Every rescue story is special.
When an animal is saved from neglect or abandonment, there is much cause for joy and gratitude.
Last month we shared a tale of a recent reunion of two Terriers, Henry and Poppy, who had both been rescued from the same hoarding situation. Poppy had been removed from the home in 2009 and adopted, while Henry and several others were saved several months later. When the property owner died in January 2010, Oregon Dog Rescue (ODR) was called on to capture the remaining dogs, rehabilitate them, and find them homes.
Henry’s experience left him with ground-down teeth, negligible muscle strength and near blindness. Deb Bowen and Krystyna Schmidt of ODR knew that while young and very cute, Henry’s blindness would diminish his adoptability. Through community outreach and a generous vet, Henry received surgery to regain his vision and, after careful vetting, was placed with his new guardian, Suz Strick. And while this in itself is a happy ending . . . there’s more.
Henry’s photo was used to promote “Henry’s Walk,” an ODR fundraiser supporting canine emergency medical treatment. The 2nd annual walk took place in May, and Henry's cute mug helped promote the event in the pages of Spot.
Donna and Yaakov Levine of Creswell, Oregon, were stunned when they saw the photo . . . it looked just like their own dog, adopted several months earlier after being rescued from a hoarding situation. They realized Henry wasn’t their Poppy, but they did find strong similarities in both dogs’ histories. Compelled to learn who Poppy’s look-alike was, they set about finding out.
“We had wondered if there were any other puppies around,” says Yaakov. “We knew several dogs had been rescued after the owner died, but we didn't know where they went . . . and we could tell that Poppy had had puppies.”
Who rescued who
Through some searching, the Levines connected with Henry’s mom, Suz Strick. After emailing for several months they finally decided the Levines would trek from Eugene so they could all meet at a NE Portland dog park.
While the dogs seemed to enjoy each others’ company, the humans who swapped stories for hours that day came to understand something so many touched by animal rescue do: while they may have rescued Henry and Poppy . . . Henry and Poppy had also rescued them.
Shortly before Poppy came into the Levines’ lives, Yaakov, a nutritional therapist and herbalist, and Donna, an organic gardener, had lost a beloved dog. “I didn't realize until my other dog had died how much support I was getting from my four-legged friend,” says Yaakov. Last winter he and Donna visited Greenhill in Eugene to see the adoptable dogs . . . and there was Poppy “waiting for them.”
They named her Poppy after the calming flower, a nod to her gentle nature, and fitting her peoples’ vocations. “She's a real sweetheart,” says Yaakov. I feel a lot of support and grounding from Poppy. With the pace of my life, her unconditional love and calm presence is soothing. I feel more relaxed when I'm around her.”
It was about this same time that Suz Strick was contemplating adopting another dog in Portland. She had lost her Beagle Cosmo three years before, and her surviving Beagle Ella didn’t require as much energy at age 15. Additionally, Strick had left a stressful job involving frequent travel, opening up more time for another pet. Naturally responsive to neglect cases, Strick began searching for a dog she might be able to help.
She found Henry on PetFinder and followed his story through ODR for three months, becoming increasingly enamored with the little Terrier mix with the woeful look and difficult past.
“I think the severity of his situation was startling,” says Strick. His plight especially resonated as Strick was then facing serious health issues herself. “I saw parallels between Henry and myself of survival and wanting another chance,” she says. Strick emailed Deb Bowen and made an impassioned plea.
Bowen, along with Krystyna Schmidt and Penny Grau of ODR, were the rescue team that originally rescued Henry on a cold, wet January morning. They’d gone to gather the remaining dogs from the hoarding site, a feat that would take all day and earn Schmidt the nickname “Queen of the Catch Pole” — her skillful and patient effort in securing Henry and another dog (Marge) from underneath a dangerously overfilled shed. The dogs had burrowed underneath for shelter, and the women lay on their bellies for hours trying to capture them.
Bowen fostered Henry for six months, teaching him to live indoors, getting him healthy, and readying him for the day he would be made available for adoption. ODR hosts outreaches Saturdays at PetsMart in Tualatin, not an ideal scene for timid, shy dogs. Knowing Henry’s beginnings and having spent much time with him, Bowen was convinced he would find his forever home. “He was such a project, but I knew it was doable,” says Bowen. “We just knew it had to be just the right situation.”
On adoption day, little Henry, fearful and still not seeing well, cowered at the back of his crate, peeing on himself when someone pulled him out. “Actually,” says Bowen, laughing, “wetting his pants helped weed out those who were really interested from those who just wanted to see the cute dog.”
Soon Strick went to an outreach to meet Henry, and the bond was immediate. “When we met Suz, she was just so devoted that we knew,” says Bowen. After a trial period, the adoption was completed.
Over the next year, Strick helped Henry find himself. On the day Spot met with Strick, Henry was curled up next to her on the couch, enjoying constant contact while she gently stroked his back or playfully tousled his head.
Relating Henry’s story and how they came together, Strick appreciates all that went into bringing him into her life. “He had a lot of people behind him and I can't emphasize enough the amount of recovery that had to take place,” she says.
L-R Suz and Henry, Yaakov, Poppy and DonnaHer reaction to the Levines contacting her saying they might have Henry's mother? “It was unbelievable on so many levels,” says Strick. “First, that she was okay, and that she got placed into this amazingly kind family.” Strick says one downside of taking in rescues is rarely getting the opportunity to meet parents or littermates, so knowing that Henry's mom was alive and well both excited her and opened the possibility of gaining insight into some of Henry’s behavior.
While Strick watched a new dog emerge from a wounded shell, Henry’s fear — though eased by 18 months of nurturing — kept him timid. “A year ago, if someone came over he would hide,” says Strick. “Now he wants to be a part of things. The fear he lived with for so long goes away day by day.”
Today Henry enjoys weekly walks at the park. Just recently he’s even begun running happily through the grass. It is at this park Strick feels Henry truly experienced joy for the first time, so their visits are frequent. Because Henry is so comfortable there, it was a natural place for the Levines and Poppy to meet Strick and Henry this summer.
Strick beams as she describes sharing stories with Yaakov and Donna Levine about the dogs they love so dearly. “It was wonderful,” she says. “I don't know if they remembered each other, but just seeing them together was just such a gift.”
After quiet exploration around the “Small and Shy” section of the dog park, mother and son snuggled near each other as their humans learned more about the dogs and each other. “We shared grooming tips and stories about how they both like to ride in the car . . . and how much they love hot dogs,” Strick says. “It was so cool just seeing Poppy be who she is, how she lays and how they move their faces. All the little gestures are so alike.”
To commemorate the afternoon, the families swapped items for the dog; Donna brought a bandana that Poppy often wears, Suz shared a piece of Henry's prized fluffy blanket.
Strick loves the friends she’s made. “I can't wait to get to know Poppy better, and I think Donna, Yaakov and I will probably be friends forever. Whatever they went through, and however hard it was, both dogs came out with a new shot at life, and we take that really seriously. We want to give them the best we can because they deserve it.
Yaakov agrees. “It's exciting to be in that bubble, through the process of being in touch with Suz and meeting Henry, and it’s fulfilling knowing both of these dogs have good homes.”
Bowen loves that the two families were keen on knowing each another. “Whenever we’ve had situations where you have these isolated dogs it’s really good for people to keep in contact and gain knowledge. People learn from each other and sometimes find out things that work that maybe they hadn't thought of.”
At the park, while the humans chatted about their dogs’ likes and dislikes, Henry and Poppy seemed to be learning about each other as well. One of Poppy’s moves is to flop in front of her humans for belly rubs, a huge gesture of trust. Speaking shortly after their meeting, Suz told Yaakov that Poppy’s behavior was not lost on Henry. Since their reunion, she says her sweet boy, the one who used to hide under the bed and refused to make eye contact, has started soliciting his own belly rubs . . . a request she accommodates with great pleasure.
Nikki Jardin is a Portland-based freelance writer who loves to write about people dedicated to making the world a better place for all beings. When she’s not writing, she’s either exploring the great outdoors, traveling, or volunteering with Fences For Fido, a local nonprofit dedicated to giving dogs freedom from a previously chained life.