In the Russian roulette of animal control, the most adoptable animals are fighting for a second chance. If a pet is sick, old or has a disability, the chance of rescue is often slim to none. Nearly a year and a half ago, that dog was Bialy. She ended up being a motivation for the short time she was on this earth. She’s now giving other dogs a second chance from the Rainbow Bridge with Bialy’s Wellness Foundation.
Bialy was stabbed, tossed from a car and ended up at Chicago Animal Care and Control at Christmas without the use of her back legs – Bialy became the puppy that could. From the beginning, Bialy’s story was about teamwork and community that lead to an unusual adoption. Through social media, her story was shared with animal lovers, encouraging special needs adoptions. It all started at Christmas two years ago. (See original post.)
“I was tagged in Bialy's original post from the CACC Transfer page by a Facebook friend who knew I was a canine massage therapist, fostered puppies and saw that Bialy was not using her back legs,” says Erin Kowalski, who rescued and fostered Bialy. “I looked at Bialy's photo and instantly wanted to help. I reached out to Erica at Secondhand Snoots Rescue and discussed pulling Bialy and we agreed to get her out of animal control ASAP.”
Kowalski was no stranger to puppies in need. She had already fostered 63 puppies and was the founder of the Lucida Puppy Fund, an organization that raises money to pull puppies out of high-risk shelters. The fund was inspired by puppies pulled from animal control that later ended up dying of Parvo. The goal of Lucida Puppy Fund was to rescue puppies before they were put further at risk.
“Bialy was a very spirited girl and never gave up,” says Kowalski. “She was determined to do everything on her own and would look at her back legs as if to say, "come on, let's go!" As many times as she fell, she was always ready to get back up and try again. I performed massage therapy on her up to three hours everyday and started some basic physical therapy exercises to help her build strength in her back legs.”
While being fostered by Kowalski and her husband, Bialy often spent her days with Terry Ruggerio and her husband. When someone expressed interest in adopting Bialy, they worked out a co-adoption with Erica Brown of Secondhand Snoots because neither family could bear the thought of not being there to see her walk for the first time (see post). Bialy was Kowalski’s first foster failure – lucky number 64.
“Our special adoption arrangement enriched our lives in so many ways,” says Ruggerio. “It expanded our network of friends, acquaintances to raise awareness for special needs animals. For me, having a husband who has suffered from MS for over 30 years, with Bialy here and in watching her develop, her struggles, her perseverance made me realize the similarities of both humans and animals who struggle with handicaps in their daily lives. I developed a more in-depth understanding of the frustrations and how both have dealt with the struggles and how both accepted their challenges.”
“Bialy was an inspiration to everyone who met her. After getting a handle on her physical and mental/emotional needs we started a Facebook page for Bialy: Bialy the Special Needs Ambassador Dog,” says Kowalski. “We hoped to show animal lovers how wonderful special needs animals are so they may take a chance on them like we did with Bialy. From Bialy's point of view, she would post photos of her daily antics, videos of her progress in addition to sharing other special needs animals stories.”
“Bialy's story brought awareness that there are so many animals out there who are handicapped, and who need help to enable them to have a quality of life that would otherwise not be afforded to them,” says Ruggiero. “As with humans with special needs, there are so many resources available that would otherwise never be known to people who are hesitant to adopt a special needs animal.”
While Bialy was inspiring people through social media and at fundraisers, her life at home was far from easy. The trauma she experienced prior to her rescue caused her to be anxiety-ridden. She was reactive to dogs and sometimes people. They worked closely with a trainer and ended up working with a behaviorist after an incident. When she hit her adolescence, life became more difficult for Bialy.
“Her demeanor changed and she began having unprovoked aggression issues which made for dangerous situations,” according to Kowalski. “She was basically living in a constant state of worry and fear. It was extremely difficult to watch. As we discussed our options, we decided that we could not ask her to continue living is such a state.
“We did everything we could and gave her an amazing year and a half of life. It's even harder knowing that even with all the right people in our corner, hours upon hours of training and behavior modification and doing everything else right we still couldn't help her. Some wounds just go too deep,” concluded Kowalski. They decided the kindest thing they could do would be to release Bialy from her pain
“For Erin, our families and myself, this was by far one of the worse days of our lives,” added Ruggiero. “We decided that it was best to give Bialy the peace she so deserved after her daily struggles and the severity of them. Bialy lightened the room when she came in, and always brought kisses and happiness to us. As heart wrenching as it was, we were all there holding Bialy as she left us, crossed the rainbow, and took off her harness, wheels and started to run the green pastures free from all obstacles.”
In life, Bialy inspired. With her death, Kowalski and Ruggiero are hoping she’ll do even more. Bialy's Wellness Foundation, a branch of the Lucida Puppy Fund, is dedicated to helping rescues and families financially, physically and emotionally care for their special needs animals. It provides equipment, financial support for surgeries and rehabilitative services, and resources like behavior training and a support system for people to talk about their experiences and tough decisions.
“Knowing how amazing Erica and the team at Secondhand Snoots was for Bialy, we wanted to make sure the first animal we helped was from Secondhand Snoots,” says Kowalski. “I reached out to Erica about Xavier who came into animal control with a right rear leg fracture and dislocation, which made him an ideal candidate for an amputation. After a successful surgery, Xavier learned very quickly how to cope with 3 legs!”
Bialy's Wellness Foundation covered the cost of medical expenses and is paying for his training. The organization will be keeping an open line of communication with Secondhand Snoots and once Xavier finds his forever home we will always be here for support.
“As humans with special needs and handicaps, animals too need an Ambassador and advocates to allow them a chance at life - and the best quality of life at that,” says Ruggerio. “Bialy was, is and always will be the Ambassador of special needs animals, and through Bialy's Wellness Foundation, her legacy lives on to help all out there in need.”
How to help
Bialy's Wellness Foundation is just over a month old and needs help with fundraising, social media/promotion, finding pet service businesses to partner up with, copyrighting, accounting, among other areas. If anyone is looking to help or have ideas to share, please email firstname.lastname@example.org and keep up to date on Facebook.
Donations are being accepted online or you can pre-order a 2015 calendar starring Bialy online (and add your own pet). There is also a God Loves a Terrier fundraiser slated for Sunday, August 24 from 1 to 4 at Archie’s Rockwell Tavern. The event is free and the movie Best in Show will be shown. There will be a raffle, auction and more. There will also be a wish list drive for the animals rescued by CARF.
And, as Bialy runs free along the rainbow bridge, more pets will be getting the second chance to do the same on earth...to run free to a forever home with the loving family they all deserve.
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