Once Hoarded and Neglected, Two Blind Dogs Demonstrate Resilience
When he’s sitting on his favorite lap, Miles, a black-and-white mixed breed, is as content as a dog could ever be at home in Columbus, Ohio.
Nearly 800 miles away in Omaha, Nebraska, Jimmy, a brown-and-tan mutt, likes curling up on the couch, then rolling over for belly rubs.
Both dogs are worlds away from their previous home—a dilapidated trailer in eastern Ohio that housed more than 90 neglected dogs, many confined to a dark room without access to fresh air, food or water. The dogs were rescued by the ASPCA just before Memorial Day.
Formerly known as Kyle and Earl, respectively, Miles and Jimmy are also both blind, having suffered from untreated eye infections that required enucleation. But their backgrounds and blindness had no bearing on prospective adopters.
“We tend to gravitate toward dogs like Jimmy,” says Kelly H. of Omaha, who adopted Jimmy with her partner, R.J. “They need us as much as we need them.”
Shelter Partners Step Up
Following their rescue, Miles and Jimmy were treated for medical issues and then transported to various ASPCA shelter partners across the country for adoption.
Jasmine Holsinger, ASPCA Senior Manager of Placement Partnerships, says seven shelters took in animals from this case: Citizens for Humane Action (Columbus, Ohio), Nebraska Humane Society (Omaha), Toledo Area Humane Society, Geauga Humane Society and Columbus Humane Society (Ohio), Dubuque Regional Humane Society (Iowa), and Hello Bully (Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania).
“Collaboration is so important in the field of animal welfare,” says Kelsey Smucker, Executive Director of Citizens for Humane Action (CHA), which took in 27 dogs. “We’re grateful for those who help rescue and bring animals to us, and for the diligent medical care and behavioral support that the ASPCA provides. This support enables us to place animals up for adoption almost immediately and quickly find them homes.”
Twenty-six of the 27 dogs, including Miles, have been adopted as of September 9.
The Nebraska Humane Society (NEHS) in Omaha took in 10 dogs, all of whom are now thriving in their new homes, according to Sara Schmidt, Vice President of Shelter Operations for NEHS.
“Of these dogs, Jimmy was the most shut down,” says Jen Carroll, Behavior Modification Specialist for NEHS. “He had very little interest in interacting with people or other dogs. To see him blossom and show his inquisitive, affectionate, playful personality was amazing.”
Cathy S., a dental hygienist in Columbus, Ohio, recalls first hearing about the case on her local news, then seeing a social media post about Miles from a friend who volunteers at CHA.
“I just couldn’t stop thinking about him and how he was 12 years old,” says Cathy, who visited the shelter with her husband Richard, a manufacturing product manager, son Matthew, a high school senior, and Abby, the family’s 13-year-old black Lab-mix. They adopted Miles on August 9 and visited their veterinarian soon afterward.
“Our vet was amazed at the medical work the ASPCA performed,” Cathy says. “Not only did they remove his eyes (in part due to cataracts), but they also removed a lipoma, or fatty tumor. Miles is in great shape, all things considered.”
Miles finds his way around the house easily, though he may gently bump into furniture or occasionally step on a calm and patient Abby. Outside the family’s yard is fenced, and Miles can walk on a leash.
“I would certainly recommend a special needs dog,” Cathy says. “Miles wags his tail like you wouldn’t believe and wants to be on your lap—he’s a cuddler and a kisser. We’re very happy with him.”
Kelly first saw Jimmy while reading a story that the NEHS posted on their website, accompanied by a photo of Jimmy in his cage.
“That picture just really got me,” says Kelly, adding that she and R.J. didn’t think they were ready to adopt again as they put their previous dog, Roscoe, age 13, to sleep in April.
R.J., a retired train conductor, had spotted Roscoe at an animal shelter on a regular stop along his route.
“The train would stop, and Roscoe would come out into the yard and bark at R.J.,” Kelly recalls. “So, we adopted him. We always adopt shelter dogs—they’re the best kind.”
They adopted Jimmy in mid-August.
“It’s nice for Jimmy that we’re here all day,” says Kelly, a federal government attorney who works from home. “He knows how to use the doggy door, and he’s learned where things are; we don’t move stuff around.”
Though Jimmy has warmed up to R.J. and Kelly, he can still be nervous around new people.
“The NEHS behavior team has given us good advice on how to introduce people to Jimmy one at a time,” says R.J. “We can only guess how many years he was in a living in a horrible environment. But that’s what we’re here for.”
Resiliency After Rescue
Both Miles and Jimmy’s transformations speak to the resiliency of animals who come from horrific conditions.
“To see how these dogs have bounced back gives me hope for humanity in light of our own recent struggles,” says Dr. Amber Horn, Animal Medical Director for NEHS, reflecting on the scarcity of vital resources like food and medical care during the pandemic. “Our fears and struggles were much like the life Miles and Jimmy must have experienced, locked in that trailer. For them to have adopters who now provide them with everything they need feels pretty special.”
“Even those with a traumatic past can have an incredibly bright future,” adds Jen. “Miles and Jimmy are proof positive.”