She was terrified — and who could blame her? Maggie had spent two days traveling from Grand Bahama Island to Denver, Colorado. One of dozens of Potcake dogs (named for the leftover bit of rice and beans local families feed to strays) being transferred from the Humane Society of Grand Bahama to the Colorado Animal Welfare League back in 2012, Maggie had spent the first year or so of her life scrounging for scraps. She’d never had a lot of reasons to trust people, and although she was heading to the loving foster home of Betsy Vajtay, she didn’t know it yet. All she knew was that she had been getting on and off planes for two days, sharing her crate with seven ticks who’d caught a ride, and fighting a gastrointestinal illness.
“She was afraid of humans,” says Vajtay, who remembers the other Bahamian potcakes seemed happy — wagging their tails and enjoying post-flight snacks — while Maggie was panicking.
“She even scooted underneath a truck and was as far away from humans as possible,” Vajtay recalls. “She was very shy. She did better with dogs than humans.”
Luckily for Maggie, Vajtay already had a dog — Rocky — who had experience helping fosters adapt to life after shelters. A former foster dog himself, Rocky was originally picked up as a stray in Kansas before eventually finding himself in the care of the Colorado Animal Welfare League. Vajtay had agreed to foster Rocky a year earlier in 2011 and immediately decided her home would be the last stop in his rescue journey.
“As I was driving to pick him up, I knew he was going to be my forever dog,” she says, adding that Rocky’s great personality made it possible for her to continue opening her home to foster dogs after his adoption.
“He’s such a good ambassador,” she says.
Rocky was the perfect welcoming committee for Maggie, who was quite traumatized by her international transfer. The Potcake pups had flown from the Bahamas to Florida (where they’d spent the night with volunteers) before flying from Florida to Atlanta and then from Atlanta to Denver. The journey was emotionally and physically taxing.
“She’s such a survivor,” explains Vajay, who eventually consulted with an animal communicator about Maggie’s arduous journey. “The communicator said Maggie almost didn’t survive the whole trip.”
Overwhelmed by everything, Maggie had to be carried from the airport to Vajtay’s car, and from the car to Vajtay’s third-floor condo. Once inside, Maggie lay down by the front door, refusing to walk. When her new foster mom carried her down to the backyard, Maggie ran to hide behind a pine tree. It wasn’t until the next morning that she would start to come out of her shell, thanks to Rocky.
“I picked her up and went back outside, and she went right back under that tree, and this time Rocky went just outside of the tree and he just lay there,” Vajtay remembers. “It was like he was saying, ‘Whenever you’re ready, I’m out here.’ I just sat back and watched, and she slowly crawled out and sniffed Rocky a little bit.”
Rocky’s offer of friendship gave Maggie the confidence to start tentatively enjoying her new surroundings.
“There was a pink ball in the yard, and she went over and picked it up,” Vajtay recalls.
With the two dogs now facing each other, she watched in amazement as Maggie wagged her tail two times.
“I knew at that moment she was going to be OK.”
Over the next few days, Maggie got braver. She began running around in the backyard with Rocky, and even decided that she was going to walk on a leash.
“She really started developing trust,” says Vajtay. “I had her for about four months before she was ready to be adopted.”
When an adopter came forward, it was time for Vajtay and Rocky to say goodbye to Maggie so they could open their home to another foster dog in need. Unfortunately, after about eight months in her new home, Maggie was returned to the Colorado Animal Welfare League. The adoption hadn’t been the right fit, but luckily, Vajtay was in between fosters and was available to take her back.
“At that point I thought, ‘I’m gonna find her an even better home,’ and the even better home ended up being my home. I just couldn’t let her go,” Vajtay says.
Once again able to look to Rocky for guidance, Maggie blossomed in her forever home and followed her best buddy’s pawsteps through positive, kindness-based training.
“They both used to be really big pullers, and they’re not pullers anymore,” explains Vajtay, who believes training is essential for every dog. “It gave them both confidence and direction and boundaries.”
Training helped transform Rocky and Maggie into the well-behaved, well-socialized dogs they are today, but Vajtay doesn’t discount the role the pair’s bond has played in their development.
“I think that they help each other be really good dogs.”
Vajtay admits Maggie and Rocky aren’t perfect, but it sounds like they’re pretty darn close. The pair behave well enough to accompany her to work two days a week at the offices of I and Love and You, a pet food company known for its grain-free, whole-food nutrition.
Needless to say, Maggie’s days of eating scraps are far behind her. To look at her and Rocky, you’d never know either of them were strays. Despite being from geographically and genetically diverse backgrounds (Maggie seems to have some Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever in her mix, and Rocky is thought to be a Puggle with possible Boxer or Basenji roots) folks often assume the pair are siblings.
“I love telling people that they’re both just rescued mutts,” says Vajtay, who’s become even more passionate about spay and neuter and adoption education since adding Maggie to her family.
“I’m so grateful.”
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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 Specter the kitten and GhostBuster the dog make her fur family complete. 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 +.