Fiona Bologna of Barkalona

October 9, 2012  

One of StubbyDog’s Facebook Timeline Superstar Contest winners may not be a pit bull, but she certainly has a tale of tragedy and triumph to tell

By K. Anderson, first posted on June 18, 2012

It is with much sadness that we must announce that Fiona passed away recently after being diagnosed with cancer. K. Anderson wrote us this about Fiona, “What an amazing adventure she turned our lives into. We will absolutely never be the same again, in any way. Our hearts have broken right in half now, though … it seems as if all the oxygen has gone out of our house. Michael and I wanted to thank you for allowing our special-needs Fi to compete with the big boys and girls. Sharing her story on your site, with your cause, was a gift we can never thank you enough for.” We are reposting her story as a tribute to the incredible Fiona, always a StubbyDog in our hearts.

It’s true, Fiona of Barkalona does not look like a true StubbyDog. In fact, she’s an English Pointer, and I’ve been told that, when pointers were “created,” Staffordshires were part of the deliberate mixture, for their strength, determination and friendliness.

Fiona personifies (dogifies?) those StubbyDog qualities, and it’s those qualities that helped her survive an early, unpleasant history of brutality and – even worse, to me anyway – invisibility.

In 2005, my husband and I (and our two resident dogs) were working with a local rescue group, All Dog Rescue. One autumn day that year, an animal control officer brought to our house a scrawny, beat up, wide-eyed, nearly-feral Pointer, around 5-years-old (from her hip X-rays), with cuts and abrasions covering her feet, tail and legs from miles of running from … who knows.

Fiona (named after her ACO rescuer, Leona) came to us as a foster, where – as the procedure typically goes – we’d help heal, vet and prepare her for adoption into the “right” home, specifically for her. Fiona soon broke that mold, though – at least for us. She had multiple deep puncture scars on her head, and she clearly had had multiple litters, with permanently distended teats and vulva. The condition of her body reflected a background as someone’s backyard breeding bitch, living with a bunch of intact males, with little care and lots of neglect. She had a ping pong-sized mast cell tumor on her side, full heartworm infestation, a homemade, botched ear hematoma suture, a mammary tumor, an untreated dysplastic hip injury, a chronic cough, and she was rapidly going blind from (presumably) the results of bad breeding.

None of us expected her to survive, and we certainly knew that she was unadoptable. Ergo, it became quickly evident that she was perfect for us! We adopted her and spent the next several years coaxing her body to heal and teaching her the ropes of being an indoor, family member. We even made a calculated gamble of adopting a young, socially-adept, mostly Doberman gal from a Doberman rescue, to teach Fi the skills (and joys) of simply being a dog. That was the hope, and the gamble paid off: Harp the Dobie single-paw-edly brought Fiona from an almost catatonic state – never leaving our couch except when summoned by leash for food and obligatory trips outside – to a zany, fun-loving nut, skilled in all the necessary play moves required for proper, respectable dog play. It was an amazing process to watch, and we were privileged to have front row seats to Fiona’s tutelage by an unexpectedly gifted Doberman.

Fiona’s troubles were complex, though, and she also had some kind of adrenal mass, which prevented her from keeping her moods in check. She was given to fits of inconsolable crying and fidgeting, round-the-clock – pushing the four of us into psychosis from multiple sleepless nights, wondering if we had really done the right thing with her. But then that cheerful disposition would eventually re-emerge from her depths, and we’d fall in love all over again.

These days, with the help of incredible doctors at Tufts Veterinary Hospital and Framingham Animal Hospital – you know who you are, Drs. Mahony and Nord! – Fiona is now on a carefully calibrated cocktail of meds to stabilize those crazy behavioral swings and recurring infections. You would never guess what a Jekyll-and-Hyde thing she’d had going before. … Today she’s downright normal almost!

Around Christmas several years ago, she developed really painful glaucoma, which we missed at first, never guessing that her already-blind eyes could be the problem. So the doctors necessarily removed her eyes – which, really, was much harder on us humans than it was on her. She was at last pain free – but, you know, looking at a face you love, with no eyes, is hard. Once again, though, Fiona prevailed and adapted us to her life of now complete darkness. Punctuated by that antenna-tail, whipping about wildly, she seems to say to us, “Well, you guys, everything else works just fine, ya’ know!” That tail is her rudder, her crazy metronome to life, and it’s our beacon to follow in how we should lead our own lives. Sure, if she hadn’t landed at the door of our house those years ago, she might not have survived – but Fiona did survive, and she teaches us how to live beyond mere survival, finding joy and inclusiveness, and stubborn happiness, in just being – everything else is just delicious bunny-poop frosting!

« « Clancy the Teacher | Changing Hearts and Minds is Pit-acular! » »


20 Responses to “Fiona Bologna of Barkalona”
  1. DMT says:

    Ms. Anderson and her husband are clearly as zany and inspirational as Fiona.  May all their barks be heralds of joy. Thank you for sharing this story!  DT

  2. ehsutherland says:

    This warmed my heart. As always, thank you for rescuing a dog that needed to be shown life can be a happy and joyful experience, not just one filled with neglect, sadness and abuse. She is a true character!

  3. What a sweetheart. Thank you for fostering and adopting this wonderful girl. 

  4. Matt.S says:

    Fiona’s spirit inspires me. Resilience paw-sonified. Thanks. For sharing this story.

  5. ReneeMKeller says:

    After seeing all the horror stories, its nice to be able to come to StubbyDog and have a good cry for once, and StubbyDog is always good for that!!!!
    So glad Fiona has such a loving family now, all animals deserve that!!!!  This story really is inspirational!!!!

    • StubbyDog says:

       @ReneeMKeller Oh Renee, we are always here for a good cry, and we are always here to bring you inspirational stories like Fiona’s. thank you.

  6. millermorgan says:

    That last picture just sums it all up. You go, girl!

  7. WillowWonderBull says:

    Thanks for sharing Fionas story. Thank you for giving her the love and time to heal and become the special girl she is today. So many people get a rescue Dog and want instant gratification….the perfect pooch within a week or two. It’s good to hear stories like this, the ones that never get adopted out, sometimes they are the Lucky ones.

  8. pitbullsrock says:

    Oh, Fiona. I love you! The final picture pretty much says it all. And I have the best of both worlds — a pit-English pointer mix. I call him my “Pointing Pit” when people ask. He’s the best dog ever (except when it comes to squirrels and deer). Very affectionate, athletic and a couch potato at home.
    Stubby Dog and the Andersons, thanks for sharing  Fiona’s story with us.

    • StubbyDog says:

       @pitbullsrock You’re welcome, we love that last photo too and loved bringing everyone Fiona’s incredible story.

  9. CrystalMoodySiegel says:

    What a great story! You and Fiona are so lucky to have each other.

  10. rn4pitbulls says:

    LOVE IT!!! What an amazing family, story and dog!  Thank goodness for her friend the Doby 🙂

    • StubbyDog says:

       @rn4pitbulls Isn’t it just wonderful when another dog can help so much. We love that.

  11. DianaJones says:

    You had me at:  “None of us expected her to survive, and we certainly knew that she was unadoptable. Ergo, it became quickly evident that she was perfect for us!”
    It is clear Fiona enjoyed a life of love, laughter and happiness with you folks. That was her gift. And your gift was her. Somehow I think the last picture sums up Fiona’s life.
    I am so sorry for your loss, and I hope Harp, your other canine gift, is doing ok. She sounds like another extraordinary dog, too.

  12. Sheiv001 says:

    Thank you so much for “re-sharing” Fiona’s story! This lovely little lady has touched my heart! To her wonderful, amazing, & loving family, I am so very sorry for your loss. It truly is like having the air sucked out of your lungs! You gave her the unending love &prayers care she so richly deserved, & if she could she’d thank you herself!
    I choose to believe that our furry family members are restored to health, happy
    & waiting for us at the Rainbow Bridge. I’m sure you’ve heard the poem. I hope your happy memories can give you some comfort in this time of sadness!

  13. OreoTonka261 says:

    Sending you strength for your heartbreaking loss of Fiona…we were captivated by her story when we first ‘met’ her in the StubbyDog Timeline contest and we feel your sadness.  Thank you for opening your hearts and home and never giving up on her through the costly and challenging health and behavioral issues.  Mr. and Mrs. Anderson — Kudos to you!!  Fiona’s spirit will ALWAYS be nearby….

  14. jennmartinelli says:

    Thank you for giving this lovely girl the chance to be the best dog she could be. What an amazing story. I’m so sorry for your recent loss. Thank you for sharing her story with the world.

  15. ae4livef says:

    Fiona’s story is so heartwarming – special needs canine are just that ‘special’.  I own a special-needs canine and she is my joy and more times than not, my ‘therapist’.   Fiona touched many hearts.  Her strength and will to survive the medical conditions is great!  Humans should learn from our canines. My condolences to Fiona’s  family for their loss.  Beautiful memories of her, the last picture shown here is amazing, a happy, content girl.  RIP Fiona of Barkalona, hugs to our canine friends over the rainbow bridge.  Tx Stubbydog for the repost.