Daisy Dooley: I’m a Keeper!

At-risk pit-bull terrier enters the lives of a couple ready to love again

The "I'm A Keeper!" series is a collection of heart-warming stories about wonderful pets who have found or kept a loving forever home because people took the time to get to know them as individuals and provide what they needed to be happy. Find the whole collection of stories by clicking here. Do you have an "I'm A Keeper!" story to share? See manuscript submission guidelines at the end of this article.

Have you ever had an experience where it feels like things are "meant to be"? Some people believe that is karma, others believe in a higher power. For me that's God.

It's funny how God works in our lives. While we see seemingly insignificant little "pieces" of our lives as they happen, He sees the full picture. The story of how Daisy Dooley came into our lives is very much like that.

Just to give you a little background, I love daisies. Always have.

For many years, as a term of endearment, I have called Shannon, my husband, Mr. Dooley. The name Mr. Dooley comes from a funny scene in one of my all-time favorite movies "Barefoot in the Park."

I love to read, and I'm a sucker for alliteration. One day last year, I was browsing through the bookstore and came across a title that made me laugh out loud. The book was called "Daisy Dooley Does Divorce," by Anna Pasternak. Well, after what I've just shared with you, you can understand that I had to purchase the book immediately.

I, of course, didn't read it immediately. I actually didn't open it until many months later. At about the same time that I started to read the book, I told my friend Melissa about it, and the title made her laugh out loud as well. She got so tickled. She said, "Amy, if you ever get another dog, you have to name her Daisy Dooley." I laughed at that thought as well. It would be the perfect name. I told Shannon what she had said, and he thought it was funny - and a perfect name, too.

But see, at this time in our lives, getting another dog was not something we had even discussed. We were still grieving the loss of our sweet American Staffordshire terrier named Allie Girl. We lost Allie about a year and a half before. She was our baby. Allie was 7-1/2 years old when she died from heart and kidney failure. The pain of losing her was still so great that we didn't know if we'd ever be able to love like that again.

I started to read the book that I mentioned to you on a Monday. The following Friday afternoon, I signed into Facebook just like I do multiple times daily. This day, however, would prove to be quite different, as the first thing I saw in my Facebook feed was a picture of this gorgeous dog named Daisy. My friend Judy Jacobs had posted the picture of Daisy from a new Facebook App called Pet Pardons, an app designed to promote animals on death row at shelters and in no-kill shelters all over the country to help find them their forever homes.

Above Daisy's picture were the words "Please help save Daisy the Dog." See, Daisy was scheduled to be killed Monday, January 24, 2011, but as I was looking at her picture it was Friday around 4:00 p.m. (closing time for the shelter), January 21, 2011.

I don't know how to explain to you the feeling that I had in the pit of my stomach when I saw Daisy's face. She reminded me so much of our sweet Allie. And something inside of me said, "Call right now about that dog!" Shannon was not even home from work yet, and calling about getting a dog was not something I would normally ever do without speaking to him first. But again, something said, "Call right now about that dog!"

So, I did.

A lady by the name of Ashley Owen Hill had posted Daisy on the Pet Pardons site, so she was the person that I had to call. I called and left a message with her just saying that I wanted to ask about Daisy.

I had so many butterflies running around in my stomach. I didn't know what to make of any of it because I didn't even want another dog. My heart was still so broken over losing our precious Allie. But something inside of me kept saying, "She is yours."

And in my heart, I already knew that.

I already wanted her. I already loved her.

As I sat waiting for Ashley to return my call and for Shannon to get home from work, I told our youngest son, Daniel, about the phone call I had just made, then I showed him Daisy's picture. He took one look at her and said, "Momma, you have to call Ashley back again. Make sure she gets your message."

At about that same time, Shannon arrived home. He brought the mail in with him ... there was a package. I looked at him and said, "I have to show you something and tell you what I've done." I proceeded to show him Daisy's picture and told him that I had called and left a message with Ashley.

He was just as shocked as I was - and a bit overwhelmed.

But something inside him was telling him as well, "She is yours."

And in his heart, he already knew that.

He already wanted her. He already loved her.

Then Ashley called. Basically, I shared with Ashley everything that I just shared with you. She told me that Daisy was a very sweet and friendly girl who desperately needed help. She was scheduled to be killed on Monday if a home could not be found.

Ashley and I continued to talk for a while. She ended the conversation by telling us to call her back the next day.

Shannon and I were just so overwhelmed with mixed emotions - both of us knowing what we were supposed to do, but still so unsure about all of it.

As we were talking about adopting Daisy, I walked over to the counter to open up the package that Shannon had brought in from the mailbox. Shannon said, "It's just so weird to agree to adopt a dog that we've never even seen in person." At that moment, I opened the package. Inside was a plaque from a friend displaying words from Hebrews 11:1, "Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see." Shannon and I looked at each other and just laughed out loud. What more was there to say? That was our answer.

So, needless to say, the next day we called Ashley and told her that we were definitely adopting Daisy.

Ashley pulled Daisy from the rescue that Monday and took her to the vet to have her checked out and spayed. She found out that Daisy tested "low" positive for heartworms. Although that was devastating to hear, we still knew she was ours.

We spoke with Ashley several times that week. All of this was so new to us, and we had so many questions for her.

One of the times we spoke, I just had to ask this one question that I kept thinking of over and over. I said to Ashley, "If you don't mind me asking, who named Daisy?" She replied, "I did. I can't explain why. I just looked at her and knew her name was Daisy." It was so amazing to me to realize God's hand in all of this. I always thought if we did ever get another dog, we would pick her out and name her Daisy ourselves, but God knew differently. He picked our Daisy and named her for us. Maybe just to reassure us, "Yes, she is your girl."

We arranged to pick Daisy up the following Saturday. It was a 3-1/2 hour drive to get her, so the entire way there, we were just so excited.

When we finally saw her with our own eyes, we were overjoyed! She was so precious and so very happy to meet us. It was as if she had always been ours. There was not one moment of adjustment with her. I don't know how to explain it, but she was at home the minute she was with us. It was overwhelming and wonderful.

I sat in the backseat with her all the way home, and I could not take my eyes off of her. I was overcome with emotions. It's so hard to imagine that this precious girl just opened her heart to us with no hesitation. She had no reason to trust us, two complete strangers to her, but she did - with abandon.

We don't know really anything about her past, but based on what we could see and would soon find out, she had obviously been used as a breeder dog. And once she was no longer useful to her previous people, she was dumped with a heart full of heartworms.

One week after bringing Daisy home, we almost lost her. She was coughing up blood, so I took her to the vet. He did an X-ray of her heart and lungs. He called me in the exam room to look at the films, and even I could see it was very bad news. She had a case of heartworms much worse than the original rescue vet had diagnosed. She was very, very sick.

I asked the doctor what to do. He was perplexed because this happy, sweet, healthy-looking baby, whom he could see with his own eyes in his office, did not match the X-rays that he was looking at. He said to let him keep her for a week on complete cage rest.

Having to leave Daisy for that week at the vet was one of the hardest, longest weeks of my life. I prayed for her constantly and could not stop crying. I ached for this precious girl who had never known the love of a family before, and now that she had a family to love, she was so close to losing her life. I clung to the verse on that plaque and had to trust that God had brought this baby into our lives for a reason, and He was going to let her live and know what it was like to be loved.

And He did.

One week later, she came home. She was still very sick, but so full of love and life. You could tell she was just so happy to finally have a home. I sat by her side constantly for the next two weeks because she had to have complete rest in order to survive the heartworm treatment. As I would hold her and just cry, she would lick my tears. She, the little girl who had been through such a horrific ordeal, was comforting me. This little girl had never been shown love before in her life, but she so desperately longed to share love with us.

Loving Daisy has changed us . . . in ways that we didn't even know we needed to change.

After Daisy was through the worst part of her illness, I was able to take some time to think about what we could do as a family to help other animals like Daisy.

So, we started a Facebook page for Daisy. Without Ashley Owen Hill and the Pet Pardons Facebook App, we would have never known about Daisy, so now we work every day to spread the word about Pet Pardons. We want to spread awareness about the needs of shelter pets all over the country, and we also want to show people that pit-bull-terrier-type dogs make such loving pets. Society and the media have made them all out to be vicious dogs, and nothing could be further from the truth.

That's our rescue story. So many seemingly insignificant little pieces of our lives, that once all put together, form one of the most significant pictures that God has ever created for our family.

People say we did a good thing by rescuing Daisy Dooley because we saved her life.

Truth is, she saved ours.

Do you have an "I'm a Keeper!" story to share?

Best Friends would like to hear your story! Each month, we will publish one "I'm A Keeper!" story written by one of our readers. We may not be able to publish every story we receive, but to have your story considered for publication, here's what we need:

  • Stories should focus on how you positively worked through challenges to successfully keep a pet as part of your family.
  • Your story should be in first person, observe the conventions of written English, and be error free.
  • Stories must be submitted as a Word document, single spaced, and be approximately 500 to 800 words in length.
  • Please also submit four to five good photos in .jpg format.
  • Please send story and photos as email attachments to foreverhome@bestfriends.org.
  • Please understand that Best Friends reserves the right to edit for publication.

How to solve challenges with your pet

  • Best Friends has an extensive online resource library written by animal care experts that contains tips to help you live in harmony with your dogs, cats, birds, bunnies, horses, pigs, ferrets, exotics and even wildlife. Please visit "You and Your Pets." Keep in mind that the ultimate solution may be a combination of strategies or a matter of taking the time to fully understand your pet and what he or she needs to be content. Download a printable flyer that you can hand out to help guide people to this extensive online resource.
  • Each week, our Community Animal Assistance (CAA) department receives nearly 500 requests from people seeking help with an animal. CAA has made all its resources available for you online so you can get quick answers to your questions. For help with your animal-related problem, visit the Network Help Center. If you need additional help after visiting these resources, please write to animalhelp@bestfriends.org.
  • Learn about the Best Friends Admissions Policy.
  • Read our blog about "Community Animal Assistance: Keeping Animals Out of Shelters."
  • Want to volunteer with the Best Friends Community Animal Assistance team? Click here for volunteer opportunities.

"Pets are family" initiatives

The goal of the "pets are family" initiatives is to help people make and honor a lifetime commitment to their pets. Millions of companion animals die every year in crowded shelters because their families decided to let them go for some reason. Through education, intervention and action, "pets are family" provides guidance and resources to help people care for their pets and keep them as loved members of their families. Every year, 8 to 10 million pets enter America"s shelter system. How many of them if given a helping hand could stay with their families instead? By supporting the "pets are family" initiatives, you help bring about a time when there are No More Homeless Pets.

Photos courtesy of Amy Mahoney

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Every day, more than 9,000 dogs and cats are killed in America's shelters simply because they don't have a safe place to call home.

Together, we will end the killing.
Together we will Save Them All.
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