Against all odds, this pup has persevered.
Libby the pit bull is about to complete her training as a drug detection dog. She'll be working in the Texas community where, as a puppy, she wound up in a shelter and was the only of her littermates to make it out alive.
She's about to embark on her new career because an incredible group of people saw beyond her humble start to life and her blocky-shaped head.
On the eve of her public debut, one of the people who've championed Libby all this way, Debra Guajardo, is having butterflies.
"I feel like the anal retentive, nervous mother planning the wedding for an only daughter!" says Guajardo.
Libby's beginnings were inauspicious. She's the only one of her litter not to have been euthanized at the Texas animal shelter where they wound up as young pups in 2011.
Marcia Poitter, head of the rescue group Operation Pets Alive, told the Houston Chronicle that despite not ordinarily bringing pit bulls into her operation -- they can have a hard time finding adoptive homes, in large part due to persistent and untrue negative stereotypes -- she couldn't leave Libby behind.
"Everybody liked to watch her play with the water hose, chasing and pouncing on any liquid that came out," Poitter said to the paper. "Libby was a little different from the dogs that I normally pick for rescue. She was more exuberant and played hard. I would call her high energy."
That high energy, plus prejudice against dogs of her kind, made it hard to find Libby the right home. For about three years, the smart, curious dog stayed with Poitter as a foster.
During that time, Libby found a champion in Guajardo, who's an attorney and pit bull advocate whose own rescue pup, Lily, is a therapy dog.
Guajardo met Libby in 2013, after she'd already been in foster care for a couple of years. Having done some search and rescue training with her own dog, she wondered if Libby would be well-suited for the working life.
"I really felt like she had a lot of potential if placed with the right person," Guajardo says.
With Poitter's blessing, she set about making that placement.
After striking out with several law enforcement agencies, Guajardo found Brad Croft, founder of the Texas dog training center Universal K9.
Croft is well-known for training shelter dogs to work in law enforcement, showing that they can be every bit as effective as -- and far less expensive than -- the traditional purebreds, with the added benefit of lowering shelter euthanasia.
"All they need is a chance to prove themselves and these dogs will work every bit as hard as the purebred dogs that we bring in from overseas," Croft told ABC News last year. "Right now, we're on track to saving almost 100 dogs this year [from euthanasia]."
Guajardo -- who, on top of finding a place for Libby, offered to pay for the training so that cost would not be an issue -- showed Croft a few videos, including one of Libby looking for a ball in the grass, staying calm while an emergency vehicle blaring its siren drove past.
"Another dog would have freaked out and run," Croft said to the Houston Sun. "But she stays focused until the job is done."
Croft asked for the dog to come to his facility in San Antonio for an in-person/in-canine evaluation, and immediately accepted her into the program.
Libby is poised to be a narcotics detection K-9 with the police force, in the same city where she was once an overlooked shelter dog.
Croft has high hopes. From what he's seen in training so far, Libby and her new handler, Deputy Jesse Bullinger -- who's also at Universal K9, to train with Libby -- are "like a match made in heaven."
Bullinger is excited, too. He and Libby are expected to graduate on Wednesday, then "start working on Thursday," he says.
But he's not just excited for their professional relationship. He's also happy that Libby's found a home, with him, his fiancee and daughter.
"I think it's awesome," he says. "Get up, go to work together, come home, eat dinner together. It's great."
Croft is preparing for training five more pit bull rescue dogs, funded by the advocacy group Animal Farm Foundation. He, and they, are looking to dislodge negative stereotypes, by training the dogs to serve their communities.
"This whole stigma -- it kind of pisses me off," he says.
Guajardo says she, too, is hoping that Libby's success will help pave the way for others like her. And she's also just happy that this one particular dog's tale has turned out so well.
"It has been an absolute privilege to be a part of Libby’s story," Guajardo says. "Every bust she makes, every gram of drugs she detects and clears from our streets and communities will reaffirm the incredible value of shelter dogs -– including pit bulls -- and the valuable contribution they can make when given the opportunity."
Follow Libby's story on her Facebook page.
Operation Pets Alive is a 501(c)(3), with lots more wonderful animals looking for homes!
Lily the Therapy also has a Facebook page that is absolutely worth checking out.
Universal K9 also keeps an active Facebook page, with photos of shelter dogs and others, all looking very proud.
And get in touch at email@example.com if you have an animal story to share!
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