Gwen Arthur called me last October and asked if we would foster a female wheaten from a puppy mill in Missouri. She said the puppy mill had turned the dog over to a woman who took the dogs that the puppy mill People were going to put down and tried to place them so their lives wouldn’t end early. We said yes to fostering the dog. On October 22, 2004 we were to meet the volunteer from the Doxie group and get the female wheaten. While the volunteer was driving back to Nebraska we got a call from her asking if we knew that the dog had a tumor the size of a hen’s egg on it. Neither Gwen nor my husband and I had any clue that the dog was sick. Right then and there my husband and I decided we would foster the dog and give her at least a couple months of living as a pet even if it was just for a short time. We decided it was time to name this wheaten and we gave her the name Hope.

When the volunteer pulled into the parking lot with the wheaten, I cried, she had a beautiful Wheaten face. We raced to the car to see our new foster only to back off from the smell of her. She smelled like she had never had a bath in her 7 years of life. Her hair was matted and her paws were red from trying to clean herself. She was very neglected and scared to death of everything.

We put her in the car and headed home. She actually wagged her tail when she saw our two Wheatens in the house and headed into a crate in the kitchen where she stayed the entire night, not eating or drinking.

The next day it was off to the vet and the groomers. The vet told us that had she not been rescued she would have been a cripple within a couple of months because of the sores on her feet. We gave her all her shots and scheduled a time to have her spayed and mammary gland stripped. Then it was off to Petco for a groom. The woman at Petco was a breast cancer survivor and was willing to do whatever it took to clean Hope up. She spent 9 1/2 hours grooming her. When Hope came home she looked like a blonde lab puppy. She curled up in the crate and stayed there.

The next couple of weeks were a real learning experience. We realized that Hope didn’t have a clue what grass was, would take quite a while to house train and even though she feared everything else she would knock over a baby gate to join our two Wheatens when we were away from home. When Hope barked the first time, it was about 5 weeks into her foster, Walt and I both jumped out of bed and ran downstairs at 2 in the morning to praise her for barking. Our two Wheatens were looking at us wondering why she was getting praised for barking.

The holidays came and went and Hope stocking hung on the fireplace with Woody and Benny’s socks. Walt told me if Hope would give us a “kiss” we could keep her. She was actually warming up to us by then but no kisses. Finally in January she gave me a kiss on the hand for the first time. In February Hope became a permanent member of the Conrad family.

We also mastered her potty training (can you tell I have a 2 year old human kid in the house) by putting her out back alone and turning out the lights. She still doesn’t do her thing in front of anyone. We use piddle pads at night in front of the patio door and she always hits her pads. Just this week she started tapping to go out.

I know this is long but I think Hope’s story bears repeating for those who are involved in rescue. Every time Hope does something new, Walt and I marvel at her ability to change and grow. Hope is still a scaredy cat, Walt wants a sign that says, “Please don’t scare the guard dog.” Hope runs to her crate and doesn’t come out when new People are over. She does take treats from a select group of friends and neighbors. Comes when called, steals a bone from her wheaten brothers, rolls over to have her tummy scratched, jumps up on the couch for her snuggle time and even plays with a toy occasionally.

For those of you who are thinking about a rescue dog from a puppy mill I will tell you that it is work to get them to trust humans, pee outside and adjust to being a pet. Is it worth it? Oh yes it is. Watching Hope is like seeing a miracle happen in front of your eyes. She gives us Hope and courage.

I have to thank Gwen and the wheaten People who have offered so much support over the past year. To name all of you would make this even longer. My husband also needs a big thank you because if he didn’t have such a big heart I would never have three middle aged Wheatens, nor would I be able to walk all three. And last but not least I must thank Woody and Benny, our two rescue boys who let Hope take over their crates, bones and do whatever she wanted. They seemed to understand that she is special.

For those of you who read all this thank you. I look forward to writing about Hope and her adjustment to life on an island.

Thank you all for your work in saving Wheatens.

Jacky, Walt, Nathan
Woody, Benny and Hope