Category Archives: September 2014

Therapy dog Susie, abused as a puppy, named Hero Dog of 2014

Susie still wears the scars of her abuse

Susie still wears the scars of her abuse

The American Hero Dog of 2014 was announced Saturday night at the fourth annual American Humane Association Hero Dog Awards at The Beverly Hilton in Beverly Hills, CA. The winner was determined by publicly cast votes and celebrity judges that included Naomi Judd, Lisa Vanderpump and Bailee Madison. Susie, a pit bull mix famous for her rough journey, and her owner Donna Lawrence, flew to Beverly Hills to be honored at the event.

The glitz and glamour of the event was a far contrast from Susie’s upbringing. Susie was only a puppy when her owner beat her, set her on fire and left her for dead in a local park in Greensboro, North Carolina. After being rescued by a local animal shelter and nursed back to health, she was adopted by Donna Lawrence. Ironically, Donna was afraid of dogs. In October 2008, she was attacked by a pit bull and nearly died. But that changed in August 2009, when she met Susie.

Their union led to Susie’s Hope, a nonprofit aimed at creating awareness for animal abuse. As of today, Lawrence has written several books on the topic, Susie has starred in a movie about herself and Susie’s Law has been passed, which allows harsher sentencing for those convicted of animal abuse.

The Hallmark Channel special about the Hero Dog Awards will air on October 30th. For more information on Susie’s journey and Susie’s Law, visit Susie’s Hope. If you’d like to make a donation to animal welfare, visit The American Humane Society.

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My interview with rescue-owner friends Robby & Cody, about life with dogs in LA & their newfound passion for animal rescue


Cody & Robby with their rescued crew! Adopt shirts found on Etsy! 

 1. Can you tell me about each of your dogs & how you acquired them?

Alice, our white Havanese/Maltese/Chihuahua mix, was rescued in January of 2009. I rescued her before Cody and I were together. My friend had rescued a dog that soon gave birth to a litter. The litter was going to a shelter in Belmont, so I drove two hours to an unknown area and I took the runt. Originally she was meant for my younger sister but we had such a strong bond that she ended up being more mine than hers.  When Cody and I moved in together, she came with us. She has become the model city dog.  She behaves like a cat, lazily lounging around the house.

Fritz, our tan Wire Fox Terrier mix, was found on craigslist in February of 2013.  A woman in Fullerton was gifted him but her landlord wouldn’t allow her to keep him, so she was eager to find him a home before taking him to a shelter.  We were not 100% positive we were ready for another dog, but something told us we should see him. Upon meeting him we quickly realized he was in a very dangerous living situation and was actual taken away from his mother at far too soon; he couldn’t have been more than four weeks old. The owner would not answer any questions regarding the parents. To be honest, she was not acting normal and looked like she was under the influence. Our gut told us regardless of how this person ended up with the puppy, we had to get him out of that environment.  It was quite amusing watching one another bottle-feed a puppy the size of an apple, but we did it. Fritz still suffers from being taken so early from his mother and has developed classic separation anxiety behaviors. This is when we really began seeing the consequences of animal cruelty. However, Fritz has one of the most playful personalities we have seen in any dog. He’s still, and will always be, a puppy at heart.

Luna, our blue merle Australian Shepherd, was found on December 12th, 2013. This experience was a true eye opener for us and completely life changing.  I pulled over to take a phone call from Cody and upon doing so I noticed a dog with no collar emerging from the bushes covered in blood. My first thought was that she was hit by a car. I pulled a blanket from my car and slowly called to her.  She stared at me for a few minutes then walked my direction and collapsed at my feet. I took her to our vet and the physical assessment was gut wrenching.  She was severely dehydrated, sunburned, malnourished, infested with ticks, fleas, parasites, dog mange, fly strike, and a total of thirteen open wounds.  And on top of all that, she was lactating. They couldn’t get a viable stool sample from her because all she passed was Styrofoam.  The vet gave her 48 hours to live had I not found her and said her chances of survival would depend on how quickly we could find her a home, but it was unlikely that someone would want to take a dog in this critical of a condition. She would likely die in a shelter from infection of her wounds before anyone would take her. I thought that being a Hospice Nurse, I would care for her if these were to be her final days.  Wound treatment on her took me a few hours daily. I slept on the living room couch for nearly two weeks watching Luna slowly recover. Every night I saw a dog that was broken stare at the floor and corner of the walls, never attempting to make eye contact. She found refuge underneath our Christmas tree but would pant, cry, tremble, bark and pee in her sleep. I contemplated multiple scenarios in which I would ultimately find her a home. We couldn’t have another dog, right? After 9 months, she is 100% healthy, doubled in weight, and found a forever home with us.

2. How do you make life work having dogs in LA?

It definitely wasn’t easy at first, especially when you have three! We often felt in over our heads, but we are very fortunate to have made it work now. We live in a two bedroom townhouse, which fortunately has a big shady patio where we have built a large grass box. We rely on daily walks and weekly hikes.  We also look for dog-friendly establishments and frequent the dog park. Our weekends tend to revolve around taking them somewhere. Luckily we both have flexible schedules so they are never alone too long.  Robby’s parents also live close by and they have a huge yard with a rescue pup of their own. We call them our very own “Doggy Daycare”!

3. How has having pets changed your lives?

They remind you to breathe. When you walk into your home and are feeling overwhelmed with the outside world, they sense that and they just know how to make it better.  Where else can you go where you are always welcomed with excitement and love?  Everyday for us is paws and licks when we come home. They also help with our own anxiety and insecurities, not to mention keeping us active. We just can’t imagine not having them.

4. Now that you are pet-owners, have your attitudes or opinions changed on any particular subject matters or issues? If so, what are they and why? 

Absolutely.  We have a few. Obviously we are pro dog-rescue and we try to advocate it as much as possible. Then there is backyard-breeding and puppy mills. It is incredibly devastating to hear how many dogs are euthanized annually. You hear something outrageous, like 1 dog or cat is euthanize every 6.5 seconds.  That’s gotta strike a chord! It’s outrageous that people pay $800-$2000 and even more for a dog from a puppy mill when there are so many waiting to be adopted from a shelter. We have fostered two other strays and found them forever homes.  My subconscious is always scouting for strays. We visited a shelter once and the whole time we kept sending photos to everyone we knew that loved dogs. If we could we would take more, and hopefully one day we will!


Alice, Fritz & Luna

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