In February 2017, we lost our beloved rescued Doberman mix, Lola, to cancer. Two weeks later, our beloved Tarzan, an abandoned dog we could never catch but took care of for years, went missing. In a desperate attempt to locate Tarzan, we went to the pound to see if he had been picked up by Animal Control, though we knew the chances of that happening were slim to none – Animal Control had tried to catch him for several years with no success. Little did we know that those two events plus our trip to the pound would transform our great sadness and sorrow into one of the biggest blessings in our lives making our hearts overflow with love.
As we walked through the pound looking for Tarzan, our hearts were broken to see the number of dogs who needed forever homes. Most of the dogs were loud and jumping around as if to say, “Pick me, pick me!” However, as we passed one kennel we noticed a beautiful dog lying in her kennel not moving or reacting to any of the commotion around her, not even her kennel mate who was so excited to see someone. We had to look closely at the poor dog to make sure she was even breathing. We called to her and made little noises, but she refused to even look at us. She just lay there listlessly and despondent as she stared off into a vast and empty world. It was apparent that she had checked completely out of life.
Unfortunately, we had not emotionally recovered enough from our recent losses to take her home that day, but she weighed heavily on our hearts, and we could not get her out of our minds. We talked about her and prayed very hard for guidance. In the meantime, I had “liked” the shelter’s Facebook page and would see different updates on certain dogs. One day, we happened to notice a desperate plea for homes for “long time residents” at the shelter. There she was… a picture of the terrified dog who had checked out of life. At that moment, we knew we had to act. We knew we had to rescue that precious life, so we decided to go see her on Saturday, April 1, the day that would change our lives and home forever.
We walked into the shelter and asked to see Bebe, her former name. When we got to her kennel, we found her as we had seen her the last time, curled up in a tight ball and staring off into nothingness. We thought for sure that she would acknowledge our presence when we actually walked in and approached her, but there was nothing. We bent down and touched her but still nothing except she moved slightly to put her back paws over her head. We ended up having to pick her lifeless body (which was all skin and bones) up and carry her outside to the visitation area. Our hearts were torn wide open. We had never seen a dog in such a condition. We brought our other dog, Onyx, in to meet her and she finally reacted to all of us, but it wasn’t positive. She tried everything in her power, though she was very weak, to get away from us. She wanted to cower in the corner of the fenced in area. That’s when Susanne looked at me as she bent over to pick this poor soul up and said, “Let’s get you out of her little girl.”
I finished the adoption paperwork, and she carried a terrified trembling body out to our car. As I was finishing the paperwork, the employee helping me looked at me with the most grateful and compassionate eyes and said a simple “Thank you!” She later told me that the newest member of our family had been seized from a house and had been held for many months at the facility during the legal proceedings. She had been seized from her owners for abuse and was clearly neglected. Her only way of dealing with the 4+ years of abuse was to withdraw. She said that the sweet baby had been beyond terrified since she had been brought in and that no one had been able to get through to her. She was always looked over by potential adopters because she was so disengaged and lifeless which led her to be labeled as "un-adoptable"; thus, they had finally decided to euthanize her. As the tears formed in my eyes, I knew that we would have a long road ahead of us, but I also knew that we had made the right decision.
The first night, we spent time just loving on her and trying our best to let her know that she was LOVED, SAFE, and OURS!! Of course, we got no response but we were determined that little by little we could break down her walls. We wanted her to have a fresh start on life, so we decided to first change her name. We believe that speaking confidence into someone makes a difference so we decided to name her Takoda which means friend of everyone. We want that for her….. to love life and love those around her. We call her Koda.
The first week, Koda lay in a corner for over 23 hours a day. She was scared of everything. She was so withdrawn that her eyes did not move, her ears did not perk and her nose did not sniff. She lay in a corner and would not move. If approached, she would cover her head with her paws and try with all her weak might to back as far into the wall as possible. She would shake and cower. Her eyes were still dark and she would stare off into some faraway place. Taking her outside was extremely difficult as well. She was terrified being in the house, but even more terrified of being outside. She would get so low when walking in an army crawl position that her belly would almost touch the ground. It was difficult to tell if she had even gone to the bathroom because she was so low there was no need to squat. The only time she would try to eat or drink anything was at night when it was quiet and all the lights were off. She never made a sound and rarely even moved when we were around.
Koda’s health was also of great concern. She was very thin, her coat was brittle, dull and speckled with dandruff, and it became apparent that she was eaten up with worms. We also noticed several scars on her and a ripped ear as signs of her past struggles. We immediately took her to see our amazing veterinarians, Shannon Hait and Suzie Powell, at Crosswinds Animal Hospital. We knew they would provide her with the best medical care possible. She had to go through three rounds of treatments to finally rid her of the worms and she had to receive dental care which allowed her to eventually start eating hard foods and treats. The compassion and care they showed her and continue to show her is priceless. Through their care, she has begun to gain weight, develop a beautiful coat, and physically feel better.
Within a couple of days after talking with our vets, we knew that we would need more professional guidance to work on Koda’s mental health, so we started researching dog trainers. We also knew that the trainer would have to be a special person who was experienced, compassionate, patient, and kind. After reading many reviews and talking with some friends, we decided to call a local dog training group. A week later, another of Koda’s saviors appeared at our door in the form of Tara Allen with the Greenville Dog Wizard. As Tara walked in the door, Koda bolted out of her corner, onto the sofa, across an end table (about knocking over a lamp) and into another room…..peeing the entire way. Tara, very calmly and compassionately, looked at us as we stood there with our eyes wide opened and said, “So, I see what you’re going through. Let me help you.” After we took Koda out and cleaned up the mess, Tara sat down and began to simply listen to us but more importantly to Koda. By the end of our visit, she was able to sit down with Koda without her freaking out and even coaxed her out of her corner. She showed us some simple exercises we could do to start building her confidence before she could begin a 3-week training program with her. We religiously did those exercises and often sought guidance from Tara as we eagerly awaited the start of Koda’s training. We were in awe of the knowledge, compassion, responsiveness, and genuine care she showed for our sweet girl.
The time finally came for Koda to leave for her training, and we were both nervous and excited. This was another new beginning in Koda’s long journey, and we knew it would be difficult for her but we had confidence that she was in the perfect hands for the task. As the days and weeks went by, we saw a consistent improvement in Koda as Tara posted videos and pictures. We would text every day for updates and insight and Tara was always so open and responsive. She would tell us when Koda had great days and also tell us when Koda had not so great days. Tara persisted with Koda even when Koda was seemingly ready to give up. Those three weeks proved to be the most instrumental weeks in Koda’s life. She became more confident, active, interactive, and began to start enjoying life.
Tara has always been honest with us and she has told us that breaking through to Koda will be a very long process and one with lots of ups and downs, but she also told us that consistency is the key and that she would continue the journey along with us to insure that Koda has the best chance at a normal and fun life. The promise that she made to us regarding her support for the life of the dog has held true.
Crosswinds Animal Hospital, Tara, and the Greenville Dog Wizard have been by our sides every step of the way and continue to offer the support and guidance that we desperately need. The many talented people who make up “Team Koda” have become Koda’s lifeline. She is now healthy, engages in life, takes joy in watching the world, sniffing things, grooming herself, and just being a much loved dog. She still has a long recovery, possibly years, ahead of her; but little by little Team Koda is allowing her to come out of her shell and discover a world that is not quite as cold and scary as the one she once knew.
After seeing Koda experience this incredible transformation of no longer desiring to engage in or live life to the place where she is now enjoying life, we were inspired to replicate this on a larger scale than our family could do on our own, so we started Rescued Life to inspire others, to encourage others, and to help fund the rescue of many other “Kodas” that are in need of our help. It makes our hearts full to see her transformation, and we wish for other animals in her position to have the same opportunity. Thank you to Drs. Hait and Powell of Crosswinds Animal Hospital and to Tara Allen, of the Greenville Dog Wizard for being Koda’s saviors and integral parts of Team Koda. Not only have they helped us save Koda but they have inspired us to save many more like her!
With Love for Koda...
To see more photos of Koda as she continues on her journey of learning to love life click below.