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— January 22, 2013 —

There’s something about Sally.
by Daniel McElroy Jr.

Sally is a pit bull mix. She’s had it pretty rough in her life. She’s about 4 years old, but we have only known her about 11 months. We first heard about Sally when Anna, a young friend of a K9 4 KEEPS board member, mentioned this poor dog in Kentucky that had captured her heart. Anna had seen Sally on a social media site. Sally was living in neglect, without shelter and being attacked by the other dogs in the yard where she was living. Needless to say, Sally needed help. Anna lobbied hard to get us to help Sally. She pretty much moved heaven and earth to get her transported to Chicago, all the way from Kentucky.

Sally’s story is one that is all too familiar in the world of dog rescue. There is hardly a day that goes by that we don’t hear about a dog being left out in the cold without any shelter, or a dog that is not getting fed enough. It breaks our hearts to see the pictures that go with these stories. These stories of neglect drive us. Often the owners just don’t know any better and they correct the situation when they become educated. Many times, however, these stories are the result of absolute disregard for the fact that these dogs feel pain and suffer just as we do.

Sally had originally appeared on a farm in Kentucky a few winters ago. She was covered in ticks. She greeted some children on this farm who gave her food and water and then picked the ticks off of her body, one by one. They even had to remove ticks from her eyelids. She was eventually adopted by friends of that first family. Sally made herself very valuable by alerting her diabetic mom if her blood sugar dropped, even waking her in the night if she sensed it.

Things changed for Sally when her mom died suddenly. Sally’s mom had told her (human) daughter Kathy that if anything ever happened to her, she wanted Sally to be euthanized rather than letting her fall into neglectful hands. Kathy simply couldn’t imagine putting her down, so she found her a home with people who promised to care for her for the rest of her life. When the family who adopted her moved, Kathy assumed Sally would continue to be cared for as promised.

After the move, Kathy got word that Sally was not getting the care she deserved. She was living in a yard full time, being attacked by the other family dogs and wasn’t getting enough to eat. Sally had actually lost 20 lbs and her wounds weren’t being cared for. Needless to say, Kathy went and took her back. She boarded her at a vet clinic to get her wounds cared for and to get her back to a healthy weight. She contacted the local rescues and was told that basically no-one wanted a pit bull with a history of fighting. Social media was her next attempt at finding a good, forever home for Sally. She posted her story on the internet on various sites.

The story was spread far and wide and eventually made its way to Anna. Anna was 14 years old at the time and a strong advocate for animals in her own right. She lobbied hard for Sally, even raising money to get her transported to Chicago. Sally arrived in Chicago in February of 2012 and became part of the K9 4 KEEPS family.

Sometime around March 2012, Tim walked into Sally’s life. Tim had just started his search for his future dog and randomly stopped in at Bark Avenue Playcare one day to check out the facilities. Sally just happened to be boarding with us, as many K9 4 KEEPS dogs do prior to finding their foster or forever homes. Since he was interested in adopting a dog, we couldn’t let him leave without meeting Sally first. It was pretty much love at first sight. Of course Sam, Tim’s girlfriend had to meet Sally first, but we were sure she would win her over too, which she did.

Tim was very interested in Sally’s background, especially the part about her alerting her former mom about her low blood sugar. This got him thinking that Sally might like the chance to keep helping her human friends. Tim signed Sally up for training (with yours truly) and completed our On-Leash Obedience training program.

Sally was a great student. She already possessed a very calm temperament and, despite her earlier abuse, absolutely no aggressive tendencies. She learned quickly and Tim was great about reinforcing her behaviors at home and in public.

Just this past weekend, Sally passed her certification test with Canine Therapy Corps. She is now a certified therapy dog and will shortly begin visiting patients in hospitals and other facilities in Chicago. In over a decade of training dogs, I don’t think I’ve ever been more proud than when Sally finished the last exercise of her test. To see a dog come from such bad conditions to accomplish what she has reminds me why I train dogs. It’s because they remind us that in a world filled with daily concerns, most of which aren’t really that important, the best way to make ourselves happy is to help another living creature that deserves it — be they two legged or four.