The pet rescue rollercoaster of broken hearts and saved souls

The pet rescue rollercoaster of broken hearts and saved souls
Willow was severely emaciated and left by her family at CACC.

If you walk up and down the aisles at Chicago Animal Care and Control or the Animal Welfare League, you see far too many cases of broken hearts. The dogs and cats left behind. Some are sick, some are old, some have injuries and some are just lost or forgotten. For pet rescues that work these facilities, the clock is ticking too fast while they work to save souls and give a pet a second chance.

There are many organizations that reach out to rescue the dogs and cats in need. But this week in particular, the work of one pet rescue kept cropping up on my Facebook feed – Recycled.Pits. Their week in a nutshell was this – a severely emaciated dog left at CACC to be euthanized, a senior dog with health issues that got and lost a foster home in a matter of days and a dog shot by police. This is mixed in with the normal cases of parvo and general injuries they tackle.

Fred had a broken jaw.

Fred had a broken jaw.

“When I started this rescue, I wanted to help the underdogs – the ones that no one will take,” says rescue founder Stana Emmerson. “My own four dogs were considered unadoptable and were dogs that no one wanted. I wanted to give others a second chance as well. Too many of these dogs wouldn’t get a second look.”

That compassion brings us to the tales of Sheena, Sadie and Willow - three very different stories with very different outcomes. All three dogs would have had no chance at survival without someone stepping up and bringing them into the care of Recycled Pits.


There is the case of Sheena, a sweet senior dog that was dumped in horrible condition at CACC. She has a case of mange and what looked to be a tumor. It turned out that it was her bladder outside her cavity wall. Emmerson put out a call for a foster and a great foster stepped up to the plate.

Sheena is a senior that was rescued from animal control.

Sheena is a senior that was rescued from animal control.

“Unfortunately, after three days she decided that Sheena was too much work for her. She not only didn’t want to foster any longer, she dumped Sheena back at CACC to be euthanized instead of coming back to us,” added Emmerson. “Luckily, CACC recognized her and called us. It’s sad because she appeared so committed and dedicated and then she just dumped her off in that cold, dark scary place.”

Recycled.Pits is now looking for a foster to help care for Sheena. Her prognosis is good with proper veterinary care. Emmerson says her group needs fosters and donations to help pay for and save more lives.


Sadie’s story was much different. Emmerson says they still don't know all the details of her story. What they do know is that she apparently slipped out of her yard when a delivery person came and was eventually shot by a police officer. That officer in turn did bring Sadie into a veterinarian for treatment.

“We don’t know all the circumstances here, but the important thing is that Sadie was loved and her family couldn’t afford to pay the vet bills after she was shot,” added emmerson. “If someone had not stepped up, she would have been euthanized. We stepped in and quickly raised funds to pay for her care and she is now back with her family.”

Sadie was shot.

Sadie was shot.

Emerson and Recycled.Pits has not only stepped up to save Sadie, they’ve pointed out that many of the details are sketchy here. Both the family and officer had some culpability with responsibility, but they’ve asked that people refrain from badgering the police on the matter. The dog is safe and her group is working with the family in hopes that she won’t escape again. (See this blog post for details.)

Although Sadie did get shot by police, Emmerson says they recently worked with Crestwood police to bring in a stray dog that had charged police. The dog wasn’t shot and ended up in rescue after she had spent time talking to the dog to corral him.


Willow’s story is the most heartbreaking of all. At barely a year old, her family dropped her off at CACC to die or be euthanized. She was so emaciated, your own heart breaks just looking at her. It’s hard to imagine how long a dog needed to be starved to be that skeletal. Looking at Willow, it’s hard not to think of another famous dog in worse straights – Patrick. She didn’t have the same ending.

Willow's rescue was too late. She died before the next morning.

Willow's rescue was too late. She died before the next morning.

“I got there shortly after her family left and I don’t understand how CACC could have let them leave without filing any charges. She was nearly starved to death,” says Emmerson. “I don’t know if any resources would have helped here, but we pulled her and we were too late. We got her to a specialist and she didn’t make it through the night.”

Willow had no underlying illness. Only when she was near death did the family take any sort of action…leaving her at animal control. Unlike the story of Patrick, that ended in his recovery, Willow ran out of time.

Community outreach

Emmerson and her fellow volunteers have worked hard in their own community to educate people about pet care and available programs. She’s in CACC a lot and says that there are enough families that don’t want to leave a pet behind but they just don’t have or know of the resources to get help.

Sammy is a parvo pup rescued from animal control.

Sammy is a parvo pup rescued from animal control.

“We’ve met families in the parking lot that have a sick pet and they can’t afford the vet, but are crying because they don’t want to lose their pet,” she adds. “Until this point in time, they’ve been able to take good care of their pet. We’ve often worked with them to get care and also connected them to low cost vaccination clinics and pet food pantries.”

She is not the only rescue worker that has expressed frustration because people often turn to various animal controls for help. Unfortunately, in many places groups are not able to set up in the lobby to educate about other services available to pet families.

“Just recently, we were at CACC and we prevented four dogs from going into the system,” she says. “We helped one family with veterinary bills and three others relinquished dogs to us. That is four cages not filled at CACC. Sometimes families need direction on dog training, food pantry options and other programs that do exist. It would be great if the CACC van could be used to run educational programs in communities and hit the communities with parvo outbreaks...vaccinations are just $4.”

Making matches and getting training

One of the more high profile cases that came to Recycle.Pits recently was Phoenix – a pit mix that had been involved in dog fighting. She now fostering him and she says he’s doing great (although not so well with cats). He’s settling into training and will make a great family dog.

Phoenix is now ready for adoption and has been a hit at adoption events.

Phoenix is now ready for adoption and has been a hit at adoption events.

“There’s a couple of things here – training is vital and if more people put in the effort to properly train dogs, there would be fewer in the system for behavioral issues,” she says. “Also, not all dogs are good in all situations. Too often dogs are adopted out into situations that just aren’t right – kids, other pets or not enough interaction. If more work could be done to match adopters with a dog that is a better fit, we’d see fewer returned.”

She talks about a foster home that wanted to adopt a dog in their care that was a great fit with that family, but the foster mom had just lost her job. Emmerson helped with food and vet bills the first year and the adoption is going strong four years later. “This was such a good loving home for this particular dog. There are a lot of good potential homes that don’t have $300 in their pocket now for vet expenses, but they will love and nurture their pets and treat them like family.”

You can help by stepping up to foster or donating at their PayPal account at Even small donations add up. Check out their dogs on Facebook.

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Filed under: Pets

Tags: Dogs, pit bulls, Recycled.Pits

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    Raining Cats and Dogs

    I am a crazy cat lady and puppy mill warrior that blogs to advocate and educate about pet issues. In American animal controls, millions of pets are abandoned each year and an estimated 4 million die just because there are not enough homes. It truly seems like it’s Raining Cats and Dogs.

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