Anne's story is part factual in part/part composite of experiences that abused and neglected dogs suffer. While we do not know what actually happened to Anne before we met her in the shelter, every week we rescue Boxers that have suffered all of the events described in the article. While based on true life, the account may be too intense for some readers.
written by Jennifer Chapman, B.A.R.C., in memory of Anne
Anne is pictured here shortly before her death with two of her pups that did not survive.
Rob and Jean were the humans that owned my mother. She was a Boxer. She wasn’t a show dog with great bloodlines or anything, just their pet dog. They figured it would be fun for the kids and a good source of side income to breed her. Because my mom’s hair shed and they didn’t have time to housetrain her, she was a permanent resident of the backyard. They were thrilled when they discovered a neighbor also owned a Boxer. It didn’t really matter to Rob and Jean that the neighbor’s Boxer had genetic problems with his hips, after all, he was AKC registered! “This is so convenient!” they said. When mom reached one year old, they bred her to the neighbor’s Boxer and that is how I came to be.
Rob and Jean didn’t seem too bad at first. They played with us and fed us. When myself and my 10 brothers and sisters reached 8 weeks old, Rob and Jean placed an ad in the newspaper to sell us. I heard them talk in ecstatic voices about what they would do with the money we provided. People responded to the ad and came to see us. One person asked if we were health tested for diseases and problems. That made Rob laugh and he exclaimed “they are obviously healthy!” Jean just looked puzzled about what “health testing” meant. The person who asked that question didn’t buy any of us.
Most people didn’t any ask questions. After all, we were so cute who could resist us! Most of my brothers and sisters were sold for $350 each. Then there were only two of us left that didn’t get sold. I guess nobody bought us because we didn’t have pretty markings like the others did. When we were six months old, my mother got bred again and soon a new litter arrived.
Eventually Rob and Jean began to wonder what they should do with my brother and me. We were almost a year old and no one had bought us. Rob wanted to breed us too but Jean said “We have no space Rob! Let’s just give them away!” So, Jean and Rob put another ad in the paper advertising us “free to a good home”. Nobody answered it for awhile. I guess most people did not want a grown-up dog. Finally, somebody came to see us and a man took my brother home. The man was very rough with my brother and kept saying what a good guard dog he would make. I had no choice but to say goodbye and hope the man wasn’t as bad as he seemed.
Now I was the only dog left so Jean and Rob grew impatient. They loaded me up in their car and drove me to a place they called “the pound”. They talked excitedly about the new litter of puppies they had as we drove. When we got there a young girl came to take my collar while Rob and Jean filled out some paperwork to “check me in”. I heard the person they were talking to say that “space was very limited and they could only hold dogs for 5 days before euthanizing them”. I pulled back on my leash towards Jean because I didn’t know where this new girl was taking me. I wanted to please Rob and Jean and I didn’t know what I had done wrong. I was very nervous. I heard Jean shrug and say there was no space for me at their house either because they breed Boxers.
There were lots of dogs in the shelter. The big shaggy dog next to me explained that we were all the dogs considered “surplus”, which meant that no humans wanted us. He told me that I must make every effort to wiggle and show off when people came to the shelter so that they might take me home and love me. He said that my chances of getting taken home were better than his because I was at least a Boxer and young, while his mother had been a stray and he was 5 yrs old already.
But, he warned, “All dogs-especially if they are sick in any way or if they are old-risk not getting adopted. I’ve been here several times over, and I’ve met lots of healthy purebred and mixed dogs who don’t get adopted. That’s why you really have to work it girl!”
“What happens if you don’t get adopted?” I said. He told me that the shelter has to take the dogs who don’t get adopted away forever, which means that you die. I knew he told the truth because I had seen the shelter staff take dogs away and I never saw them again.
“They have no choice” he said. “They can’t keep us all locked in here forever”.
I made a vow then and there that I would try harder to get adopted. I was a young dog and wanted to see what this “human love” was all about. I hoped that I could learn to make a human happy.
The next day, a girl in a shelter uniform came and took the shaggy dog next to me away. She had kind eyes and golden hair that stretched in a long braid down her back. The dog and I said our goodbye and he licked her hand. I knew he was going to die, but I also knew somehow that it wasn’t her fault-I guess he knew that too. Sometimes the golden-haired girl would stop and pet me, but there were so many dogs in the shelter she didn’t ever have much time to spend with any of us. The dog looked at me and wagged goodbye. “Get adopted girl!” he barked to me. He looked like he was enjoying her attention on his final walk.
About an hour later a family with two little kids walked by my cage. Man! I wiggled and whined like I had never wiggled and whined before. I pleaded with my eyes at them and cocked my head. “Can we get this Boxer out to look at?” they asked. An hour later I was adopted! All my family had to do was fax proof to the shelter that I had been spayed within the next 30 days and they could take me home right then! At last I would know what it was like to make a family happy!
I was so thrilled to have a family at last and so grateful that I just couldn’t help but jump on them all. At first they seemed to like it, but then they started to get mad at me. I also pooped in the house a few times. I had never been in a house before so I didn’t know that it wasn’t OK. Then I had to stay in the backyard all the time. They got me a dog house. At first the kids came out to play with me a lot, which was great. Then they stopped coming to play with me. I was really bored out there alone all the time, so I spent a lot of time barking and digging. Whenever my family was home, I scratched at the door and barked that I wanted to come in and make them happy, but they just got more and more unhappy with me. I didn’t know what else to do. What was I doing wrong? I wished someone would tell me.
“We have to do something about that dog!” my family said. My new mom said that she just couldn’t bear to take me back to the shelter because I might get “put to sleep”.
Whew! I thought. Then my new dad came and put a leash on me and we started walking toward the car. A car ride! Maybe I was beginning to make them happy after all! He took me to a field covered with beautiful spring green grass. He threw a ball for me. What a glorious, glorious day out with my new dad! I thought. I bounded across the field in pursuit of the ball that I would bring right back to him. My legs felt strong and I was filled with hope. I seized the ball and turned quickly to get back to my dad. I saw him get in our yellow truck and start driving.
“Wait! Wait!” I barked. “You forgot me!” I raced after the truck, my legs pumping until they burned like fire. As hard as I tried, the yellow truck just kept pulling farther and father away from me. Finally, I realized that it was a lost cause. I lay down in the dust that was all that was left of my family.
Night fell around me and I still lay on the dirt country road, but as it grew later and later I started to get nervous. Was my family not coming back ever? I must have really screwed up this time. What if they didn’t come back? How would I eat? How would I take care of myself? The reality of my abandonment after only two weeks hit me and I wondered again why I couldn’t make a family happy.
That first summer was murder as the days turned into months of me living on the streets. The relentless heat of the north Florida sun literally cooked my fur and paws. My feet were raw and I was blackened by clouds of fleas. Biting flies caused gaping sores and the itch was unbearable. By the end of that summer, I felt as though I had aged 10 yrs. I don’t think I looked like a Boxer any more-I wasn’t even sure I looked like a dog. I could tell because I would wag my tail at people and they would scatter and sometimes they would throw things at me to get me to stay away. My hair was bald in patches from the constant scratching. The hunger gnawed at my stomach with searing pain. I roamed around and ate whatever I could find-dirt, grass, garbage-but it was never enough. I became pregnant that summer by another stray dog and carrying the puppies took an even further toll on my already wasted body. I had six puppies under the shade of a towering live oak tree, but my body wouldn’t make enough milk to feed them. When they died I dug a hole and buried them as best I could.
The months turned into years of the same. I had inherited the hip problem from my dad and they caused me constant agony. I scavenged constantly to stay alive, sometimes with other strays, sometimes alone. I had a couple litters of puppies every year. Many of the pups didn’t survive because of the starvation and roadway crossing dangers we faced, but some went on to live as strays. I knew it was probably for the best as this was no kind of life for a dog anyway. We were brought in to this world to love people, but the way I looked at it, I had failed to be able to do this. If only my family had taken me back to the shelter then maybe I would have been adopted again. I was so sorry-looking now I knew nobody would want me, but back then I was still young and full of life and maybe I had a chance. I thought with nostalgia about the girl at the shelter with the golden braid who would sometimes pet me and talk to me.
I was old, my joints ached, my body was tired, but I had a final delivery to make. I had learned to stay away from neighborhoods where people could throw stuff at me, but I was too tired and weak to care. I dragged myself under the deck of a small house with green shutters to deliver my babies. I felt so faint from the heat that I lost consciousness. Then I heard a man’s voice very close to me. “We have never seen her before and she looks really sick under there” the voice said. Then a big man with enormous hands bent down and pulled me out from under the porch. I didn’t struggle. I didn’t have the strength and really didn’t care what happened to me at that point anyway.
Anne resting after giving birth
I was still having contractions as the man put me into a big truck. I later heard that this was an animal control truck and that I had given birth to five puppies in the back of it. The truck took me back to an animal shelter like the one I had been in before. I wasn’t sure if it was the same place, but I hoped the kind-eyed, golden-haired girl would be there so that I could make her happy. I lay in my kennel at the shelter on the “sick” ward. They put me on IV’s and petted me and soothed me. The attention flowed over me like the wafting smell of a ham bone fresh from the oven-but better. I regretted that I was so weak that I couldn’t stand or wiggle to make them smile and laugh.
I was vaguely conscious of another girl- one with dark hair and green eyes. She was there and they said she was “Rescue”. As each puppy was born, they were placed into a green plastic laundry basket. I knew the shelter couldn’t feed them without me and that they would probably go away. Rescue saw this and I learned later that she took my puppies to someone who will care for them and make sure that what happened to me doesn’t happen to them. I lifted my head a bit to look at Rescue and I saw that her eyes were kind, just like the girl with the golden braid I had known so long ago. She bent down and petted my head. “Your suffering is over” she said softly. A look passed between us and I could see that she thought that I wasn’t “surplus” and that I had a soul just like her. I licked her hand as best I could and she smiled. My spirit left my withered body, but my heart overflowed with joy that in my last hours, I had lived the life a dog should live.
I died that day. The shelter and Rescue couldn’t save me. It was too late for me, but you know what?
It isn’t too late for you.
Every year in the U.S., 27 million dogs are born. 10 million are considered surplus and are euthanized.
Stop the Cycle :
S pay and neuter your pets
A dopt from shelters or rescues
V olunteer, foster homeless animals
E ducate others, donate to rescue