Hero dog with traumatic past gets his own party at Dogtown

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Legion the dog smiling and wearing sunglasses
It's a 'just because' party and no one deserves it more than this heroic senior dog.
By Sarah Thornton

It’s the middle of the afternoon on a Tuesday like any other, and one of the dog parks at Best Friends Animal Sanctuary is full of people waiting for the guest of honor. Their pockets are stuffed with treats, and one of them is holding a brand-new dinosaur toy. And then he arrives, riding up to the gate in style on a golf cart — Legion, the big old brindle dog everyone is here for everyone to see. His caregivers have picked out a starry tie for him to wear on his collar, and his tail starts wagging as he sees his friends all gathered in one place. There are about to be a whole lot of faces getting slobbered on.

Because of Legion’s difficult history with being leashed, when he’s out and about (and on a leash), his fans greet him from a distance. On this particular Tuesday, caregivers decided to throw him a party just because they could. It was a chance for him to be the center of attention and spend time with everyone who’s fallen for him during his time at the Sanctuary with no leashes involved.

Photo by Molly Wald

A hero dog’s difficult start

Legion endured a lot before coming to Best Friends. He was living in an apartment where dogs weren’t allowed, and to hide him, his people kept him chained to the wall of the bedroom. He was only taken out briefly once a day to potty as fast as possible and then go back inside. Accidents were inevitable and he had to live in them. If he made a noise, he got in trouble. It was a difficult, sometimes chaotic life.

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Then one terrifying day, his person was attacked in the room where he lived. Legion did everything he could to protect her. He tore the chain out of the wall and threw himself into the situation to save her, which ultimately cost him the one home he knew. Authorities intervened, and though he was trying to save someone, his behavior was considered inappropriate. 

Legion was surrendered and he ended up in a shelter. From there Best Friends took him in, giving him the space, quiet and time he needed to recover from his difficult start in life.

Photo by Molly Wald

Surrounded by best friends

The Dogtown staff took its time to get to know Legion and saw that he was a sweet, friendly boy who absolutely loved people. The challenge was that he seemed to have trauma that showed up when he was on a leash. It’s understandable, given how much time he had spent tied up and what he witnessed; however, that didn’t stop him from gathering admirers from afar. He was a hero in everyone’s eyes.

Volunteers read to him and he sat right up against the door of his room to listen. Caregivers adored him. Legion was sweet and smart. He learned all sorts of tricks and became a whiz at the agility course.

Over time, caregivers worked out a way for him to meet new people without a leash and they set up a routine that allows him to go on walks with volunteers. According to caregiver Sam Woyak, you toss treats under the gate until he stops barking, which takes less than a minute. Once Legion is quiet and waiting expectantly, Sam opens his gate and Legion comes out to say hello. “He’ll show off all his tricks,” says Sam, “and then I put the leash on him and hand him over to (the new person).” Then he’s off to explore Dogtown trails with a new friend.

Photo by Molly Wald

Between that and giving Legion a chance to truly unwind and leave the past behind him, a whole new world of friends has opened up to him. Now a distinguished gentleman with gray around his nose, Legion is popular.

Every other time he goes out, it’s for a car or golf cart ride. He loves it, but he has developed a bit of a reputation as a slobbery kisser, especially on such outings. “If you take him on a car ride or a golf cart ride,” Sam says, “you have instant inches-thick slobber all the way down your shirt and in your ear. But you can’t tell him no because he loves you so much.”

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For some people, those slobbery kisses are the best thing in the world. Joyce Moyer, a volunteer who used to read to Legion, works just down the road with cats who call the Sanctuary their home-between-homes. When she learned that she could go meet Legion properly, she took a break from work and rushed right over.

“I met him when he first got here,” Joyce says. “I posted on Facebook that one day I’d get to kiss his face. And I got to do that and it was amazing. I could cry … He’s just amazing.”

Photo courtesy of Joyce Moyer

A happy dog with parties —  just because

Legion loves treats, toys and car rides. He can take apart a fluffy toy in seconds, he can find a treat in a pile of blankets, and he spends his days constantly rearranging his quilts and soft beds until they’re just where he wants them. But his absolute favorite thing is just being able to see and spend time with his friends.

“He’s so easy and he’s such a lovebug,” says Sam, with affection in her voice. “Any part of him that isn’t that way is from trauma. It’s in his nature to be a lover.” That affection is evident in the voice of anyone who talks about Legion. Everyone who meets him loves him.

That’s why they threw a party for him in the middle of the afternoon on an otherwise normal Tuesday. It was just because his friends wanted to spend time with him, and Legion was feeling good, and he deserved a few more treats to let him know what a very good boy he is.

Of course, everyone is hoping that Legion’s next big party will be to celebrate going home. Until then, he’ll keep soaking up the love in the place he’s called home during a time when he needed it the most.

Photo by Molly Wald