I have been meaning to write this post for a while, but hadn’t found the time. However, I knew I wanted to write the story out so as not to forget some of the little details that really make this story what it is.
On February 21st around 1pm I got a text from a couple of friends of mine asking me to come over as soon as I could, that it was an emergency. I asked them what was wrong and whether or not someone was hurt and I was sent the following photo:
If you’ve ever seen the show “Pit Bulls and Parolees” you’ll know what I mean by this reference; I felt like Tia Torres for a moment. Time was of the essence, this poor dog had clearly been neglected to the point where we weren’t sure if she was going to make it or not. I pretty much dropped everything that I was doing and drove over as quickly as I could. I am a dog lover by nature, and seeing this photo still breaks my heart. How could someone do this? Or how could someone see her and not have done something sooner?
I got the full story when I arrived. My friend said he was visiting some friends in Toledo, Ohio (roughly a half hour from where we live) when the topic of dogs came up. His friends told him that a dog had wandered onto their back porch roughly a week before, but they didn’t have enough money to care for her and that she was in bad shape. They were holding on to her with the idea that she was at least better off there then on the streets where she could be killed. Now, my friend is currently employed by PetSmart and though he had never owned a dog himself, he knew quite a bit about them. So they showed him the dog and he immediately asked that they write the dog over to him. They told him that they didn’t have any official paperwork as it wasn’t actually their dog, but they wrote a note saying they were giving the dog to him (for legality reasons, we didn’t want to get the dog healthy and then be legally responsible to return her to where she got this bad in the first place). He brought her home, but he and his roommate had never owned dogs before so they weren’t entirely sure what to do, which is where I come in. My family has rescued two dogs before, one was a stray that wandered into our garage and the other we got from the Humane Society where he had a week left on the “kill list” (basically the list of dogs that do not get adopted and therefore get put down). I took a few photos myself of her to post online to see what advice I could get on getting this dog back to full health.
Her name is Chula, which was given to her before we rescued her. I later looked it up to find out that it is a Spanish word meaning “pretty or sexy girl.” We discussed changing the name at one point, but after finding out the meaning decided that “pretty girl” was appropriate. My friends had tried to take her to the Wood County Humane Society, which is the only no-kill shelter in the immediate area, but they were full and unable to take her in. However, the wonderful people there told us that they would supply us with food, supplements, and a lead leash so long as we took her in (which we gladly did, especially knowing we could now afford to). We immediately made plans to take her to the vet. Thankfully, my friend working at PetSmart gave us an advantage as we could get her supplies at a discounted price, but we also were able to find out that the first vet visit there was free (which was great seeing as we are all rather poor). We took her into the vet, fearing the worst. As she walked through the store we got a mix of different expressions: Some full of pity, others full of anger as though we were the ones to put her in this state. However, most of the reception was positive and there were more than a few kind people who offered us money to help pay for supplies and genuine support for what we were doing.
Chula weighed in at roughly 30 lbs, extremely underweight for a dog her size, and less than a year old (8 months to a year and a half was the time frame we were given as far as speculating how old she was). After looking her over, it was decided that she was most likely a pit bull/boxer mix, though ridge-back and a few other breeds were tossed around as well. Her incredibly sweet demeanor won over the store and the vet’s office. After she was looked over, they said that she was healthy aside from being incredibly dehydrated and malnourished. The only concern was an infection in her mouth (which we found out may have been caused by her having to eat a cat to survive) and the possibility of parasites which would have been what caused her to get to the state she was in. We were given parasitical medication and asked to return with her the following week for a check up.
As Chula became more comfortable with us, some of her personality began to come out. We could tell from the start that she would be an incredibly loyal and loving dog. However, due to the state she was in, Chula slept a lot and seemed timid, though she loved being cuddled and talked to. Using what money we had, we bought her a blanket as well as some of the things the vet had recommended. Since she was too skinny to bathe, we got her puppy wipes to help wipe off some of the dirt that had collected on her.
We were relieved to see her smile and knew that she was going to pull through. However, she had no concept of how to be a puppy. Even when we gave her her first ever bone she hid it out of the fear that it would be taken away. When I tried to recover it, she nipped me very lightly and then immediately hid out of fear that I would do something or take it away permanently. We managed to reassure her that we had no intentions of taking anything away from her if we could help it and she slowly started to trust us more.
After roughly a week, we began to see a definite improvement with Chula. A friend of ours donated some toys and though she didn’t know what to do with them at first, she steadily began to become more playful. She remained quiet and still slept quite a bit, but she began to fill out and enjoy going outside more. At one point we took her over to my apartment for an hour or two to visit with Play-Doh. Doh liked her at a distance, but wasn’t sure what she thought of her close up. Chula, on the other hand, LOVED Play-Doh!
Chula weighed in at over 40 pounds at her next vet visit, more than 10 lbs more than she had been the week before. We were ecstatic! She had more energy, smiled more, and was beginning to gain muscle. Additionally, she became house-broken relatively quickly and learned the commands “Sit” and “Lay down” within a couple of weeks of having her (she is VERY treat motivated). The infection in her mouth disappeared and whatever parasites she may or may not have had disappeared. Chula was starting to jump around and decided that she was the perfect lap dog (which, size aside, she kind of is). Her toys began being used and she discovered that Fetch and Tug were her two favorite games to play. After about three weeks, she discovered belly rubs and has been rolling on her back begging for them ever since. Here are a few more photos as weeks progressed.
At about 4 weeks in we decide that Chula was ready to make her public début. She was getting too playful for the apartment, which is very small, and clearly wanted room to run and stretch out. So I did some research and discovered Findlay, Ohio’s K-9 Field of Dreams. Field of Dreams is a free dog park roughly a half hour away that allowed any and all types of dogs. It is also one of the few dog parks in the area and the only one that doesn’t charge or have a ridiculous set of rules and regulations to make sure that only the “perfect” dogs were allowed in.
Our biggest concern was how Chula would react to the other dogs and she was slightly intimidated at first. However, that lasted about a minute before Chula instantly bonded with every dog there. I felt like a proud mom watching her run around with all the other dogs. She ran for about three hours straight, chasing and playing with the other dogs, before we could tell she was getting worn out. It was the happiest I had seen Chula yet, she was truly a beautiful healthy dog now and absolutely won over every dog and human at the park that day.
After the park, Chula was one tired puppy and fell asleep on the ride home. After we got back, we got to give her her first ever bath, which she hated, but she enjoyed all the praise and being told how pretty she looked.
It’s been over a month now and I could not be more blessed to have gone through this experience with Chula. Her passion for life and fight to live has truly been inspirational and it makes me glad to see her so happy now. She is loved by everyone who meets her and has more puppy in her then we can handle. We have decided that we are going to try to keep her and we’ve been blessed to find a temporary home for her until one of us (most likely my friend) gets an apartment big enough to handle her. Chula has one of the biggest dog grins I’ve ever seen and has a unique personality that is coming out more and more each day. I could honestly go on for hours about her, but this is the majority of her story. The rest of her days to come will be filled with love and she will be spoiled beyond compare (as she already is). I cannot express how glad I am that she is going to live out the rest of her days knowing that neglect is not her fate or lot in life, that there are good people out there who truly care. Below is the original photo again, next to one of my most recent photos of her, taken just a couple of days ago.
She truly fits her name: Chula, the Pretty Girl. In the future, you will most likely see photos and updates on Chula and her progress, but I am pleased to say that she is out of any danger zone. She’ll never be a “normal dog” because of her experiences, but that just helps to make her the wonderful, lovable dog that she is. She doesn’t have an aggressive bone in her body despite everything that has happened and her loyalty to us border lines concern as she does have some separation anxiety. However, after seeing her pull through everything she has, separation anxiety will be a cake walk for her to overcome. Rescuing a dog is an experience unlike any other and despite all the stress and anxiety it may have caused in the meantime, I would do it all over again.
“My mission is to rescue, my dream is that one day I won’t have to.” – Tia Torres