Written by Rachael Rodriguez (Lily's Mother)
Lily (or "The Little" as we often call her) is a 40 lb senior pocket pitty. Small in size but big in spirit, she is the sweetest, goofiest and most gentle soul you could ever meet. Even after coming from unthinkable beginnings, Lily is a happy, wiggly butt 13 year old puppy that is pure goodness. This is her story.
A little over 5 years ago, Lily was dropped at the San Francisco Animal Shelter as a stray. As the story was told, she somehow ended up in someone's yard and that person brought her to the shelter. What actually happened, we will never know and perhaps that is for the best. Regardless, we are incredibly grateful that she made it to the shelter. She was in really bad shape. A broken paw, 10 broken teeth, a broken nose, a wound on her muzzle, and scars all over her body. Based on her injuries, Lily had clearly been a bait dog. It was also apparent to the staff at the shelter that she had been overbred. Forced into a life of fighting and breeding, she had been a victim of atrocious abuse the likes of which no creature should ever come to know.
If you're not familiar with what bait dogs are, I'll save you the heartache of Googling it and sum it up here. A "bait dog" is a dog that is used to test another dog's fighting instinct. They are typically chained or restrained in some manner while the "fighting dogs" are encouraged to attack them. On top of being restrained, some of these dogs have their teeth broken or muzzles taped shut so they can’t defend themselves. It is barbaric. Bait dogs sustain horrible, often life-threatening injuries and when they have outlived their usefulness, they are killed or released to die alone. That is some of what Lily had endured based on her condition upon intake. As the result of being in such bad shape, the staffers who assessed her thought she was 12 years old, when in reality, she was closer to 8. As an injured, senior pitbull type dog, it was all but certain she would be euthanized. Luckily that's when Muttville Senior Dog Rescue stepped in and saved her. After being rescued, Lily underwent multiple surgeries and went into foster care to start her healing process so she’d be ready for adoption. That’s where our journey with her began.
After only a week or so in her foster home and still heavily medicated on pain meds, Lily was brought to her first adoption event. I was out of town, but my wife Sonia, was volunteering that day with Muttville to lend an extra set of hands. Little did we know, that event would change our lives forever. Sonia had been sitting on the floor playing with the small dogs, when out of nowhere, this little bitty pitty hobbled over on a bright pink cast and laid right in her lap. They were fast friends. I received a call and photo shortly after to let me know we were adopting a new dog. I was hesitant and replied with something like, "Are you sure? We have 2 dogs and a cat already." To which Sonia replied, "Just meet her and then we can decide. But she's special. I think you'll like her." Her photo did melt my heart, so we quickly set up a meeting with Lily's foster mom. Sonia could not have been more right.
The photo Sonia sent to Rachael of Lily from the adoption event
Lily was special. I fell head over heels in love with her the moment she came hobbling up to us. I had honestly never met a little being quite like her. She had the most amazing vibe. Sweet, affectionate, cuddly, goofy and a bit high on pain meds, which was beyond adorable. We knew we wanted to make her a part of our family, but the true decision makers would be the rest of our pack. With that in mind, we arranged a play date for Lily, Bella, and Bailey. Luckily, they got along smashingly. We were thrilled. That same day we did the home check, during which Lily jumped up and claimed her spot on the couch. We knew then, she was ours and we were hers.
Lily (middle) with Bella and Bailey
Freedom Ride - finally going home!
Now I won’t sugarcoat it, things were rough in the beginning. Very rough. When Lily came home to us, she still had her cast on, she was still healing from having 10 broken teeth removed and from being spayed, she had terribly long nails that had clearly never been cut a day in her life and she was nervous. Actually, nervous was an understatement. She was riddled with serious anxiety and fears of so many things that we simply took for granted with Bella and Bailey. The blender, blowdryer, vacuum, being alone for more than a few minutes, not being able to see her humans at any given moment, and she was unsure about everything new. In fact, right after we got Lily, we had put her on the porch so she could see us while we were moving the cars in front of our house for maybe 3 minutes, and as if in slow motion, she jumped off the porch Geronimo style, cast and all to try to get to us! Sonia and I were watching from the car in disbelief and sheer terror. Thankfully she didn’t hurt herself, but that’s just one example of how bad her separation anxiety was in the beginning. Honestly though, who could possibly blame her?
It was terribly sad to see the way the horrors of her past had manifested in every facet of her life. Poor Lily even had doggy nightmares almost nightly that caused her to cry out, whine, flinch, wince, growl, etc. For the first 6 months she lived with us, she wouldn’t even close her eyes. She would literally be sleeping and full on snoring with her eyes open. It was absolutely heart breaking and nothing we had ever experienced before. We learned so much about her, and about abused animals, and we worked tirelessly to ensure that she became comfortable in her new space. We stopped at nothing to let her know that she was safe. It was a very long road, but we never gave up on her and she never gave up on us. Time passed and she slowly got more comfortable. She found her place in the pack and over time began to understand that she was safe and no one was going to hurt her ever again. She has taught us so much about patience, resilience, kindness, and overcoming tremendous adversity. Lily completely transformed our life. She saved us as much as we saved her.
Fast forward 5 years and Lily is doing remarkably well. She spends her days snuggling with her humans, playing with her siblings, sleeping, eating, going on walks, chomping on toys, lazying around and spreading happiness. She has healed physically and mentally. She's gotten over most all of her fears. She still hates fireworks, motorcycles, and anything that makes a loud banging sound, but that’s pretty normal for dogs. However, as she’s aged we think her hearing has diminished a bit, so those loud noises aren’t quiet as scary anymore. We’re grateful for that. On the whole, she is a goofy, happy-go-lucky girl who loves life.
Lily with Sam
Her best buddy is our cat, Sam. (They just get each other). She adores her brother and sister Bella and Bailey. The 3 of them have made a beautiful, mellow, sweet, fun-loving pack. It’s been an extraordinary thing to witness. Lily didn’t even act like a dog when we adopted her. Truth be told, I don’t believe she knew how, but Bella and Bailey have shown her the ropes. Under their tutelage, she has become a confident, playful, butt sniffing, zoomie running, toy loving, treat obsessed pup if ever there was one. And she’s taught them how to chill, be more patient and kind in return. It fills our hearts to see how much they love each other and have grown together.
Lily really is remarkable. To see her triumph over the horrendous obstacles she faced as the result of an unfathomable past has been incredibly special. Her sweet, gentle nature is inspiring. She loves everything. Every animal she meets, every toy she sees, every treat, every walk, every new experience, but most of all, she loves her humans. It takes an exceptional soul to still trust humans after all she suffered at their hands, but that is Lily. Resilient, forgiving, and loving. She is all love and she makes this world a better place.
A Few Words from Lily’s Mom
Adopting Lily was literally the best thing we ever did. At the risk of sounding sappy, I can’t express how much Lily means to me. We are peas in a pod. She is my heart walking around outside my body. It doesn’t matter what type of dog she is, Lily is my soulmate in canine form. Admittedly, I had very little contact with pitbulls before Lily. Though I had never met one I didn’t love. The funny thing that no one tells you about being a pitbull mom is that it’s no different than being a lab mix mom, except for the fact that Lily is extra chill, extra cuddly, snores when she sleeps, and she needs me more than my other dogs do. Aside from those adorable and endearing traits, the only real difference I’ve noticed is the way people act toward her.
On the whole people love her right off the bat and they don’t think twice about her looking like a “pitbull.” They think she’s cute because she’s so little or because she moves kinda slow or because she’s sweet and gentle and a tad aloof, but then there are those people who hesitate or even move away when they see her. I had never encountered that behavior when out with my other dogs (Bella and Bailey are almost 11 year old lab shepherd mixes from the same litter and people immediately want to love on them when they see them.) It’s different with Lily. It’s also fascinating how many times we’ve been asked, “Is she a pit?” As if that is the only thing that matters. It used to upset me to no end, but at some point I realized it’s a lack of knowledge, preconceived notions, and stereotyping that leads people to act that way. It really is tremendously unfortunate. “Pitbulls” are just dogs, albeit dogs that have received a bad rap as the result of ridiculous myths and terrible humans who use and abuse them in unimaginably cruel ways. The media has lent itself to this problem as well by being quick to distort stories about pitbulls or only publicize negative stories. Unfortunately, stories about a “pitbull” doing something will garner better ratings than say a chihuahua.
Lily with her mother Sonia
Discrimination against pitbull type dogs is pervasive in our society and it’s simply unfair. Dogs are dogs. Just like people are people. They are individuals. There are good and bad amongst all. Lily is a prime example of that. Thinking about the horrendous conditions she had to endure sickens and angers me to the core, but honestly, she really doesn’t care. She is happy and she is safe now. Her resilience, iron will, innate goodness and some decent humans helped her overcome the atrocities she was subjected to and now she lives life to the fullest. There are so many other incredible pitbull type dogs out there that deserve a chance at life just like Lily. They should not be condemned to death because of the way they look or the myths that are circulated about them. They should be judged on their character and behavior as individuals, not their physique or the shape of their head. I don’t believe that discriminating against these amazing dogs is in anyway helpful and it certainly isn’t based in fact.
I guess I’ll end with this, to anyone who is interested in learning more about pitbulls, please do. There are lots of great resources out there. Don’t believe the myths or the hype. Educate yourself. Also, if you’ve never met a pitbull type dog, make it a point to. Go to your local shelter. Sadly, there will be plenty of pitbulls for you to meet there. Lastly, I implore you, if you are looking to add an awesome companion to your family and a bully breed is appropriate for your lifestyle, please give these dogs a chance, even if they’ve had a rough past and they’re a senior. You never know, maybe you’ll meet your Lily and it will change your life.
Lilly with her mother Rachael