Fitting the pieces together

By David Dickson

It’s been nearly a year since Vera the dog came to Best Friends from a hoarding situation in Canada that ended up motivating an entire community to lend a helping hand.

Vera

once lived with 64 dogs crammed into a windowless building. They lived in filth and without adequate care. When authorities seized the dogs, Vera and all the others went to the Winnipeg Humane Society. Later, Vera and six more from the rescue ended up coming to Best Friends for special care. The community had been rallying behind them all along, raising funds for a chartered flight over.

When Vera first arrived at the Sanctuary, she had a hard time allowing people to get too close to her, as did the several other dogs from the rescue who lived with her at Best Friends. Oh, she was plenty interested in what was going on. She wasn’t afraid of humans, either, like the other dogs from the hoarding situation seemed to be. "She just never saw the point of forming a relationship with people," explains caregiver Liz Wood.

You can tell Vera is always thinking, always fitting puzzle pieces together in that mind of hers. In the early days, staying aloof from people made perfect sense given her history. Humans had let her down in the past. Why should she want to be buddies?

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Vera, Zoraster, and Catalina

Tom Williams, another caregiver, remembers something else about her in the beginning. "Vera always had the most sass!" Here is a dog who to this day throws a big stink if she isn’t included in anything fun. "She does not like to be left out," points out Liz. If one of the other dogs around Vera heads out for a walk or some other outing, and she’s not included, Vera doesn’t hesitate to gripe!

Given her tendencies to want to always be involved, she and her two current roommates, Catalina and Zoraster (also from the Canada rescue), might be some of the most photographed dogs at the Sanctuary. What’s funny about this trio is that the pose they strike for the picture is almost always the exact same. You see, whenever anybody enters the indoor portion of their building, Vera and her two pals trot right over to the door (which is made of hard wire). They line up and park square in the center of the doorway to stare expectantly at whoever just entered. If there’s a party, they want in! "She’s always ready for an adventure," says Liz.

The group as a whole had a long road ahead of them when first arriving at Best Friends. "They didn’t have a lot of skills," says Tom about those first days and weeks.

During the past year, however, the group has made wonderful progress. One of the dogs, Tinder, was adopted earlier this summer. Emory, a female from the group, is now an out dog at Old Friends, which means it’s her job to walk around and greet all newcomers. "She’s doing her job great," says Tom. As for Vera, the sassy girl who didn’t know what to make of human companionship in the beginning, she’s definitely turned a corner. "I really think she’s come the furthest," says Liz about Vera. Adds Tom, "She has calmed down. She’s more comfortable with people."

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Vera with caregivers Tom and Liz

Vera has decided she enjoys being petted and even looks forward to human companionship. Once upon a time, Vera didn’t feel comfortable being away from the pack. These days she’ll come over and solicit attention all by herself.

For a dog who, only a little over a year ago, was living in a hoarding situation with no reason in the world to trust people, that’s an inspiring change in point of view. She now goes for walks willingly and happily every day with volunteers. She’s not always ready to form an instant friendship with every complete stranger she comes across, yet for those who are persistent and spend the time to earn her trust, Vera is a real sweetheart for life.

One final small detail about their day speaks volumes about how far these dogs have come. At the end of the day, Vera and friends each receive a meatball. They sit in line patiently to wait their turn, and really, that’s the kicker. Though they once had to compete for everything, these dogs now realize that their turn will always come around, and that caregivers and others will treat them with kindness consistently. They expect it now.

Someday soon, Vera will turn on her considerable charm when the right person comes along and she’ll end up in the home she’s always deserved. Until then, Vera and friends have a whole team of people ready to help them fit those pieces into the puzzle of life one at a time. Oh, and there will be meatballs. Lots and lots of meatballs. "No complaints here!" Vera says.

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to check out the adoption profiles for Vera, Catalina and Zoraster. Of course, there are many wonderful adoptable animals at Best Friends looking for their forever families.

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Photographs by Gary Kapalkoff