Puppy Love, Worth the Work

Think twice before hitting or screaming at an animal; it could destroy their ability to be man’s best friend or have a home

Loud, eager barking meets anyone who dares to open the gate to the PAWS Animal Rescue in Swartz Creek. Those brave enough to venture farther are greeted with puppy hugs, cuddles and wagging tails. On the surface, these dogs may seem like any others, but years of abuse or dog fighting have hindered their ability to have normal relationships with humans or other dogs.


Many of the dogs at PAWS come from Flint and have been part of illegal dog fighting for most of their lives, either as pullers or as breeders for litter after litter of puppies. Many of my favorite dogs sport incredibly large thighs, evidence of years of using those muscles to pull dogs in and out of dog fights. As a result of dogfighting, many of these dogs are aggressive toward each other and would lunge at one another, teeth barred, given any chance to do so.


Zena is one of these dogs. What Zena lacks in social skills for her fellow canines, she makes up for with humans. Zena is the kind of dog that could play fetch for hours: in snow, rain, mud and at night when her weathered tennis ball can barely be seen. Working with dogs like Zena brings tears to my eyes. People have taught her to be aggressive for entertainment. People have taught her to see a dog and think “kill,” rather than “friend.” People have prevented her from being able to play catch with a family. Instead, Zena has to live her life in a cage, waiting all day to play catch for a half hour because people have taught her to be aggressive.


While some dogs display their insecurities as aggression, others cower in the corner of their cage in hopes of getting as far away from the human hands that have hurt them for so long. One of these dogs is Gracie, she wears her scars of abuse all over her face and cannot let go of the wrong humans have done to her. She can only make it out of her cage for a couple minutes before she realizes a man or woman holds the leash attached to a collar wrapped around her neck. I have never been able to walk Gracie. Every time I walk by her kennel, she growls a little and cowgers to the corner, not able to bring her self to look in my direction. Seeing the pain Gracie goes through every day makes me hate people, the kind of people who can harm an innocent animal and prevent that animal from ever having a normal life.


Another one of these dogs is Brynn. She is the most beautiful, gentle dog I have ever met and for the longest time, I would try to take her on walks only to have her hide her tail between her legs. After months of walks, petting her head gently and kneeling down to let her sniff my hand, she finally trusts me and jumps at her kennel door to go on walks. Being an active part in Brynn’s transformation has been the most rewarding experience. Brynn was recently adopted to a woman who has worked with abused animals for almost ten years and knows how to make her feel safe. Although I will miss her more than words can express, I take pride in knowing I made a difference for her and helped her find a forever home where she will be loved and cherished instead of abused.


The shelter dogs at PAWS have taught me about patience and the value of kind hearted actions. Unfortunately, the victories of working with abused animals are small victories, such as getting an aggressive dog to the walking track without using treats or dragging them away from other snarling dogs, or getting shy dogs to sniff your hand or let you pat their heads. I will take the small victories I get every Wednesday evening over no victory at all, hoping one day each of these dogs will have a forever home.