She was Thrown Away Like Yesterday’s Garbage

Dec 22, 2012 | 2012 Articles, Lee Juslin, Pets

by Lee Juslin

Sophia Rose spent the first three years of her life in misery. Abused and neglected by her family, she was finally discarded with the trash. And, that may have been the only bright spot in her short life.

A passerby heard whining and crying from an apartment dumpster. Recognizing a cry for help, the kind soul looked in and found the little dog. Soon the county sheriff was involved, the original owners had been found, and a cruelty investigation had been opened. In order to keep the dog safe, the sheriff called in Small Paws Rescue, Inc., a national Bichon Frise rescue organization and, in fact, the largest breed rescue group in the United States.

Robin Pressnall, the organization’s Executive Director, said the little dog was just a big giant mat. “We really didn’t know what she was except with her curly hair, we thought she might be a Bichon. Once we cleaned her up, we could see that she was at least part Bichon Frise.”

The arrangement with the sheriff was for Sophia Rose to be held by Small Paws but not adopted in case she was needed to appear in court. In fact, she wasn’t ready for adoption anyway because she was dirty, unkempt and had a number of health concerns including being heart worm positive. She also had a number of worrisome breast tumors but fortunately all turned out to be benign.

Sophia Rose’s first stop was with the area team leader, but she was quickly moved away from the scene of the crime for her own protection. Small Paws calls this their Witness Protection Program for Bichons. Dogs in Witness Protection are not pictured on the group’s web site. Instead, a generic photo is used with a Groucho Marx mask.

Once the sheriff gave Small Paws full custody of Sophia Rose, a suitable foster home was found. Small Paws is organized around a Board of Directors and team leaders across the country. Under each team leader are foster parents, Bichon folks experienced in caring for and socializing a dog like Sophia Rose. With good health care that enabled her to become heart worm negative and lots of love and attention, Sophia Rose transitioned from a dirty fur ball to a beautiful, happy, tail-wagging little girl. “We were all pulling for little Sophia Rose”, said Robin. “Most of our volunteers knew her story because her story represents a certain mindset in our culture that pets, if they become inconvenient or sick, can just be thrown away like garbage. Sophia Rose was one of the lucky ones.”

At Small Paws, foster families are given the first choice to adopt a dog they’ve fostered. Sophia Rose’s foster family had been through so much with her, and she had become such a part of their family that they adopted her. However, most of the Bichons in Small Paws, once they are ready, are put up for adoption. Like all reputable breed rescues, Small Paws has a rigorous adoption program including the completion of a detailed application, references, and a home inspection. In addition, Small Paws will not adopt to a home that does not already have a well socialized dog. According to Robin, “This is because so many of our Bichons come from puppy mills or abusive homes and have not been socialized. We find that in a home that already has a dog, that dog will teach the Bichon the ropes and help it fit into the family. We learned early on that many times the adoptions did not work out if the Bichon was an only dog. Of course, any time an adoption doesn’t work for whatever reason, ‘Small Paws’ takes the dog back and either finds a suitable home or keeps the dog in foster care.”

Although Small Paws only adopts within the United States and, in certain cases, to Canada, they have over 6,000 followers representing 27 countries on their mailing list. Since their beginning in 1998, they have rescued nearly 9,000 Bichons and have been recognized by national news organizations like the Fox News program, Paws for a Cause. Although they depend on their 800 volunteers, the organization does have two paid staff. “I’m amazed and so impressed by the passion of our volunteers and staff”, said Robin. “They have taught me that when people get outside of themselves they grow and develop a purpose in life and that makes them better human beings.”

If you would like to learn more about Small Paws Rescue, sign up to volunteer, apply to adopt a Bichon, or support their rescue efforts with a donation, visit the website: Small Paws.

Enjoy this slide show about Sophia Rose:

Read more animal related articles by Lee here in KRL.

Lee Juslin a graduate of Bucknell University with a master’s degree from Fairleigh Dickinson University, and is a freelance copywriter who lives in NC. Until recently, she was active in pet therapy with her certified therapy dog, Frosty, and owns I B Dog Gone, an embroidery business dedicated to supporting several terrier rescue organizations.


  1. Again Lee you have brought tears to my eyes. What a wonderful story with a happy ending. Bichons are in my blood and someday one will be rescued by me. For now little Tessa the poodle will keep me happy.

  2. Great article, Lee. You`ve done it again.

  3. I have to admit that I am a tad bit prejudiced – but it’s not so much that I’m totally enamoured by the Bichon Frise breed, but more by the way SMALLPAWS RESCUE.ORG presents itself, is organized, and is so transparent in it’s business acumen. Do we love Bichons – of course. But we are a business that, in order to stay in business and do what we do best – Help the dogs we are here to help, we have to do it right.
    Ms. Juslin has brought this out with her in depth interview with Ms. Pressnall. What she didn’t mention to you is that the SPR vet bills usually run over $30,000.00 a month, the majority on dogs from sitiuations similar to Sophie. These are not ‘rejects’, these are not ‘damaged goods’; these dogs have every bit as much love and trust to give – they may just need a little help in learning how to do that. That’s where our Foster Home Volunteers come in. Love is love. No special ‘talent’ is needed. You don’t need a degree in ‘Doggy Psyche 101’ to help a dog be all that it can be. Be a Volunteer — either for SMALLPAWS or for your Local Animal Shelter – somewhere there is a dog that needs you – and you may find that you need that dog just as much as he needs you. Love is a two way street.

  4. What a heartwarming story. Well done Small Paws Rescue!

  5. Over the years, I have rescued a number of bichons for Small Paws. Two of them were from puppy mills. One was adopted to a great family and the other one adopted me. I can’t image not helping any dog in need. Thank you for your story on Sophia Rose.

  6. I am very glad for Sophia Rose. Because what happened to her is like what happened to me. And Small Paws is right. Because my Best Friend – a Standard Poodle – is who helped me be brave and learn so many many things. But now he died. And I miss him so much.

  7. What a great article! Well written by a wonderful author. On behalf of all of us at Small Paws Rescue Inc, we thank all of you for helping us to help these precious Bichons. God Bless.

  8. Another heartwarming success story! Thank you Small Paws and everyone who works with Small Paws.

  9. great story!


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