by Lee Juslin
The under-sized Wheaten Cairn was the shyest of the shy.
Found and brought to a county shelter by a police officer named Swartz, she huddled in a back corner of her cage with her tail tucked firmly between her legs. The shelter staff was not even sure if she was male or female. Of course she was passed over by every potential adopter and her time was running out. But, the kindly police officer had kept tabs on her and when it became obvious that the little dog he had rescued would not be adopted, he claimed her and contacted Col. Potter Cairn Terrier Rescue. And, for that kindness the lost little Cairn soul was named Swartz in his honor.
When Col. Potter volunteers took Swartz to a vet for skin issues, it was discovered that little Swartz was a little girl. Once she was treated and spayed, it was determined that she would need a foster home with a strong track record in “difficult” in-takes. Enter Mary, a long time Col. Potter volunteer, and her partner, Jim.
Mary, a social worker, had successfully fostered and rehabilitated 25 dogs, so Swartz—Mary renamed her Missy Swartz—was in great hands. Little Missy Swartz, weighing only 8-10 lbs, which is small for an adult Cairn, had a lot of issues. She growled and snapped at anyone who approached her, didn’t integrate with Mary’s pack, and wouldn’t take food if Mary was even in the same room. “The worst thing,” Mary said, “was that she would scream if anyone tried to pick her up. A shrill scream that went right through you.” Clearly Missy Swartz had had a tough start in life and would require a lot of effort and patience.
Swartz came to Mary in mid-October. Mary followed her usual procedures by using an X-pen to keep her separated, feeding her separately, and generally letting her proceed at her own pace. Swartz had so many phobias and was so unapproachable that Mary had to wear gloves. Although when Swartz did actually get Mary’s hand on one occasion, she didn’t bite hard. Despite all Mary’s and Jim’s best efforts and patience, Swartz’s progress was snail-slow. It wasn’t until the middle of December that Swartz took a treat from the floor with Mary in the room.
In late January, Swartz began to integrate into Mary’s pack and then a small miracle happened. Swartz began to bond with Suzie Q, a four year old female Cairn who had come from a puppy mill and had been a mom to multiple litters. Swartz followed Suzie Q around imitating her and learning from her. One day with Suzie Q in Mary’s lap on the couch, Swartz actually got up on the couch and sat beside them. “I hardly dared to breathe,” Mary said. Several days later, Mary saw her do a play bow to Suzie Q, and then they began to chase. Next, Swartz actually came when called to receive a treat that Mary was handing out to the pack.
Clearly Swartz has made great strides in the nearly five months she has been with Mary, but she still has a ways to go. She is very afraid when strangers come to the house. She can not be crated, and she is still terrified of being picked up. “Although I think she might eventually progress to a point where she could be adopted to the right home, we have decided to keep her. She has become comfortable with my pack and is very bonded to Suzie Q. Staying here is the best thing for our little Missy Swartz. Besides, we’ve really lost our hearts to her.”
While Missy Swartz’s story is not an unusual one, the happy ending sadly is. In shelters where over-crowding and short staffing are the norm, a dog like Swartz would not have made it. In fact, had Officer Swartz not come back for her, she would have been deemed unadoptable and euthanized as too often happens to many dogs traumatized from the streets and abuse.
Rescue organizations like Col. Potter, the largest national Cairn rescue, are the only hope for dogs like Swartz. Without their intervention and rehabilitation efforts and the never-ending work of their dedicated volunteers, more dogs would fall between the cracks and never find a forever home, never know the love and companionship of humans, and never enjoy playing and bonding with others of their own kind.
Col. Potter Cairn Terrier Rescue, like most breed rescues, is all volunteer. Fund raising to rehabilitate Cairns is a never ending process. You can find out more about Col. Potter and learn how you can help by going to their website.
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