Arwen is a 10-year-old pittie mix. She was one of 89 dogs found in a bad hoarding situation. Our story starts in the Mojave Desert where an animal hoarder with 89 dogs is unable to care for the dogs any longer. It was winter and temperatures were in the 30s as a soft snow fell to the desert floor. 89 dogs were living outside in the cold with no shelter, and not enough food or water. We'll never know how Arwen ended up in a cage out in the middle of the desert, living with a hoarder and 88 other dogs in deplorable conditions, but we know that her suffering is finally over.
It was January when Karma Rescue caught wind that an animal hoarder living in the Mojave Desert, a three-hour drive from Los Angeles, could no longer care for additional dogs that had recently found their way onto her property. She was desperate and asked for help. When Karma arrived, they found 89 dogs in a bad situation. Many dogs were in makeshift fenced-in dog runs; others were dumped in a field or simply running wild on the property. It was the dead of winter; a light snow had begun to fall and the dogs had no shelters to go into to get out of the elements. They were completely exposed to the sun, wind, rain and snow as it fell to the ground that January morning. Most of the enclosures had not been cleaned in a long time and were covered in wall-to-wall feces. When the dogs were fed, they got dry kibble haphazardly thrown in their pens, it landed on the ground, mixed in with their own waste; the dogs were so hungry, they ate the food anyway.
When Karma volunteers arrived they immediately began setting up makeshift housing and shelters for the dogs, and tried to fortify the enclosures so the dogs could not escape while they reached out to more rescue organizations and figured out how to help all of these dogs. Suzanne Happ, a volunteer with Karma Rescue, assisted in coordinating twenty rescue organizations and independent rescuers to get the dogs out and to safety. The operation is commonly called the Mojave Desert Dog Rescue.
For some reason Arwen stood out to the rescuers who found her locked in a small dog run. Her shy, yet sweet way actually hid a fearful, almost feral truth. Arwen's exposure to humans had been so minimal, that she did not understand how to react to human interaction or touch.
Volunteers noticed immediately that something was wrong with her eyes. Her eyes were blood red; the inner folds of her eyes were swollen and inflamed. This poor dog was in constant pain. They didn't know the extent of damage to her vision. Had she spent any more time in the desert, she would have become blind. It was later learned that Arwen and the other dogs had to withstand harsh desert winds that blasted sand into her eyes. With no shelter, there was nothing she could do but sit and wait for the sand storm to end. She had no doghouse to hide behind and no den to crawl into.
During the Mojave Desert Dog Rescue all 89 dogs were brought to safety. Arwen got into a van with a volunteer named Alex and some other dogs to be taken to a boarding facility but then someone suggested that Alex might make a good foster for Arwen and, fortunately, Alex was open to the idea.
In Alex's loving care, Arwen was finally able to see a doctor about her eyes. They found out that her condition was worse than rescuers had first thought. Arwen had to undergo a painful eye surgery to remove the inflamed tissue from her eyes. The amount of tissue removed was disturbing even for the doctors. They ended up removing scar tissue the size of a cherry from each eye. With the removal of that scar tissue, she could heal and would finally be free from the pain it must have caused her. Arwen's teeth were another matter. Turns out Arwen had been chewing on the wire fencing at the hoarder's compound out of hunger and/or boredom. She barely had any teeth left and what was left had been ground down to nubs.
Arwen also had a habit of nervously pacing back and forth. Even though Alex has a sizable home, Arwen was still mentally living in a small makeshift dog run and she paced back and forth, unable to accept that she now had lots of safe and comfortable space to roam freely in.
With time, Arwen's eyes healed and got better. In a little more time, her pacing calmed and she got more comfortable in her surroundings. And in a little more time, Arwen grew to love and became inseparable from her foster mom Alex, who ended up adopting her and becoming her permanent mom. Through the guidance of Alex and her other pit bull, Keiko, Arwen learned how to be a dog again. According to Alex, Arwen is a "perfect dog."
Arwen's story of survival is a story being told over and over again around the world as people abandon their pets. Thanks to rescue groups like Karma, and volunteers like Alex, there is hope for some. But dogs like Arwen don't think about the years they lived in pain and suffering, without love or someone to care for them. Nope, Arwen just enjoys her long happy days with new mom Alex and her new brother Keiko.
A special thank you to all of the rescue groups involved with the Mojave Desert Dog Rescue. Please visit their pages and like them on Facebook to help them spread the word when animals are in need. Here are a few of the many rescue organizations who helped to save Arwen and the 88 other dogs...
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