April 17, 2019

From Dogfighting to a Loving Home for Anthem, the Brave

Many dogs with traumatic histories have proven to be exceptionally resilient. At the ASPCA, our dedicated staff and responders who give their time responding to animal cruelty cases witness this incredible resilience time and time again. 

“Every dog we come across has some degree of unknown history,” says Jessica S., a volunteer responder with the ASPCA Anti-Cruelty Behavior team. “All dogs are individuals. The best we can do is strive to understand the needs of the dog in front of us and to commit to using our knowledge, skills and resources to better their lives to best of our ability.”

Jessica currently works at an animal hospital in San Diego, California, but also dedicates her time and skills to volunteer with the ASPCA to assist our Anti-Cruelty Behavior team in conducting behavior assessments of rescued animals during field investigation and response efforts. This is how she met Anthem—a rescue pup who would soon change her life for the better. 

A Sad Start for a Sweet Pup

In November 2017, the ASPCA responded to a request to assist with an investigation of a suspected dogfighting case involving more than 40 dogs found a property in Natchez, Mississippi. Some dogs were found chained outside without access to water or appropriate shelter, while some animals appeared to be suffering from injuries that had been left untreated. The ASPCA provided assistance with veterinary exams, evidence collection, legal support and behavior assessments during this rescue.

Anthem was a shy, malnourished puppy found amongst the rescued dogs. The “mismatched” appearance of her tiny body compared to her nearly adult teeth caught Jessica’s attention while she was assisting on the case. 

“When I first met Anthem, she was somewhat fearful,” recalls Jessica. “She was housed near three other puppies at the time. She was so small that they were exactly her size, although half her age. She had giardia (an intestinal infection) and couldn’t go to play group with other dogs until it resolved. I would spend some time training with her in her run. She was reserved but super smart, attentive and eager to learn.”

Next Stage to a Happy Life

After treatment and recovery, Anthem was placed with ASPCA Partner Rescue, Even Chance in St. Louis, Missouri. By that point, Jessica felt bonded to sweet Anthem, and she knew that she couldn’t let her go. Jessica made the decision to follow the pup to St. Louis, and on January 31, 2018, they flew home to San Diego together. Shortly after, Anthem was spayed and the adoption was made official! 

Prior to meeting Anthem, Jessica had recently lost her dog—another dogfighting survivor—after they passed away unexpectedly in September 2017. Still feeling the grief from her loss, Jessica poured her attention and energy into what she knows best—helping dogs in need. 

“I don’t usually take on a personal dog so soon after loss,” admits Jessica. “Anthem was really small, and we weren’t sure how big she’d end up getting or if she might have health issues down the road. I work at an animal hospital and have awesome doctors around me that would be able to help me care for any unique needs should they arise. I wanted to be able to use that resource to the advantage of a dog who might need it.”

After running some health diagnostics, it was discovered that Anthem had some pretty severe allergies, so Jessica ensured that Anthem was put on a specialized diet. Fortunately, Jessica had already anticipated health needs, as well as behavioral challenges as Anthem adjusted to her new home. To this day, Jessica remains dedicated and knows that she is the right person to help Anthem blossom into the wonderful dog she was destined to be.

Anthem’s New Adventures

Anthem has adjusted well to her new life—and is quite the popular pup! At home, she lives with a large adult dog, a tiny senior dog, a cat and four humans. Anthem enjoys going to work with Jessica at the animal hospital where she has plenty of human friends, dog buddies and has met other interesting creatures, too!

As an intelligent young dog, she needs to exercise her mind as well as her body. And Jessica tells us that Anthem loves to learn new games and tricks—and tastes of her favorite treats (dehydrated banana and blueberry) for a job well done just sweeten the deal!

Anthem is also becoming quite the thrill-seeker. Camping, hiking and climbing—this California girl certainly enjoys the great outdoors in her new life! Anthem loves going on adventures with her mom now, but she equally likes just chilling at restaurants and coffee shops, always keeping her eye out so that she can snag a treat or two. 

“If your dog doesn’t like the same leisure activities as you do, don’t force them to be someone they’re not,” advises Jessica. “There are so many things you can do together that you both can enjoy.”

Anthem and Jessica are certainly trying all sorts of activities that they can appreciate together. Some additional moments in Anthem’s adventure checklist include: dock diving, disc sports, stand up paddle boarding and surfing. These activities are more than just fun playtime, they are tools that Jessica uses to help build Anthem’s confidence in her day-to-day life. Though Anthem is still learning how to conquer her fears and overcome her cruel past, she gets better with each passing day by Jessica’s side. 

“She has some struggles, but we’re constantly working together to make it easier for her to cope with the scarier things in life” says Jessica. “She’s fearful of erratic kids and people who come out of nowhere and startle her.” But Jessica adds that Anthem is also “overcoming some shyness with people who have scary body language.”

“Always remember to listen to and honor the dog standing in front of you—not the perfect, unrealistic, flawless dog you may have imagined,” says Jessica. “Try your best to set yourself up for success in understanding your dog as an individual, not just a lofty, blanket, idea of what having 'a dog' is like—they are all unique and would love a human who does what it takes to learn about them as such.”

Jessica’s dedication to Anthem as she truly is allows the pup to become comfortable and grow into her new life surrounded by love and support. Anthem is now an expert cuddler and likes to snuggle on her human friends’ laps. We think it’s safe to say that having moved on from her past of cruelty, Anthem now lives the “American Dream” with the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

Though Anthem’s story ends happily, there are still countless victims like her waiting for their happy endings. This month on April 8, we honored National Dogfighting Awareness Day, and we hope that through the month of April and beyond, you will help us spread awareness and fight for more victims as they journey toward new lives. By taking action and signing the HEART Act petition today, you can help dogfighting victims find loving homes faster.

See more of Anthem’s adventures on Instagram®: @mightytinyanthem