On a cold day in October of 2008, WIN rescued 12 Wheatens from a Kansas puppy mill where there were over 400 dogs on the property. These 12 were among several to be destroyed because the miller didn’t want to feed them over the winter and they were not “producing.”

Little Belle was one of these dogs. She was flown to us in Atlanta weighing in at about 21 pounds. She’d been shaved, of course, and the most remarkable thing about her besides her diminutive size was those terror filled eyes.

She remained in her crate for a week, wouldn’t even take food from my hand. She ate when alone, turned her back to me when I was in the room. If she couldn’t see me, I wasn’t there. Our two guys gave her wide berth, unlike their treatment of all other fosters we’ve had. They sensed she was fragile.

She had never felt grass on her feet, having lived in a cage her whole life. Our Wheaties taught her how to be a dog, they housetrained her and showed her about chewy toys and getting affection from humans. It took her over four months to allow us to pet her, but she eventually did, though only occasionally. She was always skittish and never comfortable with men and when our two played or had words, she tried to become invisible, eyes cast down, not moving.

I noticed that when women came to our house, she was curious. Once when the Book Club girls came, she ventured into the doorway of the living room to see what was going on. That was a huge step for this little girl. I began to formulate the perfect home for Belle. It needed to be a single woman who worked from home or was retired, in Atlanta (so I could get her quickly if needed) with one dog.

After 17 months of fostering this little one (who looked like a cast member of “Honey I Shrunk the Wheaten”), I found an application that met most of my criteria. Kelly Ward lives in Atlanta with her Wheaten Paddy. Her older Wheaten Farley had recently passed away. I explained to Kelly that Belle wasn’t the typical exuberant Wheaten and that she had a rather sad past, but that she was a brave girl and had come very far.

Kelly came to meet Belle and I found that she is very soft spoken, a plus when working with a puppy mill dog. By the time Kelly left my house, Belle was sitting in Kelly’s lap, something she never did with me and making close up eye contact. I was amazed. This was a match made in heaven. We decided a trial run was a good idea over the Easter weekend and Kelly would make her decision by Monday. I had already made mine. Kelly was already in love with Belle, but wanted to make sure that Belle would be comfortable in her home with Paddy and her. When I took Belle over to Kelly’s, Paddy met us outside, gave Belle a big wet kiss on the nose and then left her alone. He is generous with his toys and his “station commander” spot on the sofa by the window. Belle has never paced at Kelly’s as she did even in our home on occasion. Before the weekend was up, Kelly said, make the announcement to WIN, Belle is in her forever home. They are all three living happily ever after!