It had been very cold and rainy that late October day when my Vet’s office called. “Could you come over? We have a puppy to foster.” I had no idea how that phone call would change my life.
Found wrapped in some rags tossed near a dumpster, a kindly man brought the puppy to the Vet’s. At the office, Dr. Wade and staff worked for hours to bring her temperature up to normal. Although there was a chance she might not live, I was given my instructions, “She’ll need to be fed every two hours, keep her warm on a heating pad, do your best, and good luck”. Then they brought out a tiny black ball of fur and placed her in my hands. And I stood there, simply amazed, looking down at this tiny creature, eyes closed, ears unopened and wondered if I would be able to keep her alive.
We were concerned that exposure to the cold may have cause damage to her brain, but thankfully that fear was soon dispelled. Counting back from when her eyes opened we determined that she must have been only a day or two when she was dropped off. Now wrapped in clean blankets, my husband and I held her closely, enjoying the warmth of her body, the scent of her fur. We took turns with the bottle, used cotton balls to stimulate her, and celebrated when she finally graduated to puppy mush.
Mikayla, beating all odds, continued to thrive. But I could not keep her; she was a ROTTWEILER…vicious dogs, dangerous dogs. I was guilty of breed discrimination and ignorance. I only knew what I had seen and heard in the media. “She’d never be right, with no siblings or mother to teach her,” they said. And so she was adopted out through our rescue group to a woman who was highly recommended. I have fostered over 40 rescue dogs, and have always been glad to see them re-homed, never wished they had stayed, never heard much from new owners; I was stunned at the sadness I felt when Mikayla was adopted.
Soon the phone calls began, “could I watch her for the day?”, “she was spayed, can you take her for me?” Her visits were becoming more frequent, and she would run to me as if she knew she was truly home. One day while walking through the woods, I looked up to the heavens and prayed to God that if there was any way I could have this puppy back, I would never let her leave me again. I had denied my feelings for her; I didn’t realize how deep my love for her was. When she was with me, all was good and we were complete. I was unaware that soon my prayers would be answered.
A few months later, the woman who adopted Mikayla returned her to me, beaten and fearful; my beautiful puppy now cowered away at any loud noise or quick movement. I learned later that she had been hit for not coming, and for the worst offenses, taken down to the chicken house and beaten. Terrified at times, fly swatters, newspapers, quick movements or loud voices would send Mikayla shaking into a corner, or humbly, head down, peeing at my feet. Dogs live in the moment. We saw no signs of this abuse during her visits; we saw only a puppy - OUR puppy - delighted to be back home.
Occasionally Mikayla was wild and defiant, and at times, showed extreme aggression. I would pin her to the floor until every muscle in her body relaxed. If she blocked my way, she was ordered to move, I would not change my path. I hand fed her kibble – food was mine, every toy became mine, she owned nothing. I was consistent, and cautiously hopeful of the chance to regain my relationship with her. As time went by, I could see that despite my inexperience with a motherless pup, Mikayla was learning to accept my leadership. While the toys still remain “mine”, food was never an issue and can be given or taken away without question.
Although terrified at times, Mikayla was still puppy-playful. Once after an adventure into the bathroom, she walked past me with toilet paper still clinging to her foot. I laughed at the sight of her… “What did you do?”…and she slowly crouched on the floor and waited for the beating to begin. I knelt down by her and I cried.
How would I overcome the damage that had been done to her? What hope was there for this Rottweiler now? I re-read volumes on wolf-pack mentality. I researched to internet to no avail. She was not a ‘singleton’, an only puppy; she was an orphan, raised by humans. How could I possibly restore her faith in people? Heartbroken but determined, I knew I had to maintain Alpha in our ‘pack’.
We started out slowly at the local kennel club, first joining a Canine Good Citizen class, added Rally classes, some obedience and Canine Freestyle. I could see her fear of people begin to subside…slowly she began seeking attention and petting from strangers and friends alike. She was learning to trust. Often heard at obedience trials were whispers - “is that the Dumpster Dog?” … and I’d just smile…yes, she is MY dumpster dog.
For the last six years, Mikayla has attended Responsible Dog Ownership Day at the Salisbury Kennel Club, and has delighted the audience with her interpretation of Canine Freestyle – Dancing with Dogs, allowing me to enlighten prospective and current dog owners that it’s not necessarily the breed as it is dedication that makes a well-adjusted dog. When asked about her tail, I proudly respond that she is the European model of Rottweiler! Certainly not exactly up to the conformation standard, many would comment about her breeding, and I jokingly reply “that’s what you get from a dumpster!” With her softer appearance and friendly demeanor, people are less hesitant to approach, allowing me my three minutes “Spay & Neuter” soap-box response, a necessity for any true animal rescuer.
In public when approached by children, we call upon Mikayla’s dancing skills – and she obliges with a few spins, some twists, a couple of weaves between my legs, while I instruct children on the proper way to approach a dog and the necessity of asking permission to pet the dog. On occasion, Mikayla has stepped in as the “neutral dog” during Canine Good Citizen testing.
I was able to register Mikayla with the AKC under their Purebred Alternative Listing, (PAL), formerly known as an ILP (Indefinite Listing Privilege). Mikayla has earned her Canine Good Citizen, Rally Novice, Rally Advanced and CD titles and was currently working on her CDX and Rally Excellent titles. She is now officially recorded with the AKC as “Briarhook’s Miracle of Mikayla, CD, RA, RN “ . Whether joining the Labradoodles at the romp at Dewey Beach, testing the waters of the Nanticoke, or riding the golf cart at our campground, Mikayla is steadfast in her devotion to me, as I am to her.
It is not about winning ribbons or titles, but the relationship between us and what we can achieve together. Mikayla is my companion, my best friend, and every day I am reminded of the human/canine bond that has developed between us. Once guilty of breed discrimination, I now proudly offer my Mikayla as an ambassador for the breed, a well-adjusted, social, obedient and loving dog…. she istrulymy Miracle!
Briarhook's Miracle of Mikayla earned her 3rd leg and AKC Rally Novice title at the Oriole Training Club in Baltimore, Maryland!
Now, we're working on her Rally Advanced Title. Just look at the enthusiasm! Rally Advanced is entirely off lead and contains 20-30 stations.
"We who choose to surround ourselves with lives even more temporary than our own live within a fragile circle, easily and often breached. Unable to accept its awful gaps, we still would live no other way. We cherish memory as the only certain immortality, never fully understanding the necessary plan."...Irving Townsend