Apr 9, 2010

Zoe Means Life

Reprinted from Best Friends Animal Society

By Cathy Scott

It’s a new day for a wire-haired fox terrier named Zoe.

Life was scary at first for this former puppy mill dog. After all, Zoe, who was originally named Cilantro, was born inside a Midwest puppy mill. For the next six-and-a-half years, she was used as a breeder. So, adjusting to life outside a cage was a lengthy process.

It wasn’t always smooth sailing for her adopters, Pamela Clifford and Lorrie Webb, either. In fact, they moved from a condominium to a house because of complaints from neighbors about Zoe and her bark. In a nutshell, adopting Zoe “uprooted our entire life.” But they’re not the kind of people to give up, especially on a dog.

Zoe and Kallie
Zoe and Kallie
It was late May 2009 when Zoe and more than 200 dogs - unwanted, used-up breeders - were rescued and transported to shelters on the East Coast where there’s a high demand for purebred dogs. Around 30, including Zoe, within that group went to Best Friends Animal Sanctuary.

Once at the sanctuary, shy Zoe was diagnosed with mid-level dental disease and her ears were inflamed and dirty. Around that time, Lorrie and her friend Patricia were at the sanctuary attending a workshop. One day at the sanctuary, they spotted Zoe and a cocker spaniel in a run together. They stopped to visit.

“We just had to have her,” Pamela said. A short time later, they returned to the sanctuary to finalize the adoption, and then headed south to La Jolla, Calif., where Zoe went to live with Kallie, a rescued shelter dog, and a cat named Little Girl.

Never having lived in a home, Zoe couldn’t seem to get the hang of housetraining. And, she was frightfully skittish.

That first week, Pamela took time off from work to be with Zoe. “She slept every day,” Pamela said. “Any movement terrified her. She would freeze in her spot. Every time I turned around, she’d freeze.”

Then Zoe was diagnosed with pancreatitis, an inflammation or infection of the pancreas. “We thought we were going to lose her. We went to emergency. We put her on antibiotics and changed her food to high-end dehydrated,” she said.

Also, Pam said, “She was a special-needs dog. I had no idea that it would be the amount of work it was and the patience it would take.”

The first time Zoe was groomed was an experience for everybody involved. “Who would have ever thought a small dog could take down three grown women?” Pamela said. “Oh, those nails she had.”

Next, “Our little Zoe started to bark” - so much so, they unfortunately learned, that when Pamela and Lorrie were at work, she barked nonstop. A few months later, they decided to move into a house in nearby Pont Loma, a coastal community in San Diego.

Life's a beach
Life's a beach
With hard work, patience and time, Zoe gained confidence - and manners. Ten months later, she now loves to take walks along the tide pools near La Jolla Cove, play with toys and wrestle with Kallie. “She’s not barking,” Pamela said. “We come home and everybody’s quiet and calm.”

She’s still a bit afraid of men but is learning to be bolder. When asked if Zoe had adjusted well to life in a home, Pamela said, “I don’t know if she’s well-adjusted or if we’re just in love with her.”

The love Zoe is getting is exactly what makes it all worthwhile for people like Kelli Ohrtman, a specialist for Best Friends’ Puppies Aren’t Products campaign who organizes and oversees the Pup My Ride program.

“The progress Zoe has made with her new family is what keeps us all going,” Kelli said. “Zoe - and the thousands of other dogs like her - is the reason this work is so important.”

“Until she was rescued through Pup My Ride,” Kelli continued, “her life was very small. She was confined to a small cage with no love, no playtime, no freedom to act like a dog. The transition from that small life to living in a home can be difficult. Even accepting love from humans can be difficult for dogs who haven’t ever been given that. But with time, patience and understanding, these dogs blossom.”

Seeing Zoe today “prance around with her friend, snuggle on the couch and run on the beach is the sort of happy ending that makes this work worth it,” she said.

For Pamela and Lorrie, they believe they’ve learned volumes from Zoe and gotten back more than they’ve given.

“If you’ve never seen resilience, she’s the epitome of it,” Pamela said. “Every day she [had] looked sad. It's remarkable she survived what she’s been through.”

Then, one day, a miracle happened. Zoe wagged her tail.

“The first time her tail wagged,” she said, “we were so ecstatic. We said to each other, ‘Look at that.’ It was like watching a baby take her first steps. Zoe is just amazing.”

Photos courtesy of Pamela Clifford and Lorrie Webb.

To view a video of Zoe and family, click here.

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