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Occasionally, when dog parents bring a new pup into their home, they find that they get more than they bargained for. The phrase has negative connotations, but for one family, their newest addition did more than change their lives---she transformed the lives of the animals around her.
Xena arrived at a shelter with her mom and a litter of brothers and sisters. Each of the puppies was adopted right away, leaving Xena and her mom to be placed on the euthanasia list.
She wasn't exactly what you'd expect of a typical puppy; Xena had deformities from birth, her human mom, Robin, tells us. She has a facial deformity (her jaw does not close properly, and she had several teeth removed to help her eat), and "her eyes were damaged because of her lids growing inward so severely."
Xena did end up losing one eye, but she can still see out of the remaining one.
The end drawing dangerously near, the shelter housing Xena and her mom made calls to rescues, and the all-volunteer, no-kill rescue Priceless Pets of Chino Hills
, California stepped up to take them in.
Xena's mom was adopted quickly, but the unconventional-looking puppy still had yet to find a family. She moved in with a foster family after her surgeries to recover. Meanwhile, Robin and her two Pit Bulls were looking for another dog, though the Pitties were quite picky when it came to new housemates.
"[M]y pack wasn't accepted other dogs," says Robin, but then came Xena. Robin tells us:
Xena has some sort of weird calming effect on other dogs---she is a soft gentle spirit. We brought over Xena and it was love at first sight for all of them. I adopted her on the spot.
But Xena's effect on the notoriously picky Pit Bulls didn't end there. Robin says that she became a foster mom after adopting Xena, specifically for dogs with medical conditions and those placed on the euthanasia list. This previously unwanted puppy had a sort of magical effect on everyone she met.
"[The foster dogs] seem to sense something special about her and grow into adoptable dogs with her help," Robin says, though the exact way Xena does it is "really hard to explain."
Robin describes it as "a soothing presence combined with high intelligence." The foster dogs who enter her home are allowed to decompress in private in a large, separate room. Some have medical issues, others are pregnant, aggressive, or dog reactive, but Xena knows how it feels to have been in their
As soon as Xena knows a foster is in the house, she will just sit by the door. She will stay there all night---no whining, no clawing---no reacting, just sit. She is the first one I introduce them to---she is the facilitator and her approach is different to every dog.
If the dog is nervous or agitated, Xena will try to get him or her to "switch modes" by flipping her tail and play-bowing. If they're scared, she leans and lies beside them, and if they are pregnant she remains nearby until the puppies are born. "She acts like a therapy dog for dogs," says Robin, and the stressed pups learn to calm down every time.
In fact, one such dog aggressive and reactive Pit Bull, named Hercules, is now a permanent part of Robin's pack thanks to Xena. "She made him trust again and he calmed into such a great loving dog that I adopted him." The picture below is of Xena comforting Hercules.
The photo at the very top of this post depicts a smiling Xena lying post-play with a smaller, black dog. Says Robin, "That foster hated dogs and bit people and was scared. That's Bailey and she was adopted into a great home. The only one that got near her was Xena and again she worked her magic."
Certainly, Robin and her dogs got more than they bargained for when they brought Xena into their home. "I really have had many dogs over my lifetime," she says, "but she truly is one in a million."
Priceless Pets is always looking for fantastic fosters to bring dogs and cats into their homes and help them decompress. Life for these animals post-shelter can be quite stressful, and fosters give them a much better chance of being adopted after living in a home. If you live in the Chino Hills, CA area and would like to be a foster parent, please fill out the information on their website.
Looking to make a difference right now? Use code BARKGIVES on BarkBox.com for 50% off your first box on any 6 or 12 month plan PLUS we'll donate $10 to our rescue partners with every redemption!
featured image via @xenawinks/Instagram