Last week, we introduced you to one of our new rescues, a very special little Keeshond we named Ziva. The name Ziva means radiance, brilliance, light of God. It was the very perfect name for this enchanting and inspiring little dog. In the big picture of our mission, Ziva’s story is a very important one, so today, I want to share her story with you, start to finish.
Many of you know we are on the road rescuing mill dogs about every 3-4 weeks. Last week, on the second to last day of a week-long run, I received a request for a laid back, senior Keeshond from a couple who had recently lost one of theirs and wanted to give a wonderful home to another older Keeshond. Although we don’t see many Keeshonds, I remembered that I had just gotten two on a list from a breeder we had never received from before. On behalf of this couple, I sent the breeder an email inquiring about her Keeshonds. She replied saying that her males were still very active, but that she also had a laid back five-year-old female with a very sweet personality. She went on to say there was just one problem – the dog had no tail and no back feet – “her mama chewed them off when she was born”.
The breeder met our transporters along the Interstate. Darrell and Jennie were our rescuers on that run and they were appalled at the way this lady handled her dogs. She was careless and rough, even with little Ziva who clearly warranted some extra gentle handling. This is precisely where things can get very difficult for us – biting our tongues for the sake of saving these dogs is a great lesson in self control, believe me. We take our comfort in knowing they will never be handled that way ever again. From this woman, we took 2 Dachshunds, 2 Shelties, 1 Weimaraner and 1 Keeshond. We had 25 dogs in total and arranged our intake process for the day after their arrival at our facility. Most of her dogs were quite fearful, very dirty and all but the Dachshunds tested heartworm positive.
Many people volunteer during the intake process. Intake is a lot of work but also a lot of fun. It’s our first chance to interact closely with the dogs and we begin the process of giving them a voice for the first time in their lives. They receive an ID collar, vaccinations, deworming, photos, lots of hugs and gentle care, a cursory vet exam and a NAME! On this day, we christened our little Keeshond girl, Ziva! She immediately stole the hearts of everyone she met. She was very timid but at the same time, gentle and kind. A soft little soul, a survivor. Although she was quiet, she was fairly active, in her own way – displaying no signs of distress or health concerns. Witnessing her moving around was a lesson in adaptability and gave you a clear sense of her fighting spirit. For me, Ziva brought Lily right to the forefront of my thoughts and feelings. For Ziva, there would be a bigger purpose. I felt that right away.
Our local news station came out to document this latest intake and like everyone else, they were completely captivated by Ziva. She became an immediate phenomenon – a little inspiring miracle dog. They actually ran the news piece two nights in a row. Right away, many of our Facebook & Twitter fans fell in love with her. Applications to adopt Ziva started coming in from as far away as Virginia.
Early Monday morning, just five days after Ziva’s rescue, I received a call from a volunteer who had just arrived at the kennel to give morning medications to the dogs. She was crying… hard. My heart immediately began pounding. Frantically, I asked her what was wrong. Gathering herself she replied, “It’s Ziva… she has died.” In that moment, I experienced the utmost sense of dread imaginable. I absolutely did not want this to be true. I wanted to still be asleep. I wanted to hang up the phone. I actually asked the volunteer to please check her closely, perhaps she was still breathing, perhaps there would be still be something we could do to save her. I cannot ever remember feeling so helpless. Like all of our dogs, we wanted Ziva to have a wonderful rest of her life, we wanted to make up for the years of neglect and loneliness, and we knew a fabulous forever home was right around the corner… But for Ziva, this wouldn’t be. Devastated, Dee and I took Ziva’s body from the kennel to one of our vets in town for a necropsy. It was determined that the cause of death was an overwhelming load of heartworms leading to a fatal condition called “Caval Syndrome”. This can come on very suddenly with no prior signs of distress, which explain why Ziva appeared in such good spirits only hours before she died. Heartworm disease is 100% preventable, but sadly it’s common in many puppy mills where dogs live in their own feces and receive no veterinary care.
I am so very sorry to share this incredibly sad news with all of you. The sadness and suffering this industry puts upon our “best friends” can be totally overwhelming for us, too. However, I promise you that we will never give up. For many of us, this mission is our life and until every last one of these prisons of misery is gone, we will be here to give these dogs a voice. Despite our lack of space, the first order was to pick up the remaining dogs that were still with the breeder. Those 5 dogs are now in our care. I am grateful to each and every one of you for keeping our rescuers, our volunteers, our vet staff and most importantly, our dogs in your thoughts each day and for sharing the truth about this industry. There is indeed great power in numbers and to each of you who supports our efforts in a variety of ways, you are fighting right along with us and helping to make a difference. Thank you all so much.
To Ziva: I am so sorry for your suffering and your loneliness at the hands of a fellow man. I am so sorry we didn’t come sooner. I hope that when you were with us, you finally felt safe and loved. I think you did, as we noticed a light come into your eyes over the few days you were with us. I thank you for giving us five very special days of your spirit and your heart. I believe you held on for five years in misery and then lived five days in freedom with us so that we could learn to love you and share your story with the world. Please believe me when I say, I will see to it that your life will not be in vain. Another mission begins…
Ziva, you, in all your courage, were such a bright spot for us and I promise that your memory will live on in our work always.