She was a puppy with a rough start in life. Born on a puppy mill in southern Ohio in a cramped cage in a cramped garage, her senses were bombarded with the smell of ammonia and feces, the air filled with the plaintive cries of a hundred other scared and miserable prisoners sharing a small space, some sitting on top of dead brothers and sisters. To add to her misery, her back leg was deformed, a result of inbreeding and poor nutrition and exacerbated by the lack of exercise. Her leg, below the knee, was twisted awkwardly towards her backside rendering it useless and cumbersome.
She was rescued and taken into my home as a result of the work of Marilyn’s Voice Rescue, a wonderful group of dedicated volunteers dedicated to the elimination of these death camp puppy mills from existence. She was named, Bette Davis, after the legend known for her striking eyes and bounding spirit. It was my goal to heal her physically and mentally, the latter of which I suspected would be the greater challenge.
She was shy at first, being unused to life outside of a cage. She recoiled at the slightest raising of my voice and was not accustomed to people. My daughter, Julia, met her and instantly fell in love. They developed a special relationship and this helped her come out of her shell. My fiancé and I walked her regularly and mostly were just patient and loving. We gave her nutritional supplements and a diet that would help rebuild her body and relieve her pain at the same time.
I performed surgery about a month after she arrived to repair her leg, hoping to make it useful. Over the next few months she pushed courageously through her physical therapy sessions, always looking at us with her penetrating eyes as we manipulated her leg to help it heal with a good range of motion and to grow muscles that had, up to then , never been used. She started walking then running on the leg, gaining confidence and strength with each stride. She was enrolled in obedience with Amy Guttman of Canine University. I had known Amy a long time and trusted her method, knowing it to be both gentle and effective. She was a natural, as if she wanted nothing more than to please us or anyone who paid her any attention.
Today, she runs like a gazelle. She was recently awarded her Canine Good Citizen certification and is a registered therapy dog. Together with my daughter they visit the weak and the injured and Bette loves every minute of it. I couldn’t be more proud of both of them. When she runs at top speed, she is a blur and I can’t stop laughing as she runs, with my fiancé rooting her on, “Go Bette Go!!”.