Alouette Mayer knew she had to do something. The big, filthy dog strained at his chain, standing in a muddy, feces-strewn kennel and barking. His owner had moved out months before, coming over every few days to dump food on the ground and fill a water bowl that would again be empty well before he returned. He never touched the dog, even though the desperate canine wagged his tail hopefully whenever his master came around.
“The dog would stand there and stare at the gate, just waiting for the owner to come back,” says Mayer.
Previous efforts by neighbors to involve the county and other agencies had not improved the dog’s situation. Mayer’s own attempts to reason with the owner were met with a mind-your-own-business attitude and a warning that Beef — an apt name for the squat but massive white and tan dog — could turn vicious if she tried to approach him. She risked the danger anyway to keep his water bowl full and supplement the rotting kibble on the ground with chew bones. But she avoided getting too close.
There was one thing Alouette couldn’t avoid, however. The windows to her apartment looked directly onto Beef’s kennel where, except for a rickety makeshift doghouse, the lonely dog was at the mercy of the relentless rain and cold. When she discovered he’d been living that way for nearly eight years, she knew she couldn’t give up on him.
Mayer expressed her distress to Daisy Berg, a canine-loving coworker who then approached Beef’s owner with an offer to help find the dog another home. Given the touchiness of the situation, Berg didn’t reveal her connection to Mayer, and managed to gain the owner’s trust by never criticizing how he was caring for Beef. “Truly, he thought he was doing great by this dog,” she says.
Eventually, Berg convinced the owner to let her meet Beef off the chain. As the excited dog ran free around his yard for the first time in months, Mayer watched from her apartment window and smiled.
The Foster Mom
Karen Friedman has fostered all kinds of dogs over the past 15 years. Still, she was fairly surprised when asked if she might consider taking in a 90-pound Pit Bull who’d been chained up most of his life.
“I couldn’t imagine he wouldn’t have huge temperament issues,” Friedman says.
But there was something unexpected about Beef. His story had filtered down to Karin Cereghino, foster coordinator for Family Dogs New Life Shelter (FDNLS), and together with Berg, she managed to get him temperament tested. To everyone’s amazement, Beef was declared emotionally stable, sweet, and most importantly — adoptable.
“Despite all he had been through, he was incredibly resilient,” says Friedman.
In fact Beef was such a charmer that a staffer at the clinic where he was neutered hoped to make Beef a permanent member of his own family — which included a little girl who dressed the barrel-chested dog in socks and pearls. Unfortunately, the resident Pomeranian wasn’t pleased, so another foster home had to be found. Friedman took a chance on him . . . and it wasn’t long before she knew all would be well.
“In less than 24 hours, Beef was on the couch sleeping with [my Kelpie mix] Traveler,” she laughs. Indeed, the jovial, unchained Beef seemed determined to make up for lost time, putting his old life behind him and soaking up as much fun and love as he could get.
“He was so game for anything,” says Friedman. “I couldn’t wait to get home to him.” In fact, she’d almost decided to keep Beef — now known as “Beefcake” — for herself. Then she met Bill Fitzgerald, Isabelle Barbour, and their wide-eyed daughter Iona.
The Forever Family
Bill liked Beefcake immediately when he met him at the FDNLS Adopt-A-Pet booth at the Fremont Festival. Iona, however, was already taken with a Poodle mix from the shelter.
“Then Iona asked me if Beefcake liked to play dress-up,” says Friedman. “And that was it.” After talking with Bill, an adoption application was completed and a home visit scheduled. “But I knew already. This was his family.”
Anne Bachman, one of the adoption counselors who took Beefcake for that initial home visit, agrees. “The way they were with their other dog and Beef . . . we knew right then this was it.”
Barbour says that day wouldn’t have happened were it not for Friedman’s commitment to fostering. “I couldn’t have brought an 8-year-old Pit Bull who’d been chained his whole life into my house with a child unless I trusted Karen so much. That’s why fostering is so important.”
Iona puts her arms around the smiling canine’s thick neck as he lies on a cushy bed strewn with toys. Many people have lost their hearts to Beefcake on his road to this forever home. But it’s clear that Beefcake’s heart belongs to Iona.
“He makes people happy every single day,” she says.
Lisa Teso Photography * Photos
Michele Coppola is a Portland-based air personality for 99.5 The Wolf and copywriter for Entercom Radio. When she's not talking, writing, or pursuing quality couch time with husband Bryon and their dogs Cindy and Lucy, she's also a proud volunteer for Fences For Fido and Family Dogs New Life Shelter.