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
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 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
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
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!