Hi I'm Nala Grace, Thank you for helping furbuddies that are like I was, abandoned, lost, starving and scared.

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2007 Featured Shelter

Dogs Life Rescue Stories

These stories are representative of the dogs this shelter has rehabilitated. We are happy to say there are so many success stories that we are unable to bring all of them to you. Will you help us make the dogs waiting for a home part of the happy ending stories too?

Nancy Van Allen Chief Rescuer

Pippy@montana.com

Nalas Furbuddy

Leo

Leonardo and company

Leo’s Story as told by his forever "Dad" Carl.

We adopted Leonardo from Nancy in July of 2006.  An Airedale-cross,   Leo had been rescued by Nancy, along with his two brothers and one sister, from a shelter in Idaho where they had been abandoned.  Nancy had taken the dogs to her home in Missoula, Montana and posted their pictures on the Net.  One brother and the little female were placed quickly as they looked the most like purebreds.  Leonardo and Michelangelo looked like, well, mutts.

 

I came across Leo’s picture quite by accident.  We live in the Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada, area and had lost our dear old spaniel-shepard cross in January at the age of 13 and had no thoughts of “replacing” him.  We still had an aging wire-haired dachshund named Max and Tony, the Chihuahua  that came for a sleepover in 1998 and never went home. Both dogs had recently survived serious health issues (2006 was an expensive year) but were thriving on their new diet of raw food.  We wanted to do something in Mike’s memory and we had met a woman who was working to save dogs that had been abandoned in the wake of Hurricane Katrina.  One day she asked if we could cover the cost of flying out a little puppy from Louisiana and Liz made the mistake of looking him up on Petfinders.  I told her just to send the money and resisted going on the web site…for most of the day anyway.

 

I was searching for the puppy in question when I scrolled past Leo’s picture.  He looked nothing like our dear old Mike, but there was something in the expression on his face that reminded me of Mike’s gentle curiosity.  The issue of the Louisiana orphan was dealt with but I found myself back on the web site the next day, unable to get that tiny photo out of my mind.  I finally mentioned Leo to my wife, Liz, who emailed me back moments later.  Can we have him?

 

We began an email correspondence with Nancy and after a home visit by a local  Airedale Rescue volunteer (which we were nervous about considering we were in the throes of house renovations) we were about to become a three dog family once more.  We couldn’t bear the thought of Leo being crated up and shipped to us so thanks to Liz’s sister who came to dog sit, we loaded up the station wagon with dog towels and drove the 600 miles to Montana.

 

Nancy’s home is in the rolling hills south-west of Missoula, a town that is growing steadily and getting ever closer to her rural property.  Nancy is a kind and generous soul who devotes most of her free time and virtually all of her living space to dogs no one else seems to want.  For many animals she is their last hope and here we found the dog that had launched our tri-state odyssey.  We didn’t even see him at first; the most timid of a houseful of  damaged little souls he wouldn’t even come for the chicken lunch we had brought to share with Nancy and ended up sharing mostly with the dogs of all shapes and sizes.

 

Nancy readily admitted that she had little time to offer the dogs more than love, food and shelter so at 7 months Leonardo had received no training and when the time came to leave he wouldn’t walk on the leash and Nancy had to carry him to the car.  Living on a hot and dusty hillside Leonardo  (we decided to keep the name but call him Leo most of the time) really needed a bath.  Petsmart had just opened in an area of Missoula so new the blacktop was still actually black and we told them our story and they kindly fit us in.  I had to carry him inside and the look in his wide brown eyes when I placed him in the cage was too pitiful for words.

 

 He didn’t look much more pleased with us when we came to fetch him two hours later but he looked cleaner. He had the black “saddle” of an Airedale but his face wasn’t as flat and his enormous “Mr Spock” ears telegraph his every emotion;  straight up for happy or alert, straight out for wary and down when he’s scared.  He’s only about 40 pounds but hard to carry as he’s top heavy, with a big head, powerful shoulders and skinny haunches. He looks sort of like a baby bison with one white front paw.

 

We broke the drive into 2 days going home.  The first day Leo wouldn’t eat or drink.  He ignored his new bed in the room in Spokane and spent the night hiding under the desk.  He shared a little of my room service scrambled eggs in the morning but nothing more.  From the time we picked him up to the time we arrived home he didn’t make a sound or even look out the window.

 

When we got home and introduced him to his new pack we found out he was capable of barking, although “baying” would be more accurate.  We had researched Airedales before going to pick up Leo and as the largest of  the terrier family we were at first nervous to leave him alone with the smaller dogs,   so he went to work with me for a while as I have the luxury of my own office.

 

As with any puppy there were some problems.  We had a few accidents but he picked up the finer points of house training from our senior dogs pretty quickly.  He ate most of his first blanket and a corner of an antique chair and chewed up some mail, DVD cases and a pair of my wife’s Crocs.  We had forgotten that 50% of the interaction with a puppy consists of repeating the phrase, “what are you eating?”  There were a few vicious squabbles with the other dogs, the ugliest being a confrontation with the dachshund over some purloined pizza (we forgot that we once again had a dog capable of reaching a table top).  This resulted in another contribution to our vet’s retirement fund but stitches notwithstanding Max loves everybody and held no grudge.

 

Given Leo’s fear issues we decided against a conventional obedience school and called in a one-on-one dog trainer and psychologist who surmised the Leo was terrorized as a puppy by a male who was probably a heavy drinker and a smoker.  Leo was scared of all strangers and any sudden movement, especially at night.  She also determined that Leo is crossed with an Australian Shepard and confirmed what we suspected that he’s really smart but needs time to think things over.  We both got a lump in our throats when she described him as a “noble” dog who needs a purpose.

 

 

As I write this 7 months after first seeing that fleeting image on the internet, Leo is a very different dog.  He no longer lurks in the shadows or shrinks away when you raise a hand to smooth his kinky hair.  Still wary of strangers he will come for his share of pats when he sees the other dogs getting attention.  He is passionate about playing ball and if he can’t get anyone to play he’ll toss it in the air and chase it himself.  During a freak snowstorm that dumped close to 2 feet of snow on us in November, Leo decided snow was the best thing since food.  He was like a little kid, wanting to go out every 20 minutes.  We went through about 5 towels a day drying him off.

 

Leo doesn’t run so much as “bound”, his tiny remnant of a tail (the result of a botched bobbing attempt) flicking like a white tail deer as he leaps across the yard.  He took a while to understand the concept of toys but now carries his favorites from room to room.  He still has never cried, whimpered or whined but has no trouble expressing himself, he loves attention and will come up and rest his head on your knee to get some.  Although the youngest of the pack and even though he does defer to Max as the leader, he has a great sense of responsibility.  He won’t go to bed as long as any family member is still up and often asks to go outside for no other reason than to survey his little kingdom from the back deck.  We call it “sentry duty”.   He waits his turn when the treats are given out and sits as dinner is served. He’s a good boy.

 

There are so many issues to deal with in these troubled times that we can feel overwhelmed.  But the investment of a little time and a lot of love can make such a difference in the life of a dog that got a rough start in life.  And when you see that love reflected back in pair of trusting brown eyes you know you’ve made a difference.