August 2009 was when I got a second chance at life. When I was taken to the shelter, I was filthy, covered in dried blood, and severely underweight. You could see my spine and ribs through my thin skin. I had severe puncture wounds through my neck, and deep cuts and scrapes covering my body. All four of my canine teeth had been filed down so that I could not defend myself. I had been used as a bait dog for dog fighting.
Mum took me back to the rescue where I got a bath to wash away the dirt and blood. But when they got a good look at my wounds, they knew I needed a doctor.
I weighed only 36 pounds (I’m now 56 pounds of solid muscle). The doctor said my wounds would need cleaned at least twice a day and I would need a lot of antibiotics for my infections. I tried not to bleed everywhere, but as we walked out, I saw a trail of blood drops on the floor coming from where I was sitting. Nobody seemed to be mad though. They kept looking at me and softly kissing my head. I'd never been treated so kindly before.
When we finally got home, mum made a bed for me in the crate in the living room. It was cozy and she put a toy inside for me. It wasn’t like that cold empty cage at the shelter. This made me feel safe. She sat next to my crate as I napped. I woke up when I heard her move…she was walking away. I started to cry. She came back and promised she would never really leave.
For the first couple weeks, mum worked from home so she could take care of me. My wounds were bad, but they were healing. Every day, twice a day, I sat while she cleaned them. Sometimes it took 30 minutes to clean all of my wounds. She carefully wiped away the crusty scabs that accumulated between cleanings. She squirted solution through the puncture wounds. She wiped my ears and very gently cleaned a little deeper each time. We did this every morning and every night.
Over time, my wounds healed. I put on weight slowly. My fur began to grow back.
On the outside I looked much better. But on the inside, I was still very sick and no one knew it. One day my temperature spiked and mum rushed me to the doctor. The doctor wanted to do more extensive testing, but the rescue director wouldn't approve it. He did another basic tick test, and again it came back normal. They changed my meds without really knowing what was going on. My temperature fluctuated a lot over the next couple weeks. I didn’t play much and I slept all the time.
Eventually I felt pretty good. I started going to rescue events. The first one was a little scary. People came up and started petting me. I got nervous and cried, so mum took me for a walk. I felt better when we came back and I let some more people pet me. I let the little kids hug me and hang all over me. Mum was very proud of me. She said I was very special.
For a few days I went to live with someone else in preparation of adoption. The rescue thought it would be good for me to live with someone else, and we had so many foster dogs coming in, mum needed the room to take in more. I didn't do well in foster care though. Their high school daughter and her friends were very high energy and I got very scared. I chased them and barked at them all the time.
So Mum put her foot down and brought me back. We had lots of dogs in the apartment, but I was just glad to be home. Even though it wasn't really my home yet.
I even went to work with mum and met lots of new people.
Mum had been talking to a nice couple in Tampa that wanted to adopt me. The couple didn’t have children and they didn’t have any other pets. I would have a nice quiet home with lots of attention. In a way, that would be good for me. But mum said she saw something in me…something special. And she didn’t want to lose me. A lot of dogs had come and gone through her house on their way to their furever home. I didn’t expect to stay forever. I heard her crying on the phone with the couple and saying something about being selfish wanting me to stay. Finally she hung up the phone and came in to where I was napping. I thought she was going to tell me to pack my bags, but instead she asked me if I wanted to live with her forever. Of course I said yes!
It seemed my life was finally on the right track! But then I got sick again. My temperature spiked and mum rushed me to a local vet that had come highly recommended for bulldog care. They did bloodwork and x-rays. What a surprise those x-rays were…first of all, they found BB gun pellets inside me! I had tried to forget about being shot so many times, but there was the memory- right there on the x-ray. Also on the x-ray was a huge mass on my spleen.
They called it hemangiosarcoma. I didn’t know what that meant, but it sounded scary. And it turned out to be even scarier. Hemanglosarcoma is a very aggressive cancer. The doctors seemed hopeful that they could remove it all. They scheduled me for surgery first thing the very next morning. Mum went home and we looked up more info on hemangiosarcoma. That’s when she started crying. Even if they removed all the cancer, they said most dogs only survive 6-9 months after the surgery. She posted an update on our rescue website. Everyone started emailing us, asking how they could help and offering to keep me in their prayers. Even people I’ve never met… people from all over the world … people who had been reading my rescue story since the very beginning…they all prayed and prayed for me. Mum truly believes that it was because of everyone’s prayers that I was saved. When the doctors opened me up during surgery they were shocked. My spleen had enlarged to over 5 times its normal size. It had gotten sooo big that it began folding over on top of itself and just created the appearance of a mass. The doctor took out my spleen, unfolded it and took a look at it. She said it was covered in old scar tissue from past trauma. So she removed the scar tissue and then put it back inside. She also checked my other organs and found no trace of any cancers! They let mum come pick me up early and take me home to recover.
Now that I was mum's, she approved more thorough tests to be done- it showed that I really did have a tick disease all along!! So I started taking medicine again. It was the same medicine as before, just a lot more of it because now the illness had progressed greatly. If the oral meds didn't work, that meant it had gone into my bones and I'd need injections. Thank goodness after a couple months I was feeling pretty good and the medicine was working!
I was back in obedience class, I was being a little bit naughty at home, and I felt great! Mum took me back to the vet to have another blood test done just to be sure the disease was really gone. They were still afraid that it had gotten so bad that it was in my bone marrow. But nope- the test came back negative! I am finally healthy!
I came a long way since that day I was rescued. I don’t think I could have ever foreseen my life turning out this way. All I knew was abuse and neglect for so long….pretty much my whole life. I didn’t think I deserved such a good life. But now I know this: everyone does…whether you’re an animal or a person. Everyone deserves the best in life.
My life is a wags to riches story. Proof that life can get better.
From abused, neglected, and ignored.....
To a loved family member.....
To a therapy dog.....
To a service dog.....
To a model / actor......
To walking the red carpet in New York City.....
Life can get better. Never give up hope.
A note from Champ's mum: On June 2nd, 2015 Champ left this world after a short battle with cancer. His legacy will live on forever though. I will be updating this page soon with his "final chapter." Thank you all for loving Champ as much as I did. He was a dog like no other and left a paw print on the hearts of everyone he met.