The Story Of Hope / Maggie

Hope Just After Rescue From The Shelter
(See the badly deformed left leg)

The Story of "Puppy Hope":

I volunteer at Boxer Rescue LA, a proud member of a wonderful group of people that dedicate part of their lives to rescue dogs, specifically Boxers.

I received an email from Boxer Rescue on March 29 that read as follows; "There is a little female 3 months old being bought out for us tonight at the Downey Shelter. It is a female pup, with a deformed foot, that needs to go to Dr. Craig. Vet noticed some nerve problem, I hope it is not distemper. Could you swing by and pick her up?"

Since I heard many horror stories about this particular Shelter, I arranged to accomplish the assignment the next day, first thing in the morning. As I headed to the shelter, my mind started to play tricks with me. Thinking of the misfortune of some of these four-legged creatures, the deplorable conditions that we human beings put them through, and the disposable attitude that we have towards them.

I got to the shelter and walked up and down the corridors of the Kennel, I looked for this little female without being successful. I went to the front desk and asked for more details on her whereabouts. I finally was directed to the area where they keep the felines, I rushed in that direction just to find the saddest looking Puppy I ever laid my eyes on. Skinny, filthy, droopy eyes and, to my exasperation, her left-front leg was completely deformed. The bones had grown in separate directions and every time she moved, her leg would shake as if she had a neurological problem.

I must confess that my first reaction was to let her rest in peace, that it would be impossible for her to have a second chance in life. I know we live in a world where men are not supposed to cry... I cried. With teary eyes, I called my wife. I shared with her my feelings and let her know my thoughts, to which, in her tender voice, she responded "You should not feel that way, you know there is always hope". As I turned my head around and looked at the Puppy again everything came clear to me, I suddenly realized my wife was right. There was Hope!

I picked up Hope and drove her home. As I wrapped her in my arms, she licked my hands and face, I guess she knew her luck had turned around. We bathed her, groomed her, fed her, and gave her love. Hope seemed to be unaffected by her condition, running and playing with our three 75 pound Boxers around the yard, just like any normal puppy. Since then, she magically touched the hearts of everyone she met, humans, felines and canines alike. Three days later, I took her to the kennel to begin her quest for a home. Although we were sad to let her go, I was convinced that soon enough a loving soul would come around and offer her the love that someone had previously denied. She, indeed, had Hope!

Joe & Judy Ramirez

An X-ray revealed that her leg had been broken in two places. Unfortunately, veterinary care was not provided at the time, resulting in closure of growth plate, a shorter leg and one fracture caused the bone to stick out like a separate arm. Hope's leg could not be fixed and amputation was necessary. Hope has recovered and adjusted well, her personality did not get affected, just recently got adopted and I'm sure her new family will have many, many enjoyable memories to share in the future. So long Sweet Hope!

The Second Part Of The Story Maggie
(Re-born with three legs

The trip to Boxer Rescue that first Sunday had been a harrying nightmare of wrong turns and missed streets.  We were late starting, coming from a USC film audition, and I was still dressed like the Angel of Death, in black tunic, leggings and boots.  My friend, Karen had offered to drive.  I was grateful, though it meant we'd have to take only surface streets because she had some peculiar problem with freeways.  We'd promised to be there no later than 6 PM. We were like Keystone cops lost in a Blair Witch forest, zipping furiously through the maze of bland industrial buildings and nondescript side streets, sometimes passing the same disturbingly familiar landmark again and again.  Our deadline came and went.

 Ursula had waited for us.  I'd met her only by telephone, but she was exactly as I'd imagined -- long blonde hair, a tanned, exquisitely sculpted face, her Germanic dialect rich with texture, compassion and dry wit.  At the moment, it was a voice that struggled to be heard over the deep chorus of barking that greeted our arrival.  "You're sooooo late," she remarked cheerfully. "How could you get lost?  It's so  simple." We were numbed with relief that she'd waited.  We were bumbling Keystone Cops, drained of energy, apologetic, and consumed by only one thought: to meet the puppy, who had  become our Holy Grail.

My heart stopped as Ursula reached into one of the kennels to bring out the baby she'd described to me on the phone.  A bundle of fawn-colored puppy, all legs and love, a stubby tail ecstatically palpitating the rest of her pitifully thin body like a too-small outboard motor.  A black velvet face with huge soulful eyes was framed by perked ears that dangled at their soft tips, and gave her an air mischief.  Ursula placed the puppy on the ground.  With an awkward, limping gait, she hobbled several feet from where we stood, piddled, made her way over to me, and leaned against my knees as though she were auditioning me for the role of her new fourth leg.  I melted.  She'd lost her left front limb only a few days before to amputation.  Still wrapped in a white bandage, the place where her shoulder blade had once rippled beneath smooth skin was now a sharply defined expanse of ribcage -- the scalpel had severed all evidence that there had ever been a leg.  Still, every inch of her body pulsated with joy at our visit, and when I crouched to run my hands over her silken ears, she kissed me with the wild abandon of one who loves without restraint.

I was crestfallen to learn I couldn't take little 'Hope' home that day.  Her wound required follow up visits, Ursula explained, and she still needed to be spayed.  I watched sadly as my new puppy was deposited back in her crate. Her leg had been lost to neglect, Ursula told us.  Possibly abuse.  While still an infant, her left front leg had been broken at the shoulder and in two other places. Untreated and unset, the bones of the tiny limb had split and grown apart.  By the time she arrived at Boxer Rescue via the infamous Downey Animal Shelter, there was no hope of saving it.  It dangled like a useless little wing.

I began to comprehend the heroic selflessness of the Boxer Rescue Team - how it was their intervention and sacrifice that had delivered this incredible 'unadoptable' puppy from death row to a safe and loving environment in which I now found her. I cringed to think of the pain the puppy must have suffered -- crippled by her mangled leg, struggling with healthier animals to compete for enough food.  I looked over the other dog crates at Boxer Rescue.  Behind each door, a curious, friendly, hopeful face peered -- pressing its wrinkled velvetiness and wet, flattened nose against slim steel bars to plead for attention.  Pink tongues lavished love on us through those bars, and tails, stubby or long, thumped ecstatically against the plastic walls of the kennels.  I wondered about all the stories that filled those cages -- about the bad and then good luck that had brought each dog here.  I resolved to create the most wonderful life I could for my puppy -- one that would sustain and fortify the natural sense of joy she carried inside her and radiated to everyone around her.

Weeks later, everything was ready.  I was acting in a two-month run of a play at the Group Repertory Theatre in North Hollywood.  I'd arranged to pick my Boxer up on a Monday, since it wasn't a performance day.  I'd decided to rename her 'Maggie.'  'Hope' just sounded a little pious for the cavorting little imp I'd met.  My biggest concern was socializing her with my three other dogs, all of whom are male.  Yoda and Schweitzer, a Chihuahua and Bichon Frise respectively, would pose no problem, I thought.  Named after the famous scientist/humanitarian Albert, Schweitzer is, like his namesake, a gentle, beguiling little white-haired fellow who loves the world.  Yoda, on the other hand, is a domineering five-pound fawn-colored parcel of Napoleonic territorialism.  His specialty is terrorizing the shoes of any hapless visitors with peppery barks and snarls accompanied by furtive, darting little attacks from the rear.  But very seldom did his tiny teeth actually connect, and after all, despite her thin frame, Baby Maggie was already at least five times the little monster's weight.

My two birds -- B'vah, a Military Macaw, and Shadow, an African Gray, were also a source of worry.  My other dogs had long ago learned to leave Shadow alone and to fear B'vah.  They fascinated him, and tormenting them had become one of his favorite pastime.  He'd whistle, or call them by name in his piping, childlike voice, sometimes luring  them to the foot of his cage with strategically dropped food items.  Once they were within striking distance, he'd descend down the side like a wily buccaneer trying for a quick bite.  I'd long ago banned him to his cage whenever the dogs were in the same room.  Nevertheless, would Maggie and B'vah be a source of danger for each other?

My biggest concern was Trooper, the largest and most territorial of my pack.  Also a rescue, his fifty-five muscular pounds and Pit Bull lineage present themselves ominously to any dog ready to take him on as an opponent.  He'd once attacked a female mixed breed hound I'd rescued without pausing for even the stiff legged appraisal that usually comes before a fight.  How could I make sure his first meeting with Maggie would be peaceful and uneventful, that Maggie would be accepted into the pack?  I wrestled with the idea of hiring a trainer to facilitate the introductions.  Ursula had given me literature that suggested the best way to acclimate a new dog is to arrange for a meeting neutral territory.  I decided to give it a try.

The meeting was strategized with all the sophisticated intricacy of a diamond heist.  John, from Boxer Rescue, would pick me up at my house and drive me to the shelter.  In the meantime, my other friend, also named John, would take Schweitzer and Trooper to the dog park.  (Yoda was no longer invited because of his penchant for picking fights with Rottweilers.)  Once Maggie had been picked up, Boxer Rescue John and I would take her to the dog park where she could meet the senior members of her new family on neutral territory.  Also to our advantage would be the fact that Trooper would be played out from an hour-long romp, and Maggie would meet him well after the novelty of strange dogs had worn down a little at the edges.

The thing I remember most about arriving at the dog park with Maggie that day was not Trooper's response to her.  It had more to do with the total response to the little Boxer with three legs.  Within moments of her arrival, a dozen or more dogs descended to check her out.  I became aware that, just as adult humans find babies adorable, dogs love to rush over to get a look at new puppies, much as humans clamor for a peek into baby carriages.  But another source of fascination for the dogs was Maggie's missing leg.  It made them curious.  Each was filled with wonderment and curiosity about that leg.  Tails wagged with intense appreciation.  The few growls that erupted were only because someone was vying for a closer look and got in someone else's way.  I watched how gently and respectfully she was treated, like a princess, and how her small body wiggled with delight at each new encounter.

It occurred to me how wonderful dogs are, how, unlike humans who often shun the disabled as though their crippled status or sightless eyes were somehow contagious.  The human inhabitants that frequent the dog park, however, also fell immediately in love with the little fawn-colored baby.  Trooper and Schweitzer quickly joined the ranks of her adoring fans.  It became clear that Trooper and Maggie were destined to become best friends.

Over the next several weeks, Maggie slowly put on weight and muscle, learned a few rules of propriety and manners -- more from the older dogs than from me, and became a theatre dog.  I began taking her to all of my performances and rehearsals at the Group Rep, and she quickly acclimated herself to an actor's life.  She became the darling of the cast and crew, curling up in a front row seat to observe rehearsals and sleeping in the women's dressing room during performances.  In fact, Maggie slept quietly through the entire first act, awakened drowsily to be taken outside for a walk during intermission, and, after accepting pats and treats from the cast, would return to her bed in the dressing room.  It was only during the curtain call that she sprang to life, waiting eagerly by the door to be let out into the green room.  She knew the golden moment had arrived -- the moment all actors love.  The backstage area would fill with audience members there to congratulate, hug and praise, and Maggie considered these to be her public. It was one more opportunity for her to accept adoration and bestow kisses. And occasionally, there were post-show parties with food and prolonged visits.  During one of these, she kissed Gary Marshall!

Maggie's friendliness still worried me where it concerned the birds -- particularly B'vah.  Several times I caught her nosing at his cage, and though I reprimanded her, she didn't seem inclined to listen for long.  It's only a matter of time, I thought.  "He's going to nip her, just as he'd probably nipped the other dogs at some point in time, and she'll leave him alone from then on.  I prayed he wouldn't actually hurt her, and hated the thought of her trust in the goodness of all beings being shaken even a little bit.  Yoda, who did his snarling best to keep her off my bed till I interceded and lifted her there myself, had already done a little to undermine that faith.  But though he could make her fearful, nothing seemed ever to make her cynical or suspicious.

As I was typing on my computer one evening, some instinct told me to turn and check B'vah's cage.  The sight that greeted me will remain in my heart forever.  Maggie and B'vah were nose to nose, her velvety black pug snout, his powerful black beak.  The two were kissing each other through the bars, her long pink tongue slathering affection all over his green face, his small, blunt tongue pressing into hers with gentle sensuality.  I'd never seen him react to any dog in the same manner.  It was a Kodak moment without a Kodak.  She'd enchanted B'vah as well!

As I type these final words, Maggie is slumbering comfortably on the pillow near my computer.  She can sink almost instantly into dreams, her slow even breaths melting into yips and whines, the delicate white socks that adorn her three paws flipping as she races across some phantom terrain I'll never see.  Like a meddling mother, I've decided on a career for her.  She'll visit children and adults in hospitals, bringing comfort and courage especially to those who have to endure amputation and its aftermath.  I love her beyond imagining.

On the top of my monitor, I've taped a month-old post-it note which reads:

We just arrived (back home) today.  I think you are making a terrible mistake getting another dog.  Love, Mom & Pop.

They usually visit me once or twice a year from their home in Michigan.  I can't wait for them to meet their new grandchild.  I'm saving the note.  I want to give my father the opportunity to eat his words.  Because I know he'll fall in love with her too.  Yoda...well, she's still working on him!    

See More Pictures (click to see full size - click back in browser to return)
Hope before surgery

on_the_bricks.jpg (19754 bytes) out_on_the_deck.jpg (16474 bytes) in_arms.jpg (41893 bytes) on_the_deck.jpg (21715 bytes)

More Pictures After surgery

after_surgery_kit2.jpg (37274 bytes) after_surgery_kit4.jpg (39520 bytes) in_park1.jpg (51021 bytes) after_surgery_kit3.jpg (29581 bytes)

 

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