We all want to think the best of each other, although sometimes the violence and vile acts we see on the news make it difficult. The story of Isis, one of our most abused rescue dogs, is a dark story that has challenged the love of even the most forgiving among us. We want to share this tough story with you to illustrate how pit bulls, often the most feared and abused dogs, are able to love and trust humans even after going through living hell.
Isis was one of the few dogs saved by law enforcement each year out of thousands from cases of abuse, neglect, unlicensed breeding and fighting. Kentucky is home to many rescues, but our commonwealth has also been ranked as the worst state for animal protection laws for the 10th consecutive year. Dogs like Isis, who naturally want nothing more than love and a home, end up tortured and often killed for the profit and amusement of a few horrible people.
Fortunately, Isis (then called Cinnamon at the shelter) was one of the lucky ones to be found and rescued before it was too late. When authorities saved her, she was covered in puncture wounds all over her body and had gaping holes in her armpits. Her mouth had been duct taped shut (intake images can be found at the end of this blog). A victim of baiting, breeding and direct abuse, Isis received veterinary care and had to remain with Louisville Metro Animal Services (LMAS) for over a year. She was evidence in the court case against her abusers — a status that kept her both from being rescued or adopted out during that time.
“When Isis’ former owner’s court case came to a close, talks of the question of her death began fluttering about the shelter staff. She was a confiscated fighting dog. She was used as a vessel to create life and for monetary gain, there’s no way she could be rehabilitated or possibly live the life of a normal dog. Despite her horrifying past, Isis gained the love of a staff member, Emily. The small, fawn pup with horribly scarred skin and butchered ears won her heart, and eventually Emily would even use her body as a human shield in her quarantine kennel to keep her from being euthanized.” — Kelsey Westbrook, Co-Founder of Saving Sunny, Inc.
Rescuing Isis the Pit bull: From Shelter to Home
When Saving Sunny, Inc. was able to pull her from LMAS, Isis was affectionate toward women but still wary of men. Our board member Tiffany, who is also an experienced dog trainer and foster, took Isis home with her tail wagging. But Tiffany understood that Isis’ rehabilitation couldn’t be accomplished by humans alone. Because her dog Captain (short for Captain America) was no stranger to helping his abused brothers and sisters, Tiffany knew Isis needed them both.
Because of Isis’ bravery, Tiffany decided that she deserved a superhero type of name. This is when Cinnamon became Isis, named after the Egyptian goddess of protection and healing. When Isis arrived at Tiffany’s house, Isis met Captain and became scared, biting him in the face. Isis had forgotten how to be a dog, mistrusting and fearful of other dogs. Fortunately, Captain is an experienced leader who has helped many foster dogs regain their confidence and learn how to be one of the pack. It takes a special kind of experienced dog to deal with the mistrust, aggression and other behavioral difficulties abused dogs must face on the journey to their new lives.
Isis’ aggression didn’t phase Captain. Tiffany and Captain went to work on confidence building and implementing rules/structure/boundaries for her so she could relax. In Tiffany’s own words:
“She very quickly became [Captain’s] BFF and they were inseparable. He played a MAJOR role in her rehabilitation. They had a bond that was very, very hard to break up when she went to her perfect forever home.”
Isis rehabilitation went beyond superficial and emotional scars, however. During Isis time with Tiffany, she had 2 ACL surgeries which required lots of crate rest and long recovery times. Tiffany’s then boyfriend now husband Seth patiently also spent time with Isis, helping her overcome her fear of men.
The love, care and structure provided by Tiffany, Captain, and Seth helped Isis endure her physical hardship and learn what it meant to have a loving home. Tiffany walked them together every day, allowed them to hang out in the house together, and eventually both dogs spent time in the yard on leash. Captain respected her space and was patient with her, and eventually she started trying to get him to play.
From that point, they were inseparable best buds and Captain was like her security blanket. Literally, she would sit on him when it stormed because she was terrified of thunder and his calm energy helped her relax. Captain was the perfect dog for her rehabilitation because he is confident, he reads dogs well, knows what they need and adjusts to their needs very easily. Once she was best buds with Captain, Tiffany took Isis to make a few other dog friends, but it was quickly apparent to all that she would likely remain dog selective throughout her life.
Despite a long rehabilitation with love, training and expert care, Isis would continue to have quirks and would need a home who could love and respect her unique needs. Tiffany and her family were not going to place Isis in a situation that would set her up to fail. After all Isis had overcome, they were willing to wait until the perfect adopters came along, no matter how long it took.
Isis Finds her New Family
Tiffany had spent a year with Isis, longer than any foster before her. Because Captain and Isis had bonded, Tiffany was very close to keeping Isis. She felt that if a PERFECT family didn’t come along, that she wouldn’t be able to separate Captain and his foster sister. Even the most experienced fosters become attached to their foster pups. After all, they expend their time and emotional energy opening their hearts and homes. Under foster care, the rehabilitated dogs have come a long way, and their future happiness and safety also feels like the responsibility of the foster family.
In November, seemingly out-of-the-blue, Tiffany received an email with a foster application that seemed too good to be true. The potential adopters understood that Isis would not be comfortable around small kids or strangers, and were committed to educating those around them about approaching her gently. Their immediate love and commitment to Isis convinced Tiffany that Isis had found her new family. In Tiffany’s own words:
“We scheduled a meet and greet and I was nervous/anxious…all the feelings. We had the meet and greet the night before Thanksgiving, and Isis stayed. I was a ball of emotions. Shortly thereafter they finalized and Isis was home for good.”
After more than a year and a half with her new family here in Louisville, Isis’ life would again change. Her parents adopted Max, her new big brother seen pictured to the left, the day before starting a road trip that would move them permanently across country. In June of 2016, they packed up and drove 2500 miles visiting Badlands National Park and Yellowstone. Isis saw prairie dogs and the eruption of old faithful, but didn’t take to the outdoors — “the opposite of her brother Max”, according to Isis’ new mom Ashlee.
In her new home in Vancouver, WA, Isis stays in bed as long as possible. Whether her parents’ big bed, the guest room bed or several dog beds and couches, Isis sleeps in a long as possible. The one activity that gets her off the couch is playing and digging in her big back yard with brother Max. Isis also loves sunbathing, and her parents take Isis and Max on walks along the Columbia River in warm weather. They even have a summer trip planned to see the Pacific Ocean, where Isis and Max will get to play in the sand and surf.
“She leads a charmed life, it’s the least we could do considering how loyal and loving she is to us, and how patient and kind she is to Max. We are forever indebted to team of people who brought her to us, they taught her how to be the best dog she could be and helped us become better owners. We never set out to be ‘bully breed’ owners; we got lucky. It was her sweet face we fell in love with and it changed our lives forever. After seeing the love, loyalty and comedy they bring to our family I’m not sure if we would ever adopt anything but [pit bulls].” –Isis’ adopted mom, Ashlee
A Happy Ending And More Wagging Tales to Come
Although Isis has left her foster family, she will always remain in their hearts. Tiffany and Captain continue to welcome other dogs in need of love and care into their family. Their big hearts, patience, and skill allow abused dogs like Isis to have a second chance. To forget about the trauma and become the silly, loving, lazy family dogs that they truly are.
A lot of organizations are not capable or willing to give a dog with Isis’ history the chance that they so desperately deserve. That is one reason why our rescue organization, Saving Sunny, is so unique. This organization started for the Isis’s of the world — those mistreated and feared dogs who want nothing more than a family of humans and fur-siblings to love and protect.
Unfortunately, Isis story is not as unique as it sounds. These types of dogs, abused yet full of love, exist all over, and here in Louisville we are working to give them the chance they deserve. Please click the link below to learn how you can help us save dogs like Isis, and check back in the coming weeks for more stories about tragedy and triumph, love and family.
Written by volunteer: Brandon Stettenbenz