Saturday, Jan. 24, marks Change a Pet’s Life Day, an annual celebration of animal adoption. It’s also a day when Jennifer Devereaux will celebrate the life of a dog who changed hers.
Devereaux wasn’t looking to get another dog when Maggie, a nine-year-old Dachshund, stole her heart and became her very first rescue pup.
“It was only short-lived, but Maggie changed my life,” explains Devereaux, who now serves as a board member and adoption coordinator for Forever and a Day Small Dog Rescue Society in Alberta, Canada.
“She was a puppy mill breeder, she was food aggressive, and she didn’t play,” she remembers. “The only reason we ended up with Maggie was because she was another wiener dog, and someone knew I already had two wiener dogs.”
That someone was a Facebook friend who was trying to find a home for an aging puppy mill dog with a heart condition and a mouthful of rotting teeth. Despite being busy with her own dogs, Daisy and Noodle, Devereaux took Maggie into her home as a foster dog for Forever and a Day.
Right away, it became apparent that Maggie’s life had been a tough one. When Devereaux petted the senior dog, she could feel the Dachshund’s ribs jutting out in a strange way.
“It was one of my concerns when I took her to get vetted for the first time. I thought she had a broken rib,” she recalls. The veterinarian explained that while Maggie’s ribs were not broken, they had been disfigured by years and years of breeding.
“It happened because she’d just had so many litters of puppies,” she says.
The problems with Maggie’s ribs may have been obvious, but her future was not. A heart condition prompted one veterinarian to recommend euthanasia, while another thought she could possibly have another five years left in her. Still, Maggie’s health problems made her an unsuitable candidate for adoption, which was just fine with Devereaux. She found herself growing attached to the senior wiener dog.
“I figured, okay — I have a permanent foster.”
Because of Maggie’s food aggression and behavior issues, Deveraux didn’t feel comfortable leaving her at home with the two playful, younger dogs during the work day. Instead, she brought Maggie to work with her.
“She was so grateful to be with me,” says Devereaux.
After several weeks of nearly constant companionship, little Maggie began to change. At first, the changes in her behavior were small, but one day, Devereaux looked into her car’s rearview mirror and was shocked to see old Maggie playing with an ugly toy ball, which had been discarded by other dogs.
“When we got Maggie we were told no, she doesn’t play. She likes bones and being under blankets and that’s about it,” explains Devereaux. “But I looked back in my car, and there she was with this ball.”
Maggie’s newfound playful side coincided with another change in behavior that made feeding time a lot less stressful for Devereaux, her boyfriend, and the other two dogs. The food-aggressive dog, who had been known to scarf down all three food bowls if given the chance, was suddenly sharing.
“Within a couple months of her being here, she and Daisy were starting to eat out of the same dish,” says Devereaux.
After nine happy months of improvements, Maggie’s health finally started to decline. She fell down the stairs — an accident that would prove to be too much for her frail body to handle after a lifetime of producing puppies.
“I had to give her hourly [pain] injections in her neck through the night, and it seemed like she was bouncing back,” Devereaux remembers. “The day before she passed away, we even took her to get her nails clipped.”
Unfortunately, the rebound was short-lived, and soon Deveraux was counting as Maggie took 82 breaths per minute. As Devereaux approached Maggie to give her an injection, the now 10-year-old Dachshund panicked. “It just wasn’t fair to her to be doing hourly injections,” she says.
At that point, Devereaux made the incredibly difficult decision to call the vet and have Maggie put to sleep. “She passed away peacefully, in my arms.”
Maggie left this world just before Christmas 2014, but her legacy lives on in Devereaux, who is dedicated to helping more people change the lives of rescue dogs.
“She has an awesome last few months of her life, and I am a different person because of her,” she says.
You can change a dog’s life, too, by getting involved with animal rescue organizations in your area, and Change a Pet’s Life Day is the perfect time to start. Here are a few ways you can make a difference:
Shelters and rescue organizations are always looking for extra pairs of hands to help out, whether it be with walking dogs, cleaning kennels, or participating in fundraising events. Without volunteers, many shelters and rescue groups wouldn’t be able to operate. By donating your time, you’re not just changing the life of one dog — you’re helping to change the lives of all the animals who find a home through that organization.
Rescue groups can only help as many animals as they have space for, so many organizations are happy to add additional foster homes to their existing roster. By fostering a dog, you’re not only providing a roof over her head, you’re also rehabilitating, training, and teaching the dog what it’s like to be a pet. Foster homes change the lives of both the dogs and their future forever families.
With millions of dogs ending up in shelters every year, it’s easy to see that dog overpopulation is a problem in our society, and yet puppy mills continue to use dogs like Maggie to breed puppies for profit. When you choose to adopt instead of shop, you’re not only saving the life of the dog you take home, but also the life of the next dog who can fill the vacant space at the rescue or shelter.
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About the Author: Heather Marcoux is a freelance writer in Alberta, Canada. Her beloved Ghost Cat was once her only animal, but the addition of a second cat, Specter, and the dog duo of GhostBuster and Marshmallow make her fur family complete. Sixteen paws is definitely enough. Heather is also a wife, a bad cook, and a former TV journalist. Some of her friends have hidden her feed because of an excess of cat pictures. If you don’t mind cat pictures, you can follow her on Twitter; she also posts pet GIFs on Google+.