She never rolled in
the cool, lush grass of spring.
She never ran free
at the dog park, never chased a butterfly, or sniffed the wondrous
smells of the woods in autumn. She never played in the first
snow of winter or walked in the early morning coolness of summer.
No one ever
scratched behind her ears or rubbed her belly. No one had a kind
word or a loving gesture for her. She never snuggled close on a
cold night, played with a squeaky toy, or ran through the house in a
game of chase.
She was a factory
to produce puppies for the pet shops and the buyers who turn a blind
eye to the conditions of a puppy mill and the life of a breeding
machine in one of those mills.
She lived in a cage
all her life, barely enough room to turn around. Never enough
food. Never vet care. Just an endless cycle of breeding
and feeding, only to have every litter of pups taken as soon as they
could be sold.
Instead of the
rich, lush, furry coat of a healthy Schipperke, she had no hair on
half her body and the rest was matted and dirty.
Then her life
changed and so did mine.
I own a Schipperke,
a service dog for my hearing disability. Having quickly come to
love and admire this breed of small dog, I signed up with my local vet
to provide a foster home for needy Schipperkes. The veterinary
clinic is one that works with the Aylmer Humane Society to take in
needy animals and rehabilitate them.
She was rescued
from the puppy mill where she had spent a lifetime marked by
indifference, neglect and exploitation. The Aylmer Humane Society
took in several of the animals rescued and one of them was this
pitiful, bedraggled Schipperke.
The challenge was
She needed $500
worth of health care, including for her dental work, since her teeth
like the rest of her had never been cared for.
She did not know
how to climb stairs or walk in a straight line for more than a few
She was not
She was completely
asocial. Her owners never saw her as a unique and marvelous
creature. She was a commodity for them. She had the
company of a male dog whenever she was in season but only long enough
to breed. She had litter after litter of puppies but kept them
only for the bare minimum of time. And, she had her cage, the
only home she had ever known.
She was frightened
of everything and everybody. It was all so new to her. She
wanted to find a dark space, curl up and shiver. I had to
constantly coax her from out-of-the-way corners, bring her into the
light and sit with her until the shivering stopped. She was
intimidated by my service dog, who was none too happy at sharing me
with another dog.
I spent hours
bathing her body with egg whites to re-grow the hair that was missing
and to bring out the normal Schipperke luster to what fur she did
There were days
when, tired from work and the normal demands of life, her care was a
chore. There were days when I despaired that she would never be
socialized, would never be able to understand let alone return the
affection I gave her.
The first signs of
healing were fleeting at best. Some days she would seem to slide
right back into fear and withdrawal, undoing all the progress we had
made. Months of patient work were required and I could not get
discouraged or give up. After the life she had had, she deserved my
But, little by
little, she began to heal. Her coat came back and is so
luxurious that I was once stopped by a policeman who wanted to know
what I was doing with a bear cub on a leash.
After having 6
teeth pulled, her grin is a little lopsided and her healthy teeth are
more than a little crooked. But she smiles, a lot.
She holds her own
with my service dog nowadays.
She is ready for a
long walk or a short one any time of the day or night.
She almost never
tries to find a dark corner to hide in, but I am always watchful and
fearful that she will.
She understands and
enjoys play and runs through the house with no grace but great joy.
She can climb any stairs and wants to.
She has great
curiosity about trucks, buses, motorcycles, construction projects,
house painters, street cleaners, fire trucks, motor homes, camping
sites, palm trees and whatever is around the next corner. She is
the neighborhood busybody and were she human she would know and pass
on all the gossip. No one comes or goes without exciting her
She tolerates small
children and trusts adults. She snuggles at night and demands to
have her ears scratched any time of the day or night.
She delights in car
rides and trips to the pet store, the cleaners, the hardware store or
anyplace that is open to her. She is the perfect travelling
companion and has mastered the art of sticking her head out of a
partially opened car window just for the joy of the wind in her face.
She has a unique
personality that is still unfolding. She is much more than a
pet. She is a companion who has repaid me a thousand fold for
the time and the trouble that it took to rehabilitate her.
And, she is a firm
and fixed part of my family. I have long since given up the idea
that I would end my foster care and let her be adopted. As
worthwhile as pet foster care is, this little Schipperke has found a
in my house and my heart.
She is Kayla, the
little bear cub who came to visit and stayed to live a full and rich
And a month later,
another female dog Peggy arrived at the Aylmer SPCA and Jennifer
contacted me. I convinced a neighbour to adopt her and it is
also a success story. Thank you to Jennifer and the volunteers
at the no-kill shelter.
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