From Feral to Best Friend

March 5, 2012  

Once uncatchable, Poppy the pit bull finds her calling as a therapy dog

By Susan Boehm

This is a story about a pit bull who had obviously been dropped off in the country. She stayed around the area for months, as the local farmer who owned the property watched. She would chase the farm equipment, bark at the farmer but never come closer than 30 yards or so. I stepped into the picture when I went for a long walk with my mother’s overweight Labrador. That was Memorial Day weekend in 2008. I found out about this dog wondering around and set out to rescue her. It took four months of feeding, watering and sitting out in the field for hours to finally get her to come within 10 feet of me. My niece came to help and after watching her pop up in the field at different places, started to call her Poppy – and it stuck.

One cold September afternoon, the farmer said he was cutting down the field wasn’t sure where she would be able to live. I felt true despair, and I lay down in exhaustion. This had taken a toll on me, and I was truly sad about what could happen to Poppy. Laying face down, 6 feet away from her, cold, cut up from the field of soybeans, I did not have eye contact with Poppy but knew she was laying down also. With a prayer to St. Francis, I told Pop I was making pork chops for dinner and that I lived on a lake and had a boat. I collapsed with exhaustion, as it looked as she was getting up to leave. She came to me and handed me her paw. I scratched the paw and she jumped over me with a growl. I thought that is was possible she was going to attack me. Headlines ran in my head: “Local Teacher Mauled by Feral Dog.” But as I reached up to pet her hind flank, she flipped, gave me her belly, and we have been best friends ever since. She jumped in my car, acclimated to our home and has been the best friend anyone could have.

The vet gave her a clean bill of health, we had her fixed, and then we embarked on dog obedience classes. Within a year she accelerated and took the Canine Good Citizen test, passing as head of her class. From there we entered Love on a Leash therapy dog work and are now working on an advanced therapy dog certification. We recently met the “Pit Boss” when he visited Kalamazoo; Poppy loved meeting his dog, Hercules.

Her favorite place to work is at an elderly facility that houses many Alzheimer’s patients. Poppy has an amazing sense of understanding, kindness and patience with the patients. Her calm manner seems to relax the patients. Her favorite patient was Rosie, who recently passed away. It has been difficult for both of us, as she searches for her every time we visit the facility. Even with that, Poppy greets new patients and caretakers with love and friendship.

With all the therapy Pop has done, the most impact she has made in the world was with me. Poppy has changed my life for the better, which leads me to question who actually rescued who? I feel that she brought me out of my apathy and helped me to have confidence to pursue my interests and to do my part in helping make a difference in the world.

Poppy is amazing and changes people’s view of pit bulls every day.

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3 Responses to “From Feral to Best Friend”
  1. All of us who come to love this MARVELOUS bully breed feel the same way; who rescued who? It’s a good question like you my Sasha (first pittie) save me and Krush (second pittie) provided me the strength to foster & together they’ve inspired and encouraged me to make a difference not only in their world but the world of pitties everywhere!

  2. Judithg says:

    Love Poppy and the name as well.  Good lovin’ to you both!

  3. GracielaLourdesMartinez says:

    THIS IS AMAZING!!!!!!!