To see photos of Colwyn, an adorable Shih Tzu/Maltese mix, you would never know this spotlessly coiffed and costumed dog was ever anything but adored, but his early life was certainly not picture perfect.
“Here’s this little puppy mill dog that was scared to death, and now he’s like this little model,” says Colwyn’s human, Lisa Murphy, who frequently photographs her fashionable pup for his Facebook page.
Murphy is no stranger to the realities of puppy mills and backyard breeding. Prior to adopting Colwyn, Murphy brought home another shy puppy mill rescue, a beautiful Shih Tzu named Macy. She was also a close friend to Rosie the Chihuahua, who was born into a backyard breeding/hoarding situation and suffered from almost every congenital defect possible. Murphy created the Everything Rosie website and helped manage the dog’s Facebook page. She was devastated when Rosie and her own senior dog, Diva, both crossed the Rainbow Bridge in 2013.
“After a little bit of time I decided to adopt in Rosie’s name,” Murphy remembers.
Meanwhile, Colwyn was in the care of Hearts United for Animals, a Nebraska-based organization Murphy was familiar with because of her connection to Rosie’s social media sphere. The no-kill shelter and sanctuary has devoted many resources to rescuing puppy mill dogs.
“I went and I checked out their site and I found Colwyn. By the dates that I saw on his page, he had been at HUA for at least four years, and no one was adopting him,” Murphy recalls. “I couldn’t understand that because he was pretty adorable.”
HUA had rescued Colwyn from a Missouri puppy mill in 2009, but he’d clearly been traumatized by the cramped and filthy cage he lived in for his first year of life. The team at HUA worked patiently over the years to socialize Colwyn, who grew very attached to fellow resident, Alani — a female Shih Tzu. Despite making a friend, Colwyn still didn’t show well to potential adopters.
“They told me that he was kind of unadoptable because he was really skittish,” recalls Murphy. “When adopters in Nebraska would come by to to see the adoptable dogs he would run away. Nobody would ever really get to see him.”
Luckily for Colwyn, Murphy has been through a similar situation with her previous rescue dog, Macy, and was used to dealing with dogs who need some time to build trust.
“I usually go for the shy ones,” she says. “I know they’ve got the personality in there, they just don’t have that loving home yet to bring it out of him.”
Murphy applied to adopt Colwyn and was accepted. She drove four hours from her home in Illinois to meet the HUA transporter who brought Colwyn half way from Nebraska. Colwyn was almost in his forever home, but it wasn’t an instant happy ending.
“And then he came home with me and he was scared to death. It was really bad,” Murphy recalls.
Colwyn’s fear kicked into overdrive less than 48 hours after his arrival at Murphy’s house, causing him to panic and injure himself. It’s something Murphy will never forget.
“I just walked by him — not even touching him — and he flew and ran and bashed his head into the corner of a door, and he ended up needing corneal surgery. So his first few months here, he was in the cone of shame.”
Luckily for Colwyn, his new home came with a built-in best friend. He took to Murphy’s rescue Shih Tzu, Macy, the same way he had fallen for Alani back at HUA.
“He wouldn’t leave her side for six months,” says Murphy. “He was her shadow.”
The comfort he felt when curled up next to Macy helped little Colwyn adjust to his new household, and as his eye healed, he realized the humans in his new family were not out to hurt him.
According to Murphy, it took about a year for Colwyn to become completely comfortable with his new surroundings, but eventually he started gaining confidence.
“He still loves his sister and still follows her around, but not like he did. He’s really come out of his shell and shown his true self,” says Murphy. “He has such a personality — he’s the funniest little dog.”
These days, Colwyn is feeling safe and secure in his new home and is busy playing with the squeaky toys he carries with him everywhere. Unfortunately, a recent medical problem sent him back to the vet for another surgery.
“I felt this big lump on his neck and had ran him to the emergency room on a weekend,” says Murphy. When Monday came, Colwyn went to see his usual vet, who determined the little dog would need an operation to remove the mass and insert drainage tubes. Murphy says the veterinary team had almost finished the surgery when Colwyn’s heart stopped.
“He had pretty much died on the table for like three minutes and they just kept trying to do everything they could and out of the blue he came back out of it.”
Colwyn’s resuscitation wasn’t the only medical miracle that his family would be grateful for in the coming weeks. Thankfully, the lab work done on the mass proved it was cancer-free. While the exact cause of the lump is unknown, it is possible that Colwyn may have run into something and caused blunt force trauma which caused the mass, but that’s just one of many possible factors. His family will never know what caused the lump that almost cost Colwyn his life, but they do know that he is safe and sound now and surrounded by love.
Once upon a time Colwyn lived in a dirty cage, but now he is living his happily ever after.
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+.