The Lucky Seven

By David Dickson

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Catalina

When seven dogs from Canada hopped on a plane bound for Best Friends, they had an entire community standing by to send them off with cheers and well-wishes. No big surprise, though, considering that the community had already pulled together beforehand to make the journey possible.

The story of the "Lucky Seven" (as they’ve been called) began when authorities were notified of a hoarding case in the Province of Manitoba. Authorities found 64 dogs crammed into a small building without windows. The dogs were covered in feces and other filth. In addition, they had open wounds and other medical problems. Most of the dogs were flat-out terrified.

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Vera

After assessing the situation, authorities seized and moved the dogs to the Winnipeg Humane Society. There, the dogs received constant care and TLC. Even so, many of the dogs were slow to trust. A lot of them didn’t appear to know what it was like to walk on grass or dirt. As such, fun and games were not exactly high priority to the dogs. Daily survival had always been the best they could hope for. It took countless hours to teach them there was more to life than feeling afraid. "The first time they played, we all burst into tears," says Susan Williams, behavior manager at the Winnipeg Humane Society.

In time, the dogs truly made progress and some of them even found homes. Yet others still needed some extra time to find their way. The Winnipeg Humane Society contacted Best Friends to see if there would be room for a few of the more challenging dogs — the ones who needed the most help. Here again, their new-found good luck held out. As it happens, space had just become available for a small group of dogs. Seven dogs were chosen for the trip.

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Winnepeg Dogs

The Winnipeg Humane Society decided to fly them straight to Kanab. The way they figured things, these dogs had been through enough. A long road trip would not have been a great start in their next adventure. Only snag: To charter a plane they needed to raise some money. So they asked the community for help.

The community had already been rooting for these dogs and responded with enthusiasm. That single call for help raised more than double the necessary $10,000 for the flight (additional funds raised will help the remaining dogs from the hoarding situation). When the crowd of supporters and news crews showed up to bid the dogs farewell, they were truly sending off seven of their own.

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Hammond

When Tinder, Zoraster, Hammond, Winter, Emory, Vera, and Catalina first arrived at the Sanctuary two weeks ago, they were turning circles in their crates and not sure what to expect. But oh, what a difference a little time can make. The dogs have already begun to trust people. In fact, they seek out affection. Vera in particular has no qualms chatting it up to grab some attention! If you walk near their play area, the whole group crowds the fence to say hello. "They are just so full of life and spirit," says caregiver Megan Larsen.

As the Lucky Seven settle in, it’s obvious they haven’t had much access to wide open spaces before. Whenever they visit Tara’s Run (an exercise area for the dogs at Best Friends) they go crazy, zipping and zooming around all that free space. Their caregivers say the dogs have a rather unique gait about them. They haven’t had much practice running, that’s for sure! Still, they’re figuring out the concept.

Something else they haven’t experienced much is walking on leash. No worries on that count, however. They’re already going out with staffers and volunteers on a regular basis. And while it might be " . . . sort of like walking squirrels on a leash," as caregiver Allison Martin describes the process, the Lucky Seven have a blast every step of the way. Yes, a leash might seem a tad unusual to their way of thinking, yet they can’t get enough of all the new sights and smells they experience on the outings.

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Hammond

Hammond, a golden-colored gentle giant of a dog, is only one example of the progress the group as a whole has made. When he first arrived at Best Friends, he didn’t eat for a couple of days. It wasn’t until one of his caregivers tried sprinkling his food on the ground that Hammond gobbled up a meal. Turns out he didn’t know what to think of a food bowl. Once his caregivers figured out that detail, they were able to work with hand-feeding and other techniques to help him along. Nowadays he’s eating out of a bowl and even beginning to play fetch on the side. This is a whole new life for him and the rest.

With enough people standing in their corner, from the entire community back in Winnipeg to the new community here at the Sanctuary, these dogs can’t help but succeed. Soon they will discover there’s more to life than they’ve ever supposed — a worthwhile lesson no matter how late it’s learned.

Photos by Sarah Ause