We lost two special souls to health issues recently. Both were from the big bust in Kay County, Oklahoma in winter '08. They were everybody's favorite survivors, so writing this blog post was rather hard.
They say when you save someone's life, you're responsible for them for the rest of their life. That rang through my head recently when we heard that Effie was being returned by her Berkeley Animal Shelter adopter, who was unable to meet her needs. We went into fix-it mode when we got the news. What do we do? Who can make some quick room? The news was especially hard on Donyale, who took Effie off of a frozen chain in Oklahoma a year ago December.
Effie had to be the oldest dog in this horrific 2008 cruelty case. She was missing most of her teeth and was starting to show cataracts. There's no way she would've survived much more of this deep freeze if hunters hadn't stumbled across this massive yard full of chained dogs. But then, she had to survive us.
With a big storm behind us and another one on its way, we could only grab a handful of dogs out of harm's way. There was nowhere to bring them to thaw and sort out personalities, a big rig from Best Friends was caught in snow and still two days away. And the town's sheriff was there to remind us: With more bad weather on its way, it was time to shut the yard down - now. It was impossible to think of choosing dogs under these conditions, but impossible to sit home and let them all be lost. Thank god MABBR was there too, not only for moral support but with a van ready to take several dogs away to their program. Even so, selecting a small group of dogs and helping a local vet put the rest to sleep was an obscene assault on any rescuer's heart.
This was Donyale's first cruelty case but it was great to have her along because she knows the breed well, and she's able to think on her feet in really crappy and stressful situations. I knew she wasn't going to have a melt-down where we needed to be focused and make smart decisions, but I didn't expect her to say "Let's take this one!" when we passed the older red dog on the chain. She was right though - Effie wanted to connect in a big way, and she oozed into our arms all stinky and tattered, like only an old world pit bull can do. She was destined to come to California and the live the life of a princess, first in the shelter, and then perched on the sofa of a home that would later spoil her rotten.
Fast forward to two weeks ago. Surrendered by her sobbing owner (long story), Effie hopscotched over the Berkeley East Bay Humane Society where the shelter vet staff detected a time bomb: Effie had an enlarged liver and a telltale tumor on her vulva. Emails flew back and forth, and we worked out a compassion hold for the sick girl. She was going to spend a couple of warm weeks in front of the fire at Ana Poe's collar store, and we were going to get some time to fawn over here and take her for hamburgers and practice saying good-bye. But instead, her condition took a nose-dive and - just last night - the decision was made to let her go. She passed on in peace, and all around the bay area, Effie fans sobbed in their hands.
She was braver than brave, more beautiful than a champion show dog, and very much loved. Her abuser, who saw fit to leave a hundred dying dogs on chains with no food or water in freezing temperatures is set to be tried on May 25. I don't know how much Effie remembered from that place, but she refused to let it stop her from soaking up every bit of luxury in her new life. - Donna
We lost Nelly a few weeks ago, but it has been just too hard to talk about until now. I asked Tim to write her little memorial, especially since they adored each other. This has been a tough winter, my friends. We so look forward to happier days this spring.
Donna left me behind with a bottle of painkillers to nurse a frozen shoulder when she went out to Oklahoma with Donyale. She phoned when she was there to tell me about the dogs they'd found at the massive cruelty case mentioned above. There was a change in the tone of her voice when she began to describe one of the dogs ...
“Well I’ve never seen a dog like this before... she’s missing her nose. Her legs are bowed, she’s partly bald, her toes are splayed, and the guy cut off her ears in one cut so she looks like a gargoyle. She’s been bred repeatedly, is coughing and sick. We don’t have a spot for her, but I can’t leave her behind to die here after surviving this hell. We can at least give her a compassion hold for a couple of weeks if we can’t find a spot for her to convalesce."
I couldn't imagine what was coming, but she sounded very special. Below is a little video Donna shot in the hotel room that night. Nelly had only been off her chain a couple of hours. After a warm bath, this was her first experience with a bed.
When we got her back to California, Nelly tested positive for Babesiosis, an incurable Malaria-like blood parasite not uncommon to dogs used as fighters. This fact combined with her serious birth defect (she could hardly breath) made her survival nothing short of a miracle. Even with these problems, she gave us all the impression that she could live forever so we decided to believe her and committed to doing everything we could to improve her chances and give her a good life. A surgery to open her nasal passages failed, but Nelly reminded us daily that she could power on despite her discomfort.
The Dragon Princess went to live with trainer Sara and her beau Jared for her final months and played non-stop with their dog Leroy and Ambassadog Aberfoil. Her greatest day was at the San Francisco Pride Parade last summer as she walked to the cheers of thousands, in a pink tutu. She was accustomed to being fawned over and couldn’t walk down the street without attracting a small crowd - which she loved, of course.
Everyone commented on her eyes – those soulful saucers that looked right into you and patiently waited for you to bend down and give her what she had missed out on for so long. I can’t think of Nelly without picturing her wagging her entire torso. A tail wag was just not enough to express the joy this little girl had bottled up inside her. “Optimistic” is an understatement if used to describe the beautiful Nelly. She was a creature whose sheer joie de vivre cheated death for years and made it possible for her to live her final year in a relaxed, peaceful state of well being.
Many years ago in Jamaica a man speaking about Bob Marley told us “there will never be another Bob.” I’ll always feel the same way about Miss Nelly. Rest in peace, little darling. You were one of a kind. - Tim