By Theresa Santiago Adams
**Content warning: Images in this post are VERY graphic, but Theresa wants to show the horror of shelters and abuse, healing, and the power of fostering**
I knew the minute I brought him home, he needed a new name. His old name didn’t fit. A new name for a new life. I googled, and searched and hemmed and hawed. And finally I found the perfect name: Wyatt.
His name means “survivor”. And that’s exactly what he is.
The first time I laid eyes on him, he was cowering in a corner, groggy from pain meds, his head wrapped in bandages. After being abused, neglected and dumped at the shelter, he was placed in a kennel with two other large dogs. A common practice given the level of overcrowding the shelter experiences. Even as a 60 lb Pitt Bull, he was no match for them.
Those two dogs attacked him; ripping his ear in half, tearing huge gaping holes in his neck and mangling his face beyond recognition. Dozens of stitches covering his face, neck and legs. And yet, his eyes were gentle. He wanted help. He wanted to be free of pain.
He wanted to be loved. And I knew I could give him that.
Wyatt the day he was pulled from the shelter
Image on left: Wyatt's ear and neck post-attack
Image on right: Wyatt's leg post-surgery
I brought Wyatt home, placed him in my office which I decided was the best place for him since it was quiet and I could shut the door. That first night he cried. Imagine: alone, in pain, frightened, in a strange new place with strange new people. Could he trust me? Would I hurt him too? I went and laid down next to him. He slept. I didn’t. The next several nights were the same routine; go to bed, wait for him to cry, go lay on the floor with him while he slept.
After about 10 days, I weaned him off his pain meds. He was healing. Wounds were scabbing over, scars were forming where there was once raw skin. The swelling on his face was going away. I could finally see Wyatt’s beautiful face. And he could finally sleep on his own.
For many more weeks, we worked on getting to know each other. I slowly gained Wyatt’s trust; approaching cautiously with hands open so he could see I wasn’t going to hurt him. I would give gentle pets on his head, careful to avoid his wounds. Over the course of several months, he came out of his shell. Little by little. Day by day. One day Wyatt suddenly ran in the backyard with the other dogs. Another time he spontaneously came to me and nuzzled my hand for pets.
He began playing with toys, asking for treats and breaking (minor) rules. In short, Wyatt was becoming a dog. And it has been one of my greatest joys to watch this sweet, gently boy blossom into the silly, goobery, playful dog he was meant to be.
People often ask me why I rescue dogs. This is why. This life I saved, this boy I helped. Wyatt is the reason I rescue. Yes, it’s hard. It’s challenging, and frustrating and stressful. My house is always a mess. It’s never completely quiet. Someone always needs attention or discipline. But I love what I do.
I love these dogs. I love that I can make a difference, that I can save a life.
It’s often difficult to impress upon people the need for foster families. It’s almost impossible for them to wrap their heads around the staggering numbers of animals admitted to shelters and rescue groups across the metro area, let alone the state. People often say to me, “oh I could never be a foster parent, I’d get to attached”. Well, I do too! I fall madly, deeply in love with every single one of my foster babies. And I hand them over to their new families with mixed emotions, knowing I will likely never see them again, but at the same time understanding that it’s the best decision for them.
Being a Dog Mama and fostering are the most rewarding things I have ever done. I’m grateful to have the opportunity to help animals reach their potential and have a better life. And no, not every foster dog is a serious medical and psychological case like Wyatt. In fact, most are perfectly well adjusted dogs that just need a chance at life.
Give fostering a chance - you could save a life too!
handsome wyatt fully recovered
Wyatt loves almond butter snacks!