Rescued Animal of the Month: July 2015:
Each month we will feature a rescued animal success story.
I've always been a huge advocate for animals, especially dogs. Pitbulls have always had my heart, though I had never had one in my life.
One afternoon in April 2011, I stumbled across a page that posts nightly kill lists of New York's animal care shelter. I scrolled through a handful of photos, reading the threads, each time my heart broke. I came across one old guy who pulled me in. He looked broken and hopeless. He was scheduled to die at 8 am April 26. He never had a chance.
His stray hold ended and he immediately went "the list"..... He was 9, a senior and a pitbull. Anyone who follows rescue in the States knows that being classified a pitbull is pretty much a death sentence. He had me in his corner, possibly the first person on his entire life who gave a damn. I saw hope in him and I was willing to fight to bring him home. That night was a whirlwind of networking, trying to arrange a local rescue to pull him and find a foster home for the 10 day hold so he could get cleared to fly. The odds were against us, NYACC does not release dogs out of country. Everything was done on the down low.... But I found a rescue and I found a foster. That night. I waited on pins and needles praying he would be safe. The following afternoon I got word, he was out of the shelter..... He was safe!
April 27 will forever be the special day his life began. From there he was transferred to foster, I got updates as they got to know him. He was a filthy old guy but he seemed to be friendly. Once his vet check was done I booked him a flight home in air cargo on May 8th. He had only a small window to get home because some airlines only fly dogs certain months of the year due to the heat. We also faced the challenge of finding an airline to fly him. Most flights would land In Toronto where bsl is strong. He wasn't allowed to land there. We got him on an flight through Huston and after 13 hours he touched down in Edmonton and I got to meet him for the very first time. He was a wiggly little guy and he had light in his eyes. I finally saw a twinkle of hope. I worried about how my other dog would handle our new addition.... The ride home he sat on my lap happy as a clam. He met our dog Blu. They didn't love each other right away. I was scared. Did I just make a huge mistake?
The next few days the true dog started to emerge. I met a dog who was broken, did not trust anyone and had no idea how to accept affection but I also saw a dog who wanted to love just didn't know how. This is where the journey really began. We did training and worked hard every day to show him he was safe. He wasn't perfect. He trembled when you touched him, if you accidentally stepped on his tail or a toe he reacted with teeth. He would never lay down near anyone and a belly rub was a big no no.
I got pregnant in 2012 and everyone told me what we needed to do with our Jaxon. Through all of it I pushed on. I promised him the day I opened that kennel door at the airport that he was safe, that I would never leave him and that he mattered. I was determined to keep that promise. Again we did training and kept pushing on. We had set backs and challenges, but slowly the boy I knew was in there was coming out. He stopped trying to redirect into me anytime he was nervous or got stepped on. He loved playing with Blu and he enjoyed walks. He blossomed into my dog. He became my shadow and he was always there. It took 3 years for him to allow me to rub his belly. He still doesn't love it but at least he trusts me enough to let me try. His body is slowing down now, he's arthritic and covered in fatty lumps. He is partially deaf from years of chronic ear infections left unattended. He has next to no ears due to an awful crop job. He's missing many teeth and has a face full of scars. However his eyes have life in them again and his heart has love. He has insane "happy tail" when he sees us and looks like a helicopter getting ready to take off. I wish he could tell me his story, I wish I could find the previous families that gave up on him. I mostly however wish that he could forget his fears. He's come so far in the past 4 years. He is not perfect, he's complicated, but we manage and we have a mutual understanding. We have love. He will forever have a warm bed, food in his belly and when the time comes he won't go alone.
I saved him from death row, but in turn he's taught me patience, perseverance and what it means to actually love through the good and the bad. If more people chose to save just one life and adopt, thousands of lives across the continent would be spared. Kill lists wouldn't exist and no animal would ever die alone and scared. Jax's story shows that not all dogs are perfect, just like people, but you can't give up on them. They deserve love like we do. They have quirks and that's ok.... Just Like people it's ok to be different. As I write this today is Jaxon's 13th birthday (according to his old paper work). I hope people will soften up on the breed discrimination and realize we shape a dog to be what they are, not a breed stereotype. Jaxon's one true pitbull characteristic now is that he's happy and he has the wiggly pibble butt to prove it. Happy birthday, my boy!
What his past was like, I wish those previous people who gave up on him could see him now . I mostly wish people would stop seeing a breed and blaming, but instead see that we as people shape a dog.... not a breed. We all have quirks and so do dogs.... Why give up on something just because they don't fit your definition of perfect? Jax was worth all the tears, all the money and all the love that it took to bring him here. I wouldn't have changed a thing. He deserves this life just like the thousands of others animals who die every year in shelters..... If more people adopted the kill lists would be empty. Jax is not perfect, no..... He's faced many challenges and has some less then desirable traits but in the end I love him for him. I love what he's taught me about patience and perseverance. He's made me a better person and helped shape me into a mom. I dread the day I turn around and my shadows no longer there...... But until then we will fill our days with basking in the sun, car rides and cuddles. Happy 13th birthday to my boy. June 8th is the day you were born but April 27th is the day Life began.
- Alison Bennett