Tales of Rescue, Rehabilitation and Redemption
DOGTOWN: Tales of Rescue, Rehabilitation and Redemption, tells the stories of 15 dogs who were saved from abuse and neglect, from puppy mills, dog hoarders, or the brink of death.
Out in the redrock canyonlands of southern Utah, about 90 miles north of the Grand Canyon, a visitor turns right off the paved road and enters a long winding gravel road into Angel Canyon and a place that’s just short of miraculous.
Nestled in this mystical canyon lies DogTown, the largest no-kill animal sanctuary in the United States, where at any given moment about 500 dogs are being housed, cared for and rehabilitated.
Many of these animals are so sick, abused or neglected that they would have been deemed unadoptable in other shelters — and anywhere but DogTown would be put to death, usually within three to five days.
But at DogTown, no animal is considered beyond the reach of love, and all deserve a second chance. It was here that 22 pit bulls rescued from Michael Vick’s infamous dogfighting ring were sent in 2007, after the dazzling quarterback — the highest paid athlete in the NFL — was sent to prison two years for a variety of crimes related to dogfighting.
These animals, scarred, shut-down and traumatized, have been coaxed out of their shells, trained to trust, and many of them adopted by loving families.
Bingo, a painfully shy street dog found on the streets of Puerto Rico, learns to love and trust a human. Aristotle, a little terrier so disfigured by a mysterious ailment he looks like “a raw chicken,” is restored to wholeness by the kind of veterinary care he would never get anywhere else.
Rush, a stately German shepherd rescued from a war zone in Lebanon, learns to overcome a crippling post-traumatic stress disorder. Almost anywhere else, these stories would never have happened. But at DogTown, they happen every day.
“Imagine an elderly man in a flimsy hospital gown, blind in one eye, nauseous, disoriented and with multiple health problems, who cannot care for himself or even speak English, being dropped on a stranger’s doorstep.
That’s what happened to Bruno. He was an old dog, down on his luck, tottering on his feet, drooling, dizzy and nearly deaf. His problems had become so overwhelming, in fact, that his owner had simply dropped him off at an animal shelter in east Los Angeles.
Perhaps daunted by the potential vet bill, or the demands of taking care of Bruno during his declining years, the owner had essentially dumped him out the back of the car -— knowing full well, no doubt, that at the shelter a dog like Bruno would probably have only a few days until he was euthanized.
Yet Bruno was a heartbreaker. He looked like a cinnamon-colored teddy bear, with eyes so dark they were nearly black; a shiny black nose; and short, furry, forward-facing ears. At the same time, he also resembled a sort of benign lion, with such an extravagent ruff of red fur encircling his face that it looked like a mane. His head was so richly mantled in reddish fur that it seemed to nearly bury his black eyes, and he had a line of darker fur down the center of his forehead, the way a lion does.
But his face was almost completely devoid of a lion’s ferocity. In fact, when he peered out of his cage at the shelter, with his head tilted quizzically to one side, he looked about as forbidding as the Muppets character Fozzie Bear…”