and I proceeded to be smitten with her while she hopped around with her three good legs and got her vaccines from the vet.
Freedom Ride & Surprises
I loaded Pretty Girl, who was guessed to be around 3 years old and a Staffordshire Terrier mix, into my car and we both drove home with smiles on our faces. She sat right in the passenger seat next to me. I stopped over at a BBQ place off the highway (this was before I was vegan) and got brisket for Pretty Girl to snack on. By the time I got her home I was completely in love.
When I went in to have her spayed, it was confirmed that she had been pregnant. The vet at the San Antonio shelter thought it was a possibility and I had the sinking feeling she was correct because of Pretty Girl’s rather rotund belly. I was so torn about what to do: spay her asap to prevent the litter, or let her have her puppies then spay her? I wanted so badly to let those puppies come into the world, but whenever I asked animal professionals for their opinion, they made the point that there’s already too many homeless dogs out there that the world doesn’t have the resources to support.
It was a really sad decision for me, but I decided to go ahead and spay her. I didn’t think it was the right decision, but I felt it was the best decision I could make at that time. If I had the money and time to take care of those puppies around the clock and find them the most loving homes, I would’ve done it in a heartbeat. But I knew that wasn’t realistic. Part of me still regrets it to this day and I sometimes wonder what those little babies would have looked like.
3 Legged Lover
As if that wasn’t stressful enough, Pretty Girl’s limp leg seemed to be bothering her more and more. She began chewing on it until it got raw and red, and she would put her paw in her mouth and carry it around when she walked. I was worried one day she’d gnaw it to the point of bleeding or infection. I posted her surgery campaign online and waited anxiously for the amount to be met.
I remember waking up super early to drive her to the clinic in San Antonio that was doing her amputation. Pretty Girl had no idea what was in store for her and I was really concerned for her. I gave her kisses and said goodbye, wiping away tears as I got back in the car for the long drive home. I was so worried, you can only imagine the relief I felt when the clinic called me to say everything had gone fine and Pretty Girl was okay.
I couldn’t wait to pick her up. She was her old sweet self when I saw her, just minus one leg. No big deal.
Pretty Girl was on pain meds and luckily she seemed to be healing up nicely. But goodness, I was not expecting the craziness that soon came my way…
Jealous Cat Fights
My dog Josie is very much an alpha dog. She’s always got to be in charge of what’s going on. She used to get along really well with other dogs. I would take her to the dog park and she would have a ball, and then I noticed that it was becoming more common for her to get into tiffs with the other dogs there, and even if she didn’t start it, I’d have to leave the park because Josie looks like a pit bull and well, people would give us judgmental looks…
Josie and Pretty Girl were by no means besties, but they seemed to be getting along well and I have some adorable photos of them sleeping next to each other. But that all changed one day when I was sitting at my desk with my boyfriend at the time and I noticed the air got really tense all of a sudden. Josie was giving me a weird vibe. She was sitting under the desk and Pretty Girl was laying next to me. In a split second, Josie lunged at Pretty Girl and they began full on fighting. Neither me or my boyfriend could break it up. Josie had a tight grip on Pretty Girl’s neck and Pretty Girl was biting Josie wherever she could in self-defense. Pretty Girl’s amputation incision was still healing and I was worried it would open up. I was screaming like crazy, and when blood starting flying everywhere (literally), I was in hysterics. I was terrified that this could be a match to the death.
My boyfriend finally was able to pry Josie’s grip from Pretty Girl using a towel, and for the millisecond she let go, I grabbed her and picked her up so we could get Pretty Girl to safety. Her incision miraculously looked okay and she escaped with only some minor cuts and scrapes. Josie, however, had several puncture wounds on her body. I had some scratches, and my boyfriend had a pretty deep puncture wound on his hand. We were all thoroughly shaken. My office looked a mass murder scene with all the blood that was covering the carpet.
Looking back, I was naive in thinking that this was a fluke. I kept Josie and Pretty Girl separated for a couple of days and when I let them back together, they seemed fine. But these fights became more and more common and it wasn’t until a handful of these terrible incidents occurred that I finally realized that these two dogs couldn’t be near each other. Ever. I had to break up a similar fight all by myself and even though it lasted under a minute, I was seriously injured. In the chaos, Pretty Girl had bitten a small chunk out of my left knee and made 3 punctures on my right thigh.
Despite this, Pretty Girl wasn’t going anywhere. It merely meant I had to change my habits to suit her and Josie. I got baby gates that I put up around the house and I made sure they were always separated, but each got plenty of attention and quality time with me.
Things calmed down after this, but I was forever on alert making sure Pretty Girl and Josie didn’t go near each other. Once her wound had healed completely, I was able to start taking Pretty Girl on walks and she LOVED it! This picture was taken after her first walk.
Not to mention, her silly faces and huge smiles cracked me up.
I had to battle storms to get her, put her through an intense spay surgery, losing her puppies, amputating her leg, enduring bloody fights with Josie, potty training, and her um, destructive tendencies while I was at work…
I would go through everything all over again, and not a day has gone by that I don’t thank my lucky stars that she came into my life and blessed me with her unconditional love & strength. I have no idea what she endured in her life before I met her. She was found as a stray in San Antonio, and was probably hit by a car, with the resulting leg injury. She has so much love to give, as does every animal in this world, and she deserves to give it.
As if I couldn’t get any luckier, my friend decided it was time to bring a dog into his life and after spending some time with Pretty Girl, he decided she was the gal for him and made it official by adopting her. Pretty Girl is now living the high life in her Austin townhouse, with 2 cat brothers and 1 bunny brother. She gets to go on lots of walks and is spoiled with treats and toys.
As I sit here writing this post, Pretty Girl is sleeping next to me and I feel so lucky to know her. Rescuing a dog usually isn’t easy, but it’s always worth it. It’s a good feeling to know you’ve made a difference in the world and saved a life. When you rescue a dog, sometimes you are the only kind person they’ve ever known. I highly recommend volunteering at shelters, visiting animal sanctuaries, and supporting rescue groups.
Pretty Girl is just one case. Every animal has their story, and each story matters.
P.S. Follow Pretty Girl on Facebook. She just got her own page!