Vivien’s Second Chance

April 3, 2012  

The diary of a pit bull at death’s door who got a second chance at life thanks to a woman acting on her convictions

By Roberta Lindsey

Vivien! A healthy, wiggly, slightly pudgy pit bull bounds towards me, spinning wildly in a failing effort to control her exuberance. She has not seen me all day. She grunts. She whines. She bumps and twirls and jumps around me. Vivien is full of life. Her name suits her, but she wasn’t always like this …

Oct. 5, 2011. I didn’t know she was a pit bull. It didn’t matter. Her picture haunted me. A hairless, bloody dog lying, eyes glazed, dejected, in a county animal shelter. What appeared to be blood and puss streaked the floor where she had, perhaps, dragged herself to be a bit more comfortable. She had given up.

Oct. 6, 2011. I try posting or e-mailing her picture to every rescue group I can think of. One, The Forgotten Dog, responds but the news is bad. The shelter will not release her to anyone, to any rescue, for any reason because of her medical condition. She is scheduled for euthanasia. She is not getting out.

It is pouring outside. The shelter is 90 miles away in Modesto. I call and leave a message that I am on my way to get the dog. Halfway there, my phone rings. Area code 209 – it is the shelter. I ignore it and drive on in the downpour.

The vet meets me and we talk. The dog has the worst case of mange he has seen in 14 years of practice, and he thinks it might be systemic. She might not make it through the night. This wreck of a dog somehow slipped through not one but two euthanasia orders in the last 24 hours. She will be dead within 30 minutes after I leave the shelter if I don’t take her.

I don’t want this responsibility. I am not a rescuer. I am a single working woman, mother to a busy 9-year-old boy. I am 53 years old.

The vet says she is only 18 months old and that “she probably has never had one good day in her life.” I sway, feeling dizzy, lightheaded. I take her. I can at least give her one good day. The vet places her in the back of my van. Too weak or downtrodden, she can’t or won’t walk. It has stopped raining. We drive out of the shelter parking lot in sunshine.

Later my son will ask me why I did this. I will tell him what I want to be his mantra: “Have the courage of your convictions.” I don’t care what you believe in or what you care for. Whatever your convictions, it is perceptive to spot a wrong and good to want to change it, but you must have the courage to take that next step and actually do something to make it better. That shelter intake picture offended me. I had to do something.

I didn’t know how bad she would smell. The putrid infected skin, the oozing and cracked sores, and the scabs. I open the car windows. I speak to her softly all the way back. On the outskirts of town, I buy her a cheeseburger. I leave the fries in the front seat. At home, she stays in the van while I set up accommodations. When I come back to get her, she appears not to have moved. She will not get up. I have to bend over her and wrap my arms and pull and tug at her painful skin to carry her out of the car. I have to put my face up close to hers. The words pit bull flash across my mind. What if she lunges? What if she bites me? She does neither. She lets me carry her out, feed her and bed her down in warm blankets. Later that night, I go back to my car. I notice the fries disappeared. I know she will make it through the night.

Oct. 7, 2011. Our first trip to the vet. She has demodectic mange, pyoderma, bilateral eye and ear infections, whip worms, giardia, a severe flea infestation – and she has been bred. She will not walk. She takes a cookie and as she chews, her snout skin breaks open and pus trickles out. But we are at a turning point. We leave armed with medications. She is eating. She gets a much needed bath. She smells (a little) better. She will increase her weight by over 25 percent over the next 10 days. She has her own Facebook page, an army of friends, and a bottomless well of love and support.

Oct. 8 – 9, 2011. She has a name! Vivien! And Vivien has disappeared. She squeezed under a gate – apparently, she can walk! She escaped from my yard and has been picked up by local animal control. I will have to wait overnight to reclaim her. Her first, small, tail wag will come when she sees my son and me in front of her cage. Oh, Vivien, how many times will I have to rescue you? I buy Vivien a crate. We are putting it together. Vivien is home with me and clearly exhausted by her latest ordeal. She crawls onto my lap, snuggles into my neck and falls asleep. She snores.

Vivien Today. From that point on, Vivien made great strides, astounding even her vet. She has turned into a wonderful, happy dog. Her health continues to improve. Her coat is glossy but still patchy. She is learning basic obedience. She has changed the mind of all those who have met her about pit bulls. She just wants to be loved!

For anyone interested in giving Vivien a permanent home: She loves her people and wants to be with them all the time. She especially loves sleeping with her human on the couch under a blanket. She loves being warm. She loves car rides and walks. She obviously would like more strenuous exercise, perhaps involving running, but I do not have the time or ability to provide it to her. She has no food aggression issues whatsoever. I have not been able to expose her to many other dogs, but we have passed turkeys – no interest – and leashed dogs on walks, and she shows no aggression. She appears to want to play with dogs, but we have not had the opportunity to do so. She shows too much interest in cats. She needs training and still jumps up on people. To learn more, visit her Facebook page.

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16 Responses to “Vivien’s Second Chance”
  1. So sad but in the end a beautiful healthy girl! God bless you for saving Vivien!

  2. JillianManning says:

    Thank you for saving her, what an angel you are!

  3. Arleen J Rutten says:

    My heart breaks ♥  My heart sings ♥  “Dog” bless Jillian.

  4. Judithg says:

    What a beautiful little girl.  Thank you for saving this angel.  You rock!

  5. lilpenny_21 says:

    What a touching story, you truly are an angel for saving Vivien. I hope she finds a permanent loving home soon.

  6. BayGirl79 says:

    Tears…. I am astounded at the compassion of her rescuer and lividly angry at “humanity,” more like MONSTER(S) who did this to her. Vivien, if I didn’t have a full house I would love to give you a home. You are such a beautiful girl who deserves the VERY BEST possible life!
    I am the PROUD owner of several Pit Bulls, 2 of which I rescued 3 weeks ago. I am from the Bay Area & now live in Lake County CA, the situation for animals – especially Pit Bulls is dire out here. I work right near the local AC and a young couple visiting from out of town found a stray on Sunday and stopped by my work. I took him in on Sunday & was told by AC that there was a report of a puppy matching his description. I got to AC, handed over the puppy (not a Pit Bull), and NO report. I was horrified. I left work today and went to AC, Chance (I did name him), is still there & his stray hold is up. They stated that I could now adopt him. Seriously?! Want me to pay them for a puppy that I brought in thinking that his owners were looking for him. I left AC distraught at the amount of dogs and puppies that are there at this HIGH KILL shelter.
    I am going to return to the shelter very soon and if Chance is NOT adopted I am going to attempt to adopt him and another puppy to save their lives. I am sickened at the current state of uncontrolled breeding and what ultimately turns into murder when these 1,000s of animals are killed at shelters everyday. I’m just one more person trying to make a difference in this crazy mixed up world.
    Vivien I would love to see you find your people very soon. There is someone out there deserving of your special Pittie love, sadly many people who get Pit Bulls are not! Thank you Roberta for saving this angel. I do not know you, but your actions are commendable and I love you for saving her life. You can find me fighting for Animal Rights in every free minute I get baygirl79  Keep up the great work all you animal warriors! Let’s make this a No Kill Nation!!!

  7. LisaC says:

    Thank you for posting this wonderful story about Vivien. I’ve been following and sharing her story from very far away since nearly day one. So many times reading these sad stories of animals needing rescue I read comments like, “I would take her in a heartbeat….” or  “I wish I could but…”.  I’m glad for people’s well wishes and often have the same thoughts myself but they leave me feeling frustrated.  Thinking about Roberta wanting not only to right a wrong but having the conviction to follow through and act on it helped me to do the same where I live. People will say that Vivien is a lucky dog and that is true but if all of us stepped up just a little more than we thought we could, there would be a lot more lucky dogs like her. Please share her story far and wide so her story can have its real happy ending of a loving forever home. It’s out there somewhere…..

    • StubbyDog says:

       @LisaC Thanks Lisa, such amazing words, let’s hope she finds a home and that there are more lucky dogs like her.

  8. Vmparra03 says:

    Lucky are those who are blessed to be loved by a pit bull!

  9. Citycat says:

    I’ve followed Vivien’s saga since the Facebook page was created. I made a modest contribution to aid in her desperately needed veternary care. From the moment Roberta refused to let Vivien go up to this very moment, Vivien’s progress has been both transformational & inspirational. I’ve posted and re-posted V’s updated story, status and progess on my own FB wall. I wish daily for Vivien to find a forever home—one that equals Robert’s amazing devotion & care—a place Vivien so richly deserves. Through it all, I watched in awe thinking, I don’t know who is more courageous, Roberta for not looking away or Vivien for not giving up. Either way, they both possess powerful will and tremendous spirit, as do all people who refuse to turn away from the abuse and agony of even one suffering animal. Thank you to all who continue to care for these special souls tirelessly. Everyday.

    • StubbyDog says:

       @Citycat Thank you for your beautiful words, Vivien’s story is a reminder of all there is to do and all that can be done by one person’s conviction.

  10. KathyKlempel says:

    what a beautiful  touching story, this  woman is a angel, GOD BLESS her for being so good., what a beauty, she has turned out to be!

  11. avegas72 says:

    You are an absolute angel! My heart breaks for Vivien, that she had known only cruelty from her previous owners and the condition she was in at the shelter.  And then you came along and rescued her, and showed her that there are good people out there that really do care!
    I wish we had more people like you. I myself, wish I could rescue or foster, but I live in a small duplex in the Tri-valley area of the SF Bay Area. I am only allowed to have one dog or cat as a renter, but am fortunate enough to have and be a proud owner of my own pitbull. Who is a sweet, loving, exhuberant and a super silly girl.
    Your opening description of Vivien made me think of my little girl. The wiggly butt and their excitement to just see you walk in the door. It’s always a cause for celebration for her when someone walks into the room.
    I hope and PRAY Vivien finds her forever home one day soon!!!
    Again I commend you on your act of courage and humanity.