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The Story of Little Louise
From living on the streets of Houston, Texas to relaxing on a lounger in Jersey City, this a first-hand story of a sweet little rescued Pittie.
2 weeks before we moved out of Texas I noticed that there was a dog living in a field down the street from us.
She was a Pittie. A sweet little brindle thing with ears that perfectly pitched forward into velvet triangles, and a dirty pink collar that adorned her neck, which meant that she had a ‘family’ once - a family that most likely dumped her because that’s what people do, especially in the South.
I started calling her Louise after the street we lived on.
“Morning little Louise,” I greeted her as I slowly made my way towards the food bowl I left her in the middle of the overgrown field clad with broken bottles, dumped furniture, and a bunch of other trash.
Sometimes she’d pop her little head up from the bushes and watch me suspiciously to make sure I left. I’d blow her a few kisses, wave bye to her without making eye contact, and slowly make my way out of the field doing my best not to scare her while every heart string pulled inside my chest.
As soon as I would make my way out of the field, I’d watch her trot her little legs over to the food and gobble it up in satisfaction.
It broke my heart and made it burst at the same time.
You don’t realize how bad animal welfare is down South until you see it first hand.
Dogs and cats are treated differently. There are ‘neighborhood dogs’ and stray kittens galore.
Throughout my 1 year in Houston, I rescued a kitten from a drainage ditch, reunited a runaway dog with its owner (who had no idea it was gone), and re-homed a pure-bred German Shepard who was running down a main highway, plus assisted with multiple pleas to try and get a mama and puppies taken in.
To say it’s dire is saying it way too lightly. There are more days you see strays than not, more posts on NextDoor saying “found dog” than not, and sadly, more euthanizations and owner surrenders than you can wrap your head around.
“Why are you going this way?” I asked Alex as he purposely missed the turn to our street, taking the longer route.
“Because I want to finish this song!” He said as he turned up the volume.
I don’t remember what song was playing, but as we turned the corner onto our street, I noticed a dog laying in the middle of the field, which led to me yell and point and Alex pulling over without a second thought.
“Babe if we get her, then what? There’s literally no where we can take her,” It came out of my mouth without thought, mainly because at the beginning of the week, I helped get a different dog off the streets, which was no easy task.
As Alex walked away from the car, my heart began to race as I thought of the then what part of the equation.
Shelters are completely at capacity, euthanizing dogs left and right and running on empty.
Rescues have zero space and the rescuers who run them are absolutely exhausted, especially after the aftershock of the pandemic and people returning animals.
Fosters are taking in more dogs than they can handle all for the love of trying to help as many as they can.
And the sad, sickening reality is that in the South, stray and dumped dogs aren’t a dime a dozen, they’re actually everywhere.
As quickly as the thought entered my mind, it faded away as I watched the pup run away, the body language of terror taking over her body as she sprinted away from us, as fast as she could.
For the next week, I toggled between incessantly posting on NextDoor to see if I could find an owner, reaching out to over 50+ rescues, packing up our whole house, being 7 months pregnant, and making sure she had food and water every night.
“Sweet angel, sending prayers!”
“Don’t bring her to BARC — they will kill her!”
“Have you tried contacting ASPCA? Call animal control!”
“Have you found the owner yet?”
With every comment that wasn’t “OMG thank you for finding my pup!” I grew more and more angry — prayers and demands from strangers on the internet will only get you so far.
Day after day, I would either get a “Sorry we are full” or no response from the rescues I reached out to, which as frustrating as it was, I completely understood because of the circumstances.
Every day that our time got shorter in Texas was a day closer to her being fully on her own again.
I couldn’t sleep, and when I did, my mind was consumed about the worst case scenarios that would happen to her.
What if she got hit by a car?
What if someone caught her and bred her?
How would she withstand the extreme Texas weather?
And then a miracle happened. I found a foster and a rescue that would help — all the way back in good Ol’ New Jersey.
There are more than 1 million stray animals in Houston alone.
There were over 2,000 euthanizations in 2022 in Houston alone (and that is NOTHING compared to the number of Texas in general).
Texas is the #1 state for animal shelter deaths.
The reality of pet rescue all over the US is grim, but ask anyone in the rescue world and they’ll tell you Texas is a whole other level due to declining adoption rates, staffing shortages at shelters, increased animal surrenders, and in my personal opinion, the all around mentality around animals in some areas in the South in general.
This by no means is discounting the amazing work of humans and rescues down there like Best Friends Animal Society and Rescued Pets Movement fighting the good fight.** They are the ones on the front lines doing everything they can to change the status, save as many animals as possible, and most importantly, educating people on the choices and rights they have as owners.
In the rescue world securing a foster is like winning the mega-millions.
In the rescue world, securing a foster and a rescue that would help vet a pup was like winning the mega-millions every day of your life.
T-Less than one week left in Texas and we had the final pieces of the puzzle, which meant I had to put the rest of the mismatched ones together on a time crunch.
I devised a plan in my head as to how we could fit this dog with us on the 3 day drive home along with some of our stuff, our 2 pups, my pregnant self, and Alex at the helm.
“We could push the front seat allllll the way back, put a crate up there and have her sit shotgun the whole way. We’ll get two hotel rooms at each stop, I’ll stay with her in one and Alex can stay with our pups in the other.”
My mind worked at warp speed as different scenarios, both best and worst outcome ran through it, as I continued to pay her visits with food, water, and the occasional treat.
She still wouldn’t let me come close to her, immediately perking up and sitting in a sprint stance if I got too close, and me not wanting to push my luck, I lovingly told her not to worry, that I’d be back to get her.
Little did I know how hard it is to catch a dog if they don’t want to be caught…
It was starting to get HOT in Houston, like 80 degrees that felt like 90+ with the humidity.
If you’ve never experienced Southern heat before, think about how it would feel to go into a sauna with all your clothes on plus a garbage bag on top of them — it’s uncomfortable, extreme, and straight up unsafe at times.
The hotter it got, the more I worried about the pup laying in the field with no reprieve from the excruciating sun and still no movement on how we could get her back to NJ. I finally got it through my thick head that trying to add another dog into our already packed car wasn’t a reality we were able to make happen because in truth, as much as my gut told me she was a sweet girl, we didn’t know anything about her history.
Was she vaccinated? Was she friendly? Was she anxious?
I couldn’t put myself or my family in danger, especially being pregnant and having a pup that has some selective issues with other pups.
We decided to make her a shelter using a dumped couch that lived in the field along side her and a tarp. It was enough to make me feel a little better, knowing she would have somewhere to get some shade.
The grass and weeds were so high in the field that I usually couldn’t find her unless I looked in the spots I knew she laid in, which by this point, I knew you could find them by the way the grass was matted down if she wasn’t in them.
Instinctually before leaving, I glanced towards her laying spots and told Alex where she usually is. I always made it a point to see her before I left just to let he know someone cared about her.
“There she is,” Alex pointed her out and started carefully walking towards her, her body camouflaged by the brown colored dirt. As soon as she spotted him, her body slowly started to move towards an escape position, making sure not to take her eyes off of him.
“It’s okay mama,” he coaxed in a soothing voice as he slowly moved towards her, her fight or flight kicking in again as she slipped through a hole in the fence and stood on the other side of it.
As strange as it sounded, every time she left that field it made me more nervous because I knew there were things outside that field that were more dangerous than grass and dirt. I motioned to Alex to get back into the car because I didn’t want to spook her anymore than she already was, so we slowly crept back to it while she calmly sat in the yard across from the field, careful to watch out every move.
“Did you bring that chicken?” Alex asked as we got in the car — this was the point I knew he was as invested in this little girls safety as much as I was, even without a plan on how to get her back to NJ.
“Of course I did,” I answered as I starting pulling pieces of a rotisserie chicken off the bone, handing it to him in the drivers seat. He began throwing it towards the pup, coaxing her with soothing words and a calm voice.
Each piece of chicken brought her closer to us.
Alex slinked out of the drivers side into a seated position onto the concrete of the dirty Texas road as I continued to hand over pieces of chicken and maneuver my body and belly closer to him to continue the process.
She gobbled up the pieces of chicken like she’d never eaten before, still cautious about how close she was getting, but getting a little more careless with each taste.
“We’re running out,” I said to Alex as he continued to inch closer to her.
“I’m going to grab her, just keep giving me pieces,” he directed not taking his eyes off her.
As we were parked on the side of the street, Alex literally laying in the middle of it almost on his stomach, cars drove by without acknowledgment and people continued on their nightly walks, like what was going on was a normal occurrence.
It was the first time she was close enough that I could see how tiny she really was, probably only pushing about 30lbs, the dirty pink collar hanging off her neck. I noticed the little white marks on her feet that made her look like she had sweet little socks on and the gorgeous brindle coat that was covered in a layer of dirt on her skinny body.
She was truly a gorgeous dog, and most likely only a puppy at that.
I handed over the last chunk of chicken knowing this was our last shot to get her.
Alex coaxed her closer.
I held my breath as he reached towards her collar.
and she bolted back to the front yard with fear.
“FUCK,” We both yelled in unison.
Alex looked up to me from the road and said something I never expected.
“Go get the Benedryl.”
That was the moment I knew — we weren’t leaving Texas without this dog.
I by no means condone drugging animals, but when it comes to a life or death situation, a little Benedryl would do much less damage than the latter.
I tried to concentrate through a scattered brain and anxiousness as I scoured the aisles of CVS for Benedryl while googling if it could harm a dog who was Heartworm+ because although we didn’t know if she was HW+, the reality is that she most likely was.
Texas is among the top 10 states where Heartworm disease is the most prevalent (and dangerous). It’s a disease that’s spread through infected mosquitos and other bugs bites that can cause damage and even death if left untreated to the heart, lungs, liver, and other major organs of the animal.
Once it enters the bloodstream by infected larvae, they migrate to the major organs and eventually grow into mature worms that can be as long as 14 inches. If the lifecycle of the infected larvae isn’t stopped, it can actually continue in the animals body creating more worms and damaged on the body.
It’s a gross, cruel, painful cycle that can be easily prevented with monthly medication and a little bit of care.
After finally gathering the goods and racing (safely) back to where they were, I pulled up as slowly and quietly as possible turning the corner back to where I left our rescue mission. I pulled up to find Alex sitting on one side of the road and Louise sitting in almost the exact position, staring at him from across the street, almost tauntingly.
I held back a laugh knowing how frustrated Alex probably was and went to work on the Benedryl dinner I was going to give to her.
A few hours later we went back to the field assuming she would be passed out from her dinner and we would easily be able to grab her to safely bring her to our backyard until we were able to arrange a transport to the rescue, but the joke was on us.
There she sat, on the opposite corner of the field, staring at us as we walked up the street clad with a slip lead, more Benedrly, and a bag of bacon.
Alex and I didn’t speak, we just kind of communicated through sign language as we continued to slowly move towards her, putting on our soothing voices and throwing pieces of bacon her way until we realized, we weren’t alone.
A neighborhood dog pack decided to join our rescue mission.
I had 2 scruffy collie mixes and 1 tiny little wirey guy following me around, I was standing in the middle of the road with a pack full of raw bacon, and Alex had followed Louise down the street where she was now in an enclosed, fenced in parking lot with no way to get inside of it.
“Oh god I killed this poor dog” my mind immediately went to the worst place thinking about the Benedryl we had given her, but there she sat in the middle of the lot, paws crossed over each other, staring at us from behind the fence.
As the sun started to go down, Alex and I circumvented the parking lot trying to find a way to get in but everything was chained and locked up. We tried coaxing her closer to us by throwing bacon over the fence but she schooled us every time, only taking the pieces that were far away from us.
”WTF are we going to do?” I slammed on the fence trying not to cry, our ticking timeline in Texas scrolling through my brain, the closeness of almost getting her earlier taunting me.
”I’m going to hop this and go around the other side of the building to come up behind her.” Alex said as he was already scaling the fence (this was totally illegal trespassing, but hey, when in Texas).
As he made his way around the corner of the building, I noticed the dog pack had made their way into the fence and my heart dropped out of my butt, terrified that they would attack her, the other way around, or Alex would get bit.
But no, the opposite happened — the 4 pups started rolling around and playing with each other. I couldn’t help myself but crack up at the genuine bliss, the oblivion to us trying to save her, and how dogs truly are instinctual pack animals.
I exhaled a huge breath and then held another one as I watched Alex slowly creep up behind her as she wrestled with her new found crew.
One giant, this time quicker step closer…
And away she sprinted.
With another rescue attempt incomplete, an ACL almost torn, and the dark sky over out heads - it was time to call it a night.
“Good morning! Great news. We can get the pup on a transport up to NJ in a few weeks!” The message came through from coordinator I’d been talking to from the rescue.
After another failed attempt to get her the night after the Benedryl saga, sob fests about not being able to help her, and the movers coming the next day, this text felt like a shot to the heart and a failure to saving an animal.
I was devastated, I was defeated, and I was emotionally depleted.
I texted back thanking her for everything she does and letting her know we literally couldn’t get the dog and how upset I was that it didn’t work out.
But as the final hours went by, my heart was still in it.
Call it stubbornness or mother’s intuition, I knew it wasn’t over.
As defeated as I felt, I still had hope because in my gut, as dramatic as it sounds, we were her only hope.
“Do you know any trappers by any chance?” I shot a hail Mary text to the coordinator, pulling strings and straws and anything else I could to continue to save this pup with 48 hours left.
Within the next few hours, I’d texted 8 random numbers that were given to me.
Most of them getting back to me with a “Sorry I am completely swamped!” Again, animal rescue is at an all time high (but really low) in Houston. There was also an impeding thunderstorm within the next few days, which meant a lot of trappers were trying to get animals off the street before then.
The last response that came through was the literal life saver.
“I can do it tomorrow! I live less than a mile away.”
Tomorrow. Our last day in Texas.
I furiously and excitedly texted back praises of THANK YOUS, connected the trapper with the coordinator, and let the foster know we still had a shot at getting this babe to NJ.
If this worked, it would go down as the rescue of the century.
The next day, as I literally watched the moving van drive away with all of our belongings, a text of a blurry video came through from a random number…
Tears of absolute joy sprang from my eyes as I dropped to my knees in my empty kitchen and cried gutteral sobs.
The trapper was able to get her — she was no longer going to have to live in that field.
I waddle ran down the road, rain drizzling onto my body meshing with my tears, and I couldn’t help but laugh at the outrageousness of the whole situation. As I finally reached the field and saw her safely in the back of the truck, I continued to cry laugh in happiness.
I watched her tail wag side to side and in that moment I knew, she felt safe.
This rescue both crushed and restored my faith in humanity.
I hated the humans who put this sweet dog in this situation, setting her up for failure, sitting her on the doorstep of potential death, but more so, the appreciation I had for the humans who stepped up to save this pup was so large I couldn’t express it.
When Alex and I picked her up from transport, I swear she knew who we were. As we drove her to her foster home, she stood on the middle console and gave us kisses in between staring out the window at her of new home state of New Jersey.
Rescue takes trust, it takes resilience, and it takes having faith in something unknown from both the animal and the rescuers.
Today, sweet little Louise (Now Lottie) is being fostered in Jersey City through the life saving Joyride Rescue with her doggy brother and sister, and amazing foster mom. She was transported from Texas to New Jersey by Rescue Rides, an organization that helps transport animals out of Houston, and she’s currently being treated for Heartworm and will be available for adoption within the next 45 days.
Lottie is 1.5 years old, about 30lbs, and a wiggly ball of sweetness. She LOVES giving kisses, leaning her body up against you for butt scritches, and knows her basic commands. She’s energetic, but also calm, and learns great from other dogs.
In my eyes, she is truly the perfect puppy.
If you’d like to donate to Lottie’s medical care, you can do so here.
A H U G E thank you to every single person who was involved in the this rescue: Joyrides Rescue, Cheska her foster mama, Stephen Torres, Carla Murino, Lindsay Berkowitz, Rescue Rides, and of course, my amazing husband Alex for putting up with my determination (or maybe stubbornness).