Editor’s note: This story originally appeared on DogHeirs, but Annie let us share it here so Dogster readers could comment.
It was day three of a complicated rescue in Compton, Los Angeles. Eldad Hagar from Hope For Paws, several volunteers, and myself met up at 6:30 a.m. to try and save a feral Pit Bull and her three four-month-old puppies, who were living in an abandoned lot.
Eldad presented us with a well-formulated plan, explaining each of our roles and exactly how we were going to secure each of the dogs. We all took our assigned positions and the rescue effort began. One puppy, two puppies, three puppies were all safe. But the mama Pit Bull outsmarted us and took off.
Eldad and I jumped in his car and drove up and down the residential streets of Compton, searching for the mama. These streets are arguably some of the most oppressed in America, riddled with violence, poverty, and homeless animals struggling to survive. Even though our intentions are pure, we always fear for our safety when we head out on rescue missions in areas like this. This day was no different.
We turned down a street filled with dilapidated houses and rundown cars. At the very end of the street was a rusty trailer that looked like it hadn’t been moved in months, if not years. And underneath it was a tiny dog that looked more like a dirty mop.
The next three minutes were incredibly stressful for the dog, and dangerous for Eldad and myself. Theo, as we named him, had been neglected for so long that he didn’t understand we were there to help him. He feared the worst and screamed as Eldad got his gentle snare around him, and he bit Eldad as Eldad tried to lovingly touch him.
Although the dog’s screams were out of fear of the unknown and not out of pain, they were alarming and woke many of the neighbors. In an area where violence is part of everyday life, those who came out to see what was happening assumed the worst in us.
Like Theo, people tend to fear what they do not understand — and the residents couldn’t fathom that people would simply show up to help an abandoned dog. As we were leaving, one woman walked up and asked us what we were doing to Theo. She truly thought we were hurting him. But after a few minutes explaining that we rescue animals in need, she told us that this dog had been left behind when his owners moved away more than a year ago.
Theo sat in my lap, frozen like a statue, as we drove to the vet. The smell from his urine-and-feces-soaked dreadlocks was so foul and thick that I couldn’t help but gag. How could any living creature live like this? How could he have survived for so long on his own in such a rough neighborhood? I held back my tears as I thought about all that Theo had been through in his short life. I could have gotten lost in these painful thoughts, but as rescuers, we must look forwards, not backwards, if we are going to give new light to the lives we save.
Looking forward, Eldad and I knew that once Theo was medically cleared, he was going to need a special kind of foster to repair his broken spirit. I reached out to my dear friend JF Pryor from the Mutt Scouts to see if they could help. The Mutt Scouts specialize in rehabbing the bodies and minds of discarded dogs, and I was hopeful that JF might be able to teach Theo how to smile.
JF and the Scouts were touched by Theo’s story and eager to help. They came to the hospital to meet Theo, and JF took one look at him and proclaimed that Theo would be going home with him to begin his rehab right away.
The first few updates we received from JF were not surprising. Theo was trying to hide in corners, as though hoping he could just disappear. But JF was confident that his Pit Bulls would help change all that.
Around day nine, JF sent us a few short videos that made me burst into happy tears. JF’s Pit Bulls Cleatis, Crouton, and Roslyn were teaching Theo how to play. And Theo was enjoying it! Slowly but surely, Theo played more and more confidently with dogs who are eight times his size. And as his confidence grew, so did a smile across his face.
In a week and a half, a pack of Pit Bulls taught Theo how to be a dog. For all of the negative stigma regarding Pit Bulls and their temperament, it is they who are teaching Theo everything he will need to soon find his forever home. We fear what we do not understand. For Theo, it was humans that he feared. For many, it is Pit Bulls. But as this story shows, with a little compassion from an unexpected place and a giant leap of faith, amazing things are possible.
And as for the mama Pit Bull we were looking for when we stumbled upon Theo? We went back a few days later and were able to save her, too. She and her three puppies — and, of course, Theo — are all happy, healthy, and awaiting forever homes.
To find out how to adopt Theo, please visit the Mutt Scouts website and fill out an application. Follow Theo’s progress on the Mutt Scouts’ Facebook page. And please consider making a small donation to Hope For Paws so they can continue this life-saving work.
Read more from Annie and about Eldad Hagar:
Read more about rescue on Dogster:
About the author: Annie Hart is an animal advocate and rescuer who has received international attention for her heartwarming rescue stories and viral rescue videos. She is currently working with several Los Angeles rescue groups and can be found sharing her daily rescue tales on Facebook.