A black chow mix about 7 years old, Sugarbear had been picked up by animal control in the summer. Someone had reported a dog chained up outside an abandoned house, baking in the hot sun without food or water. Her matted hair, which hadn’t been groomed in a long time, if ever, had turned to bleached dreadlocks. Here’s what she looked like on intake:
With new dogs coming into the shelter every day that hadn’t had the chance to be adopted, it wasn’t fair to give Sugarbear any more time. She was heart worm positive. She wouldn’t go potty in her kennel and was getting urinary tract infections, possibly from holding it for too long (most shelter dogs are lucky to get one walk per day, and that’s only if staff are free to do it or if volunteers come in regularly). But she was such a love; mellow and sweet. She was like a big Zen teddy bear who hung back and didn’t get off her bed when prospective adopters came to check out dogs. Everyone at the shelter wanted Sugarbear to be adopted and have a Happily Ever After. Early on, a couple of volunteers spent hours cutting mats out of her hair and giving her a bath.
I avoided fostering large female dogs at the time because I was worried my two female dogs, Stella and Luna, would pick fights. But I couldn’t let Sugarbear go down. It just feels horrible when an easy-going dog with a great personality has to be euthanized because the shelter is full.
I didn’t have a plan exactly, and I didn’t tell my husband what I was doing as I left for the shelter after seeing “Last Call” for Sugarbear in a private Facebook group for volunteers. I figured it would work out because what I learned early on is that it always does, one way or another. When I got there, this is what I saw:
Yes, that’s a smiling Zen teddy bear. The assistant shelter director gave me a huge hug and looked like she was going to burst into tears as Sugarbear and I left. As we got out of the car in my driveway, I dreaded the thought of setting her up in our kennel in the shed, which was what became my plan on the drive home. Sugarbear was on the older side and it was on the colder side. Even though we had a safe space heater out there, I didn’t like the thought of it.
But just as I started to head down the driveway, my neighbor from across the street came over to say hello. The next thing I knew, she was going to let Sugarbear have a sleepover at her house. Two fosters and a few months later, a man named George read about Sugarbear’s heartworm status and stepped up to pay for the treatment. What a guy! He couldn’t adopt her, he said, because he had a crazy beagle named Scout who was totally out of hand and George couldn’t manage another dog. But George loved Chow Chows and that’s what Sugarbear looked like. He wanted her to be well and adopted.
One weekend, what seemed like a nice family did adopt Sugarbear. But less than 24 hours later, they decided she wasn’t active enough for them and returned her to the shelter. When I told George, he was very upset. I asked him a few questions about the nature of Scout’s craziness, recommended regular exercise for the dog and a great dog trainer and did my best to sway George into giving Sugarbear a try in his home. It was clear to me that George and Sugarbear were meant to be together, and after an overnight, it was clear to George too. He named her Sugarbear Rose and called her Rosie. Sometimes he called her The Dude, a reference to the laid back stoner character in the film, “The Big Lebowski.” Sugarbear Rose had a lot of fans, but nobody loved her more than George and Scout did.
“For three years and twelve days Rosie was a miracle in my life,” George says.
Sugarbear Rose passed away on Friday, at age 10, from complications related to her years of neglect. “I’ll not expect to see her kind again, animal or person,” George says. “She was the kindest, sweetest thing I have ever encountered. Having Rose was a great privilege.”
Meeting George has been a great privilege for me too. I’m so relieved to know there are people like him out there. Thanks for giving this beautiful being three great years, George! Because of you, she got every shelter dog’s dream.
If you would like to donate to help dogs at Companion Animal Alliance, the open-intake municipal shelter in Baton Rouge where Sugarbear Rose was housed and adored, please click here: http://www.caabr.org/#!donate/ctzx
If you would like to help dogs at Friends of the Animals in Baton Rouge, a rescue organization that holds offsite adoption events that Rose attended and now has an amazing Dog Adoption House in Baton Rouge, please click here: http://friendsoftheanimalsbr.org/donate.html
And if you are looking for a senior dog to call your own, be sure to follow Susie’s Senior dogs on Facebook https://www.facebook.com/susiesseniordogs/