I wanted a poodle; I got a pit bull instead. There were
so many unwanted cats and dogs in cages up at the NYC
animal shelter on 110th Street and 1st Avenue that I
got lightheaded and went outside. It was the end of
winter when the influx of dogs who were puppies under
the Christmas tree come pouring into pounds; once the
responsibility of a full-grown dog hits home, often
those dogs lose their homes.
There were no poodles. There were some purebred
dogs but often there were mixed breeds; Rottweillers
with a splash of Husky, Labradors with a touch of Pit
Bull. These were dogs with a little history and a lot
of soul; something that would take me longer to appreciate.
I felt overwhelmed that so many of these dogs
would be euthanized and there was very little I could
do. A volunteer, a charming, old Asian woman, came out
with a fawn colored 65lb, adult female Pit Bull mix
that was far too regal to be homeless. The dog looked
at me with desperation and hope. The volunteer saw that
the pound experience was draining me. She calmly looked
at me and said in her broken English, "You come
here and save one, then it's hope for all the others."
I looked down at the dog she had with her. I
felt her panic that she might have to go back into her
cage; that this might be her only chance to live. The
volunteer gave me the leash and I tried walking her
and getting her to sit but both the dog and I were nervous
and didn't really know what to do. Her eyes seared through
me, she needed me; no one had ever really needed me
before. This was the dog I was meant to have, she found
Juno. The dog could only be named after a Goddess
who protected women as that's what she did the instant
I got her. You want to ask me for some spare change?
Clear it with my dog first. You want to ask directions?
Again, check with Juno first. I thought I had rescued
Juno from the shelter, but as soon as I had her home,
she gave me more than I could ever give her. It wasn't
just her immediate protection it was her immediate love.
When I told people about the dog I got, some
were supportive and some warned me about getting an
adult dog as opposed to a puppy due to the problems
that might come with their past years. If already knowing
how to walk on a leash, being housetrained and not chewing
on everything in sight are the "problems"
an adult dog comes with, I'll take it.
Things were lonely as I was in big, new city.
I had packed on some pounds and was depressed about
not having a glamorous life the instant I walked into
Manhattan. The responsibility of Juno kept me up and
walking, quickly shedding those pounds and meeting an
entire society of people who revolved their world around
their loyal canines at the dog run. Juno licked my face
when I was home sick in bed. She wagged her tail in
excitement as we cheered the Rangers onto their first
Stanley Cup in 54 years together. And truth be told,
Juno was a friend when there weren't many around.
Thanks to this dog I learned so many things I
never would have known without her. Juno and I explored
every nook and cranny of Central Park. We met dynamic
dog owners at countless canine gatherings from Brooklyn
to Boston. And we have become active participants in
the heart-powered animal rescue community; over the
last ten years, we have rescued, fostered and adopted
out ten dogs and twenty kittens. Not a big number, but
every life saved is a life saved and we do our part.
When Juno ruptured two discs in her back and
the doctors said I could either put her to sleep or
take a chance on surgery, what choice did I have? This
dog, then eight years old, had saved me, was I not supposed
to save her back?
Till my dying day I will never forget bringing
her home from her surgery when she did something so
very human and yet so very dog. As I sat in the back
of the car with her, she faced me and heavily laid her
head on my shoulder like a grateful friend. I am quite
sure it was her way of saying, "thanks for not
giving up on me, we'll make it through." However,
she came out of the surgery as she went in: paralyzed.
Despite exercise, hydrotherapy and a wheel chair/doggy
cart (which she seemed to find insulting) still no results.
To say it was taxing on me and everyone around me to
care for a then eighty pound pit bull mix who couldn't
walk was an understatement, but I also saw the situation
bring out such profound kindness in those around me.
My mother would position Juno on her bed so the sun
shining through the window would hit her. My boyfriend
would hoist all eighty pounds of her at midnight so
she could go to the bathroom outside and not have the
indignity of soiling herself. My father would drive
us to hydrotherapy at eight a.m. on a Saturday and adamantly
proclaim that Juno would walk again.
After eight months of this I wondered if I should
euthanize her. In desperation, I learned of Dr. Charles
Khouri in Miami. His Website, www.dogparalysis.com,
said he had a liquid compound that helped paralyzed
dogs walks. I said, "Why not?" And sure enough,
after taking a liquid compound orally for seven days,
Juno walked. It was just a few steps and reminded me
of a crooked drunk, but on a cold winter night she marched
herself back indoors and I watched completely stunned.
Rather quickly her walking improved, soon to the point
where she was back on a leash walking Manhattan, her
pride restored, her determination solidified.
Juno, twelve years old now, is at the point where
she is the best she will be. We can walk twenty blocks
and all through our beloved Central Park but she is
very slow, albeit very happy. The surgeries have aged
her quite a bit and now, at age twelve, she's not as
cheery as she used to be, however, she still gets a
smile out of everyone. People need her. They need to
see an underdog, literally, taking on the odds. They
need to hear me tell them that she did not walk and
now she does. They need to know her hope and her strength.
They need to know that if an old dog like her hoped
her way to happiness, they can too.
Every single person who stops to pet her has
only heartfelt praise to say - every person except for
her veterinarian who cannot come up with something scientific
to explain why she is walking and will not accept the
reason I am sure of - hope.
Hope in its purest form. Hope in its most desperate
shape. Hope in a pit bull on death row finding her way
to a life of luxury and love. Hope in an old dog on
her last legs making her walk. If this once forgotten
dog at the pound taught me that every single hope we
have is possible, imagine what that desperate, lonely,
forgotten dog on death row could do for you? Right now,
that dog is waiting for you…and hoping.
to find the animal that will change your world.