Friday, June 28, 2024

Insight: A thief of hearts

By Ed Pierce
Managing Editor

An unconventional dog stole my heart 15 years ago and despite her many quirks and issues, our family loved her to the very end of her life.

Abby was a Pembroke Welsh Corgi adopted by the Pierce
Family from a Corgi rescue group in Florida. She had
been severely abused and mistreated at her previous home
before finding a good life with her new owners. 

Back in 2009, my wife Nancy and I were grieving the loss of our beloved Corgi mix named Hunter, who lived to the age of 14 and was never sick a day of his life, until his liver failed and despite a valiant effort from our veterinarian, he didn’t make it. We liked the Corgi breed and applied to a Corgi rescue to adopt one of their dogs not long after losing Hunter.

Just three days later, I received a phone call from the rescue group, asking if we could drive to a city three hours away and adopt a 5-year-old Corgi in desperate need of a new home. She had been rescued from a highly volatile and abusive situation and was being picked on by other dogs in a Corgi foster care home.

When we arrived, Abby had been hiding under a bed at the foster care and was more than ready to take a drive home with us. She had trouble adjusting to her new surroundings and we had to put up a baby gate to keep her separated from our cat, Gracie, as she wanted to chase and intimidate her.

The first week was filled with trips to the veterinarian because Abby’s ears were packed with fleas and ear mites and her coat had a substantial number of ticks burrowed in under her skin. But as bad as her physical problems were, we found that her mental and emotional well-being were even worse.

The rescue organization had told us some things about her previous life, but after reading the official report, it was worse than we had first thought. Apparently, Abby had been adopted as a puppy by a violent young couple, who would punish her for barking or what they perceived as bad behavior by punching her in the head repeatedly and putting her into a dark closet.

That left the dog wary of anything coming near her head and suspicious of strangers who would come up to her on the street when she was out for a walk and wanted to pet her.

I once took her to a place to have her groomed and her nails clipped and she bit the technician, who then asked me, “Why would you want a dog that bites?” I told her I didn’t get a dog who bites, I got a dog who desperately needed a home.

The more time she spent with us, Abby seemed to mellow and come to trust us. She would sit on the sofa next to us in the evenings and even let us pet and brush her, although not on the top of her head.

When we found out we were leaving Florida and moving to New Hampshire, both Nancy and I wondered how Abby would make the transition from living her entire life in hot and humid weather to a climate with snow. That winter, we discovered Abby loved being outside in the snow and cold and her favorite winter activity involved rolling around in a snow pile upside down.

As she got older and came to realize we weren’t going to harm her, her behavior changed from suspicion to one of anxiety. She would run in circles and bark incessantly if someone held car keys in their hand and moved toward the front door. It became a daily ritual each morning as we would leave to go to work.

She would shamelessly drool and beg for Ritz Crackers. When you set down her bowl of pricey special diet dog food, it would be inhaled in under 20 seconds and then she’d start choking and we’d have to remind her to slow down while eating.

We bought her the most expensive dog bed we could find but she preferred to sleep on the hardwood floor. I don’t even want to say how much dog hair we swept up every day because of her non-stop shedding.

This anxious, high-strung dog slowly became the center of our lives and a beloved member of our family. I had a Corgi computer mousepad, a Corgi hand towel, a Corgi coffee cup and Corgi coasters. We proudly told our friends that Abby was a full-bred Corgi, just like Queen Elizabeth’s prized dogs.

One day we came home from work in 2016 to find Abby was paralyzed. The Corgi breed has very long spines and she had jumped from a stoop at the bottom of the stairs about six inches in height, fracturing several vertebrae in her spine, paralyzing her. It could not be repaired, and the veterinarian at the 24/7 emergency clinic recommended that we euthanize her to end her pain.

Afterward, both Nancy and I cried for days over the loss of Abby. We resolved to find another dog to bring into our home and that happened the next month when we adopted a rescue mixed-breed puppy named Fancy.

Looking back on our time with Abby, I’m proud of how we changed her life for the better and how she certainly changed ours. <

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