On a rainy night in October 2020, a wet, emaciated and terrified dog was brought into a rural animal shelter in Northwest Florida. The staff noticed immediately that she couldn’t walk, so they got an x-ray and confirmed their fears: she had two broken hips, likely from being hit by a car.
The dog they eventually named Eliza also had a bruised lung, many kinds of worms and all sorts of other health problems. She cringed at human touch, and had to be sedated just to have her heartworm test done because she would growl at anyone who came near her. This caused the shelter to label her as “very aggressive,” because she was in so much pain and had been through so much abuse that she would act aggressively to people even trying to help her.
It was clear Eliza had suffered abuses much more horrific in her lifetime than having been hit by a car.
In early December, I saw a post about Eliza on the shelter’s Facebook page asking for donations so they could continue to care for medically needy dogs like Eliza. That was the first time I had seen or heard about Eliza, but taking one look at her scared big eyes in the video, I knew I had to free her.
I went to the shelter that weekend with every intention of picking Eliza up just to foster her. I’ve fostered plenty of dogs before, and thought that I could at least give her a loving home to heal in while she waited for her forever home.
When I went to pick Eliza up, I was heartbroken for her. She had to be carried out of the shelter and put into my car because she couldn’t walk. The first several days in my home, she was laying down 99.9% of the time, getting up only to use the puppy training pad in the middle of my kitchen. I could tell she was in excruciating pain, though she was slowly beginning to warm up to me—the first time she licked my hand, three days after bringing her home, felt like an Olympic victory.
About a week after I brought her home to foster, I took Eliza to a private vet, who suggested she undergo major hip surgery if she were to ever have a shot at being a “normal” dog – one who could chase squirrels, jump up on the couch, play with other dogs and more. Thanks to the kindness of strangers on the internet who were touched by Eliza’s story, I was able to raise the $2,100 for the needed surgery, and she went under the knife on Dec. 22, 2020.
The surgery was a huge success. On Christmas day, Eliza was already up and walking around more than she ever had since I brought her home. She was eating more, warming up to people and starting to become a happy dog.
Christmas Day was also the day I decided to make Eliza a part of my forever family.
The rest is history. I’ve celebrated every little one of Eliza’s milestones, from the first time she was strong enough to climb stairs to the first time I got her to walk on a leash. My other rescue dog, Macy, immediately took on the duty of being Eliza’s big sister (even though she’s a dachshund mix and about half Eliza’s size), and to this day Eliza follows Macy around like a shadow. Macy taught Eliza how to “dog,” and welcomed her into our home like a missing puzzle piece.
I’ve already made such amazing memories with this sweet pup – we’ve been to the beach, the mountains, to hometown breweries and on trips with my family. And still, nothing is quite as nice as curling up by the fireplace in the living room together under a soft blanket as I give her pets and love. She still has challenges and is still healing both physically and emotionally, but every day she is a little bit better than she was the day before.
So today, on an unseasonably cool April day in Florida, Eliza is cuddled up in bed on my left side and Macy is on my right. She had a busy day running around in the yard chasing squirrels, picking out toys from her toy basket and eating peanut-butter covered treats. She’s the first to fall asleep—she snores loudly and takes up a surprising amount of space on my king size bed, but I don’t dare make her move. Because that wet, scared, “very aggressive” dog is now warm, safe and the absolute goofiest, sweetest, funniest pup I know, and I’m so blessed to be her human for the rest of her life.