This is a story about one dog at Best Friends Animal Sanctuary, a dog who has meant so much to me and to so many others whose lives he has intersected with. I’m the manager of Dogtown at the Sanctuary and like a parent who celebrates the specialness of one of her kids, I feel obliged to say up-front that every single dog we have in Dogtown is incredibly special. Every dog has his or her own story and unique personality. Every dog is loved fully and completely. And every dog, in turn, touches the hearts of so many staff and volunteers. It is a gift to know and care for them.
Of course, there is occasionally a dog whose impact is so deep and powerful that it’s worth taking a closer look to try and tease out what exactly made him so special to so many.
One such dog sauntered into our lives in November 2017, in the wake of Hurricane Harvey. He was one of thousands of Houston-area pets whose lives were forever altered by the storm. He was a goofy giant — big-headed, slobbery and droopy. Since he was picked up in the wake of the hurricane, we had no history on him prior to that. He was transferred to a rescue group in St. Louis, but after having some incidents with other animals, he eventually made his way to Dogtown because we stood behind all the animals that came through our rescue center in Houston’s NRG Arena.
With his fresh start in Dogtown came a new name — Ludo. He was named after a giant puppet created by Jim Henson for the film Labyrinth. Ludo had the giant body and reddish-orange looks of his namesake (do a quick Google search and you’ll see the resemblance), and we hoped they shared a similar disposition. Sweet, loyal and sensitive, Ludo the puppet was a gentle giant. We lucked out when Ludo the dog revealed to us that he did share that personality, except maybe a little less sensitive and a little more “bull in a china shop.”
It became obvious pretty quickly that Ludo was destined to be a staff and volunteer favorite. By simply being his derpy self, he spread pure happiness everywhere he went. He would quite literally smother your face in wet, slobbery kisses if you allowed him to (#loveforludochallenge).
Ludo was seemingly always hungry, no matter when he ate last, and he could always be found hovering around the Dogtown lunch-room table. He went on countless sleepovers with volunteers who, without a doubt, gave up most of their bed at night, so he could fully sprawl out, and probably a good bit of their evening meal, too. He often had office days in our accounting department, where he was, once again, surrounded by people who loved to spoil him. Notice a trend here?
To put it simply, he was special. And he had a gift for making people smile.
Sadly, Ludo faced one medical challenge after another — from laryngeal paralysis to bloat to an intestinal blockage. His caregivers and our medical team helped him through numerous procedures. And Ludo proved to be a real fighter. No matter what he was going through medically, he always remained the same happy dog we loved so much. But then came his recent diagnosis — a large mass in his bladder — and we knew this wasn’t something he was going to be able to fight his way through.
So, instead, the team decided to rally around him and celebrate every day we still had with him. This culminated in a big party in his honor, with lots of attention from his adoring fans and several delicious doggie cupcakes made especially for him. Ludo had people from all over the country sending him love and support. And when he left this world a few days ago, he was surrounded by those who knew him best and loved him as if he were truly one of their own.
In reflecting on what made Ludo so special to so many different people, I would say that it wasn’t his silly name or soulful eyes. It wasn’t just that he would bathe you in kisses or that he had such a fighting spirit. All of those things contributed, but I think it’s less about anything he did and more about how he made each person feel.
Ludo made you feel special and joyful and loved. That was his gift to everyone he met and that’s why his spirit will long live on in Dogtown and in the hearts of the staff and volunteers who cared so deeply for him. He was a big, goofy, lovable example of why we work to Save Them All.
Ludo, I miss you. We all miss you. It has been a privilege to know you.
Best Friends Animal Society