In the end, the woman with the huge smile and the dog who’d forgotten how to wag made the perfect match. But first the handsome Chow Chow mix would survive abuse and then endure a long wait in a shelter and the woman would travel to the other side of the world to work with the Peace Corp. How these two found each other and worked through the dog’s fears to bond and become a family is the stuff great dog rescue stories are made of.
In 2005, recently retired Special Education teacher Ann Galetta found herself traveling across the world with the Peace Corp to the tiny Republic of Kiribati on the equator in the western Pacific Ocean. The 328 square-mile country would be her home for the next two years as she moved among the 33 atolls, the coral reef islands just feet above sea level. Due to Global Warming, it’s expected that the low-lying land will one day be under water and residents will need to be re-located. Ann traveled among the atolls, setting up programs and training teachers who would then teach residents the English language.
In Florida at about the same time, animal care investigators discovered 4 dogs hog-tied (snout and legs) in a wooded area. Left to die and starved nearly to death, the dogs were rescued and admitted to Tri County Humane Society, a no-kill shelter in Boca Raton, where they received medical treatment and care. One of the dogs was quite friendly and was adopted just weeks later but the other three were severely traumatized and unapproachable.
Ann was working hard on the little island nation, with her big smile always in place. Half a world away, Jesse the Chow mix lived in a world of fears he couldn’t overcome and brandished a tough, defensive attitude to potential adopters who passed his fenced run. Ever so slowly, a few shelter staff and volunteers were able to help him make just enough progress to go outside for his walks, which he enjoyed. But the super-furry Jesse didn’t want to be touched. He felt safest in the comfort of his run so time passed and he saw hundreds of other dogs come in and out of the bustling shelter. Though he never bit, he made it clear that he needed his space.
In 2008, Ann returned to the U.S. and with her son, Ron, became a volunteer dog walker at Tri County Humane Society. Always a dog lover and with plenty of canine sense and experience, Ann would pause each day at Jesse’s cage. He’d spin around, bark and lunge at the gate and she’d decide to leave him be but her heart led her to keep trying so she’d slip him treats or bits of chicken. “I made sure I left him a little treat every morning and told him he was a good and handsome boy”, she said.
At about this time, one of the other dogs discovered in the woods with Jesse found her forever home and left the shelter. Named Jenny, she’d been extremely shy, quiet, frightened and withdrawn during her years at the shelter. (Read Jenny’s story here).
Nearly two years passed with Ann and Jesse sizing each other up and then one day the determined Ann says, “I just went into his run, slipped a leash on him and we were out! I was beside myself with pride and Jesse was gentle and just enjoyed being outside. It was hard to have to bring him back in”.
From that day on, the two were friends and Ann knew not to push Jesse too much, but to just let him have his space. She took whatever he offered to bond at his own pace. Within weeks, he trusted Ann enough to receive much needed brushing, ear scratches and even belly rubs.
A few months later, Ann was itching to leave condo life behind for a house. Her search led her a few hours north to Cocoa, Florida where she found the perfect house with a perfect yard for a perfect dog. She knew just the one, and in January, 2011, Jesse was officially adopted by Ann and about to leave the place he’d called home since his rescue 6 years earlier. He was nervous and unsure but after the staff and other volunteers said goodbye to him, Ann picked up all 45 pounds of the fluffy boy in her arms and headed to her car.
Jesse wouldn’t eat the first few days. His whole world had changed and Ann was the only familiar piece of his puzzle. She began to heat up his food and pour broth over it, and she served him rotisserie chicken and tortellini.
Well, Jesse had been through an awful lot but he was quickly learning that life is good. He began to eat and to feel more relaxed and comfortable. He found a few spots in his new home where he liked to be, such as under a sink and in a closet. The closeness must have mimicked the confines of his fenced shelter run. He also explored his new yard and decided he loved it.
Now Ann and Jesse have settled into a happy life together, and he makes more progress each day. “He’s really at home here”, she says. “We sit out in the yard at the crack of dawn, me with my coffee and Jess watching the squirrels and birds start their day. It’s a very peaceful time. All in all, I just love him and am so happy he’s here with us. I’m very, very lucky to have him as my furry companion.”
One dog remains at Tri County Humane Society from the abused and abandoned quartet, named Farah. (Read about Farah here).
We all know dog rescue is about ONE DOG AT A TIME. It’s also about special people with love in their hearts for those dogs passed over by others. Most of all, it’s about the amazing love that only they will know, the love of a rescued dog.
Enjoy your home, sweet home, Jesse!
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