A Lesson of Forgiveness

February 28, 2011  

By Becca Colbaugh

Forgiveness is one of the hardest lessons in life to learn, but for Clementine, it was second nature. Despite being mistreated, neglected, damaged and used by humans, she hasn’t given up on them yet.

A little more than three years ago, Clementine was brought into the Fayetteville, Arkansas, Animal Shelter. It’s not uncommon for pit bulls to be hauled into the shelter, but Clementine’s condition left staff appalled.

“No matter how long I have been in this business, I will never understand how the animals can be so forgiving,”

Mitzi Rankin remembers the first thought that ran through her mind upon seeing her.

“How could someone do this?!” she wondered.

Clementine, a full-grown dog, was left in the collar she was given as a puppy. After 20 years of working with animals, Rankin says she had never seen a case so bad.

“Bless her heart, you know, she had to be in so much pain but, it was like she knew she had finally gotten some place where these humans were going to help her,” Mitzi says. “She showed no aggression from the minute we got her.”

Rankin says that despite her pain and abuse, Clem proved to be a real trooper.

“When Dr. Charlie started to work his magic, she just sat there and let me love on her,” she says. “I held her head and talked to her while the veterinarian removed the collar … now keep in mind she was not given anything to knock her out or for pain while we worked on her.”

All in all, Mitzi’s recollection of Clem?

“She was the perfect patient.”

After removing the tiny collar, a deep, gaping wound was left behind. The collar was so thickly embedded into her skin and muscle that it was almost touching her vocal chords, remembers Clementine’s foster dad, Tenoch Gonzalez.

Before even knowing her story, Tenoch felt an indescribable connection to Clementine as he saw her during his time volunteering at the shelter.

“After seeing her, I kept thinking about her and thinking about her,” he says. “I just didn’t want anything to happen to her.”

It didn’t take long before Tenoch and his girlfriend, Sita, took Clementine under their care.

“It was a unique challenge,” Tenoch recalls. “With the scar tissue and the neck wound, we couldn’t use a collar or anything tight around her neck.”

But, that didn’t stop them from socializing and training her.

Sita also found herself at a loss for words to accurately describe Clementine.

“She was just, wow, an amazing dog,” Sita says. “She is just so forgiving, so loving.”

Mitzi couldn’t agree more.

“No matter how long I have been in this business, I will never understand how the animals can be so forgiving,” Mitzi says. “They give unconditional love. They can be beat, starved, abandoned by humans, and they still love.”

“Some people could take a few lessons from animals.”

As though the embedded collar wasn’t bad enough, Sita says that Clementine was abused in more than one way. She was also emaciated and had obviously been neglected after having puppies. Sita says she just can’t understand how the previous owner could have treated her so poorly.

“How can someone do that to their dog – not make sure the collar fits her?” Sita can’t help but wonder.

She also can’t imagine it was a question of financial ability.

“Why not use some of the money from the puppies to buy a good collar?”

It was only a matter of days that Clementine was off her leash and romping around with the Tenoch’s and Sita’s other dogs. The couple worked hard to socialize Clementine in order to get her ready for adoption. Like a child, they took Clementine wherever they went – running errands to Lowe’s, to grab a movie, you name it.

Eric Gray, who runs Smilin’ Pit Bull Rescue, was contacted by the shelter about the adoption need. SPBR has placed more than 3,000 pit bulls into loving homes.

After receiving word about Clem, Eric posted her story on the SPBR Website, and a good home was soon found.

The only problem: the adopting family was 1,300 miles away … in New Jersey.

But, if Clementine could overcome her challenges so far, she could overcome this one too.

Enter Danny Rock, whom Gray called Clementine’s angel. Danny sure is one special angel with wings – well, with wheels anyway.

“What a sweetheart she was,” Danny recalls. “And what a beauty.”

Rock has been a longtime pit bull advocate, and out of the kindness of his heart, he personally chauffeured Clementine all the way to New Jersey to meet her new family.

“She had a chance at a new start, and she just needed a ride,” Danny explains.

After their scenic cross-country route, which included a few pit stops and a few dog walks, they arrived in New Jersey at the doorstep of the Jensen family.

As responsible owners, the family had prepared a list of questions about Clementine, just so they could give her the best life she deserved.

But, it was love at first sight.

“The girls were very excited, especially my daughter,” says Ron Jensen about his wife and daughter upon Clementine’s arrival.

These days, Clementine is known as Kalli to the Jensen family. Ron says Kalli is just like another member of the family. At the time, she was laying on her personal bed watching TV. Ron says that as he was mentioning her name over the phone, her ears would perk up with excitement.

Clementine, now Kalli, with her new family, the Jensens

“With pit bulls, you just got to be patient and pay attention,” he says.

Although Kalli is probably more than thankful to everyone who helped her find her new place in life, Mitzi, Sita, Tenoch, Danny, Eric, and the others who helped Kalli along the way are simply grateful for what Kalli taught them.

Mitzi couldn’t have said it better.

“Some people could take a few lessons from animals.”

Those involved in helping Kalli asked that this story be in memory of Susan Morgan, a caregiver at the Fayetteville animal shelter. Morgan was known for her love of animals and for her willingness to always go the extra mile for pit bulls in need of help, including Kalli.

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