A Whole New World

November 7, 2011  

An emaciated pit bull learns the joy of friends, treats and car rides from his failed foster mom

By Sandra McCormack

As I checked my Pit Bull Rescue San Diego e-mail account, the newest message in my inbox had a glaring subject line: “Sick Puppy.” I opened it and my heart broke immediately. Along with a short write up about a new dog that we wanted to bring into the program was an image of a terrified and broken little dog. He was extremely emaciated; you could see his spine and ribs. His ears were pinned back to his head in fear, and his large, soulful eyes peered into camera, as if pleading, “Please help me.”

The rescue wanted to bring this dog into the program and asked if I would be able to foster him. Without skipping a beat, I immediately wrote back, “Yes!” Two days later, another PBRSD volunteer brought the new dog to my home. He emerged from the car a bit confused, but already I could tell he was relieved to be out of the shelter. I read over his notes from the shelter staff, and the same words kept appearing: terrified, extremely emaciated, sick. His estimated age was 2 years, and his weight upon arriving at the shelter was 16.5 lbs. I was furious!

“Who would do this to a dog?” I thought as I drove him to our PBRSD vet.

During our vet visit, he stuck to my side like a child clinging to a mother’s leg on the first day of school. He was shaking and jumping at every sound. When the vet approached him, he cowered under the table. The vet and I looked at each other, and I could see he was as saddened by the dog’s condition as much as I was. We weighed him and discovered that he had put on 6 pounds since his arrival at the shelter. He weighed in at 22 pounds. The vet did a thorough exam and determined our newest PBRSD family member’s age to be closer to 9 months or 1 year than the previous estimate of 2 years. He also determined that while the dog was small for his age, he was a mix, so he would be a bit smaller than the traditional pit bull size. The vet stated, “I would really like to see him at around 35 – 40 pounds. That would be a very healthy weight for him.” Aside from the extreme malnutrition, he was determined to be free of other health issues and was released into my care.

As I drove him home, he was extremely uneasy in the car. I was used to dogs being happy in the car, sticking their heads out the window and lavishing in the fresh air, sights and smells along the way. This poor dog shook, whined and hid in the floor compartment throughout the 20-minute ride home.

Koji Discovers the World

The rescue said that I would have the honor of naming him. I had done a little bit of research on names before his arrival. As soon as I saw him, I knew the right name for him. Being half Japanese, I wanted to select a Japanese name. I decided on a name that could mean “little” or “light” depending on the context and written character.

“Koji. You are definitely a Koji. What do you think?” I asked him. He wagged his tail and licked my face in response.

The next morning, I could already see a difference in him. He seemed more at ease, trusting and curious. I let him explore the house and tried to let him figure things out on his own. I knew better than to coddle him or nurse his anxieties. As much as I wanted to comfort him when he was afraid of an unfamiliar sound or a new experience like a fast car driving by, I knew I had to let him settle in and realize on his own that he was safe. As soon as he relaxed, I would shower him with praise and kisses. “Good boy!” I would encourage as we walked along.

Over the next few weeks, Koji continued to flourish. We made new dog and people friends. He loved everyone he met! Pretty soon, we had a routine: trips to South Bark for treats, walks to Daily Scoop for doggie ice cream, doggie play dates with his new friends, weekend hikes – and he ate. Boy, did he eat!

Falling in Love

As a foster, the rescue provides food and toys for the foster dogs, but I couldn’t help going out and buying more treats, toys and other fun things that dogs like. It was pretty obvious to everyone looking at my Facebook page that I was falling for Koji. I posted new pictures and stories constantly.

He had a lot of “firsts” along the way: his first trip to the beach, his first hike and his first time sticking his head out a car window. I think that last one was the one that made my heart leap with joy. When it happened, I snapped a picture. He was so different from the dog that he had been a few weeks earlier that cowered and shook on the floor of the car.

As the days and weeks passed, I did my best to train and socialize him, as I wanted Koji to have the best chance for adoption. As I watched him interact with other dogs and people, I knew that he would find a loving home quickly. He was so sweet, only interested in having fun with his dog friends and cuddling with humans. But the more I thought about him leaving me to go to a new home, the more my heart ached. I struggled with the idea of adopting him. My pit bull, Lucy, had passed away a year and half before, and I wasn’t sure I was ready. I wondered, “Am I really ready for another dog? Am I diminishing Lucy’s memory by adopting so soon?” In my heart, I knew it was right. I decided to e-mail the team at PBRSD to tell them that I had failed as a foster; I wanted to officially adopt Koji.

On Oct. 19, I signed the paperwork and Koji officially added McCormack to his last name. That same day, we went to the vet for a checkup visit. Koji weighed in at 40 pounds! Yes! We had hit the healthy weight that the vet had recommended.

Koji is starting training to become Canine Good Citizen certified, and I hope that he will become a therapy dog. He is so loving and brings so much joy to everyone he meets. I would love to be able to spread his love and joy to those that need it most. In the process, I hope to be able to show people also that pit bulls are what those of us who have them already know: They are truly loving, loyal and family-oriented dogs. I hope that Koji and I can be ambassadors for the breed and that together we can encourage people to welcome a pit bull into their family.

See how Koji gets by with a little help from his friends

« « Ending Breed Discrimination in Ohio | Kissing Booth National Tour » »


9 Responses to “A Whole New World”
  1. JanetMcGrath says:

    Just love happy ending. So glad to see Koji flourishing, you are both lucky to have found each other…..maybe it was meant to be so.

  2. SandraMcCormack says:

    Thanks Janet and theprettychic! I feel so blessed to have Koji in my life! 🙂

  3. blazer says:

    Go Koji!!!

  4. avegas72 says:

    He is adorable! So handsome!