“There is an honesty you get with a dog that you don’t get with people. There is nothing fake about them. Every emotion is real — they like you or they don’t. They are incredibly loyal and love you even when you are not worthy of it. I think they can make us better humans by their example.”
— Former Augustan and dog lover Pat VanHooser
Rescue dog owners like to ask “Who rescued whom?” – to illustrate the difference their formerly abused, neglected, abandoned or homeless pets have made in their lives.
But if Ollie “rescued” Joni Newfrock and her family, she wasn’t done there.
About a year after the Newfrocks had discovered the hurt, frightened two-month-old puppy (which had been spray painted pink and black) in a busy intersection in Austin, Texas, Ollie went on to rescue a neighbor’s dog – for real.
One spring night in 2013, Newfrock was putting her baby to sleep when Ollie began crying to get out. Newfrock quickly learned why: The neighbor’s German shepherd was inextricably caught in some utility wires along the foundation and couldn’t get free. Ollie proceeded to crawl through a small opening in the chain-link fence – and chewed the lines to free the other dog.
Now, that’s a rescue dog in every sense of the term.
Ollie was just one of several dozen dogs vying recently for the title of “Augusta’s Next Top Dog” – a family-friendly fundraiser at Pendleton King Park for nonprofit spay-and-neuter group That’s What Friends Are For. It’s an event we were privileged to help judge.
And while Ollie didn’t win Top Dog – that honor went to the flowing-hair pair of Nicki Johnson and Elsa, a Great Pyrenees – she and a handful of other rescue dogs stole the show. Even out from under the occasional tutu-adorned tiny dog, the stately bulldog and more.
While other categories of contestants – most glamorous, best movie character, best senior – would be led across the stage for a brief glimpse of spotlight, rescue dog owners were asked to bring their pets’ back stories, which were read to the crowd.
Not a yelp came from the crowd as these “tails of glory” were read.
“My heart swelled, my eyes teared up and I was amazed at Ollie’s heroism,” Newfrock said of her Golden rescuer.
Another owner was dismayed – and hungry – after her rescue dog Roscoe satisfied himself with the family’s large pepperoni pizza one night on the kitchen floor. But in retrospect, she shouldn’t have been surprised: Her son had rescued the homeless pit mix at college. Why wouldn’t the dog like pizza?
The lesson there is, some bad habits of street-savvy dogs need to be broken. But once they are, rescue dogs can be some of the most grateful.
One family even adopted a deaf rescue dog, whom they call Miss Ivy Rue – and who allegedly wrote her own back story for the Top Dog competition. After being scooped up into a North Carolina shelter, Miss Ivey Rue was lucky enough to catch the attention of Green Dogs Unleashed – a Troy, Va., nonprofit that rescues, rehabilitates and trains dogs to be therapy dogs.
The group even focuses on special-needs dogs, such as Miss Ivy Rue – who confesses to now being a spoiled diva who’s loving every minute of it.
Though not a special needs dog, “Charlie Anne,” adopted from Martinez Animal Hospital, has had a rougher go of it. She’d been hit by a car on I-20 and was at risk of euthanization. Even after being adopted by a worker there, the dog – who was pregnant and tested positive for heartworms – needed multiple surgeries to repair damage from the highway accident.
This is why such dogs and their owners steal any show they’re in. Everyone loves an underdog, and disabled, abused, abandoned ones are the biggest underdogs of all.
Their predicaments often say something grim about the human heart – but their rescues never fail to provide a rebuttal so ringing a deaf dog can hear it.