It was Annabelle’s lucky day to end up at the dog pound.
An unlikely princess in her own Cinderella story, the young canine’s plight has galvanized a small army of dog lovers, shelter volunteers and staff, and canine rescuers. She even provided the surprise ending no one was expecting.
The grayness of a chilly winter day matched the color of the dog’s coat that arrived at the Oakdale Animal Shelter in mid-December. Animal Shelter attendant Alex Latapie gently helped the gray pit bull out of the car and snapped a leash on her to escort her to a kennel. A quick examination yielded sad facts: an injured hind leg, old bite marks on her head and face and a thin, gaunt body. More than skinny. Highly visible ribs and jutting hip bones were obvious signs of starvation.
“She was emaciated,” said Latapie.
Even in her starved state, the serene pooch was obviously friendly. She showed no signs of aggression or ill will toward humans or other animals.
“She walked past a cat and just wagged her tail, so I knew she was good,” added Latapie.
Over the next few days, Annabelle, as she was dubbed by shelter volunteers, was showered with attention and care, her sweet temperament in stark contrast to her grim condition. She was an instant favorite, a sweetheart.
“Annabelle wouldn’t hurt a fly,” said shelter volunteer Debi Scoles.
For shelter staff, Annabelle’s situation posed a grave problem. The breed is notoriously hard to find homes for. An injured pit, even harder. The first call for help went to a local dog rescue organization named Furreka, which has had success with difficult placements. The next call was to the veterinarian. An accurate diagnosis of her injuries was necessary before any talk of adoption or rescue could proceed.
As the vet appointment drew near, apprehension grew at the shelter. Annabelle’s five-day stray hold was drawing near. No owner had stepped up to claim her. If her injuries were extensive, it could mean the end for the hard-luck girl. Expensive veterinarian bills are not in a shelter budget.
Oakdale Animal Control Officer Beth Crowley saw a very emotional situation developing at the shelter.
“I didn’t have the heart to tell the volunteers I would have to put her down,” said Crowley.
She knew Annabelle’s fans were working to gain support and buy time for the gentle dog, but there had to be a plan. Soon.
The medical report was devastating. Two dislocated hips, a badly injured leg. So bad, amputation was recommended. Bills would be in the thousands. If she came back to the shelter, she would probably have to be euthanized. Annabelle would need to be adopted that day or go to a foster family who could help with housing and care until another solution was found.
At the last minute, another local rescue organization, ASTRO, the Animal Shelter To Riverbank and Oakdale, agreed to take Annabelle’s case if there was a willing foster. Shelter volunteer Mary Carpenter picked her up at the vet and took her home that same afternoon, paying for pain medication to help with her discomfort. Her shelter days were over.
The immediate crisis was averted but Annabelle’s future was far from certain. The Carpenter family could not adopt her. A permanent home was still needed.
Even as Carpenter and others worried, Sydney Mitchell, co-founder of Furreka, was hard at work getting the word out. Although Furreka is essentially a small breed rescue (under 25 pounds), Mitchell said she knew immediately she wanted to help.
“When I heard she liked other dogs, cats and children, I knew she was special,” added Mitchell.
They posted Annabelle’s information on her social media site. It was picked up and shared by many other rescue organizations around the country. Now they needed the right person to see it.
On Christmas Eve, a call came through to Furreka. A woman in Montana was interested in Annabelle, even with her medical considerations. She wanted more information on her injuries.
A flurry of preparations began. Mitchell procured X-rays and had them sent. Transportation was the next hurdle. Not a little one. While she cast around for offers of help and ideas, she said her mind was made up.
“If push came to shove, we (her husband and herself), would take her,” Mitchell said.
A road trip for a dog. In the middle of winter. To Montana.
By early January, details were falling into place. The Montana woman wanted to adopt Annabelle, even with her terrible injuries and future vet bills. Amazingly, a canine rescue plane flight was offered to fly her to her new home for free.
But just as the queenly underdog had one paw in her new life, Mother Nature stepped in and dealt the well-laid plans a cold blow. A ferocious snowstorm plowing across the country grounded her flight temporarily. She would have to stay put a bit longer.
Still waiting for better weather halfway through January, Annabelle’s caretaker and others noticed her bony frame had filled out considerably. Weight gain and other bodily changes, made her appear … matronly? Pictures were snapped and shipped around to dog people who immediately recognized her new look. A trip to the veterinarian confirmed suspicions.
Annabelle was pregnant. At least seven little ones. Due any day.
She gave birth to nine puppies that same night.
Annabelle’s new life in Montana still awaits her but she will remain in Oakdale with Carpenter until her babies are able to travel to Montana.
Sometimes it takes only one person in the room to believe in you. Annabelle had the whole room cheering for her.
This article was submitted by shelter volunteer Laurie Fanjul.