“Rescue” isn’t something that just happens in a day – it’s a process. In some cases, it can go very slowly. It’s at those times that rescuers live for the little moments. The first time a pup will take a treat from their hand. The first wag of a tail. The first time they will greet you instead of hide when you walk in the door. It’s these little, blink-and-you’ll-miss-it moments that lets a human rescuer know that they’re on the right track. That the pup they’re devoting their time and attention to is responding. And every little bit counts.
Homer is one of these hard cases, but it really isn’t his fault.
Camp Golden Years in Tehachapi, California is a joint project between Marley’s Mutts and the Vet Friends Foundation. Together, their goal is to get more senior dogs rescued by giving them a place to transition from shelter to forever home. The “recruits” at Camp Golden Years are old and grey, but they don’t pass up a pet in need – like Homer.
Homer had been roughing it on the streets for months when he was found and taken in by Camp Golden Years. Wherever he was before, he had been tethered, and had somehow gotten the cord wrapped around his waist. It had been there so long and so tightly, that it was embedded into his skin and cut off some circulation. A sensitive soul, sweet Homer had forgotten what it was like to be a pet – if he had ever truly been one – and had become feral to survive.
Joel Rockey with Camp Golden Years knew that the camp wasn’t really equipped to give Homer the help he needed, but he wouldn’t see him turned away. So Joel reached out to Rocky Kanaka for help with Homer. Rocky is passionate about pets and has used his talents to help give shelter dogs a voice and bring awareness to animal rescue.
Rocky’s family had just been shaken by extreme misfortune, having recently lost a family member. Seeing the sad photo of Homer, he felt that helping this little pup through his pain would bring some healing to him and his family, too.
“When I saw the picture of Homer, I knew I had to do something. And I don’t always get this personal, because I really try to keep it about the dogs, but recently our family has gone through tragedy.
“In my experience giving back, especially with a dog, can help heal.”
Homer had been in physical pain for at least weeks, with the tether around his waist getting tighter and tighter. The emotional pain was even deeper. Homer was terrified of humans, and though several people tried to help catch him and free him from the cord, he wouldn’t allow anyone to get close to him.
When Rocky met with Homer he saw the bruised soul behind the broken little pup, and an eagerness to love even through the fear. On a leash, Homer would “pancake,” laying splayed out as low as possible on the ground, refusing to be led anywhere. Patient as ever, Rocky would just sit, holding the leash and waiting for Homer to make his move.
“Homer is scared, and rightfully so. He has no reasons to trust humans. And so it’s going to be a journey. It could take weeks and months, even to show him that he can trust again. And I know he wants to. There’s a curiosity in his eyes.”
With high hopes for Homer, Rocky and his wife, Kelly, agreed to foster him. The road to physical and emotional recovery would be long, but his devoted foster family was determined to help him find his way.
Rocky and Kelly are experienced with fostering dogs who need a little extra love. The two recently fostered a dog who was rescued from a hoarding situation along with 159 other pups. She didn’t have a name, she didn’t know how to trust, and she needed a lot of time to come around.
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Rocky and Kelly named her Blossom, gave her all the time she needed to love again, and when the time finally came, helped her find her forever home.
Homer was in good hands! They also had their “secret weapon,” Flip, a senior Boxer who loves other dogs.
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The first few days in the Kanaka’s home were difficult. Homer was terrified. He was reluctant to come out of the corner of his kennel, where he had tried to hide himself. He would freeze and shake instead of wandering around like a curious pup. It broke Rocky and Kelly’s hearts when they realized that he had no idea how to use stairs.
But they had an endless supply of patience and so much love to give him. They only had to wait for him to come around.
“For the next month we let Homer observe and interact only when he wanted to, everything was on his terms. Little by little. Quiet days.”
Homer needed surgery to repair the damage done by the cord that had been wrapped around his waist. They gave him the support he needed, and tried to relieve some of the fear he had going in, and gave him the space he needed after to rest and recover. Homer opened up a little more after his procedure. Rocky shared an update, having learned where some of Homer’s favorite spots to be scratched are!
“I think that the healing process is gonna go really good. He’s open to love. There are signs of progress.
“He has his good days and his bad days.”
Rocky and Kelly celebrated the little victories. There were the days that Homer would wander outside on his own. They learned that he was a big fan of treats, and Rocky excitedly shared video of Homer eating snacks from his hand – and then trying to steal the bag while his back was turned!
There were some bumps in the road. Homer spent the 4th of July holiday shaking in fear. With few other options, Kelly spent a lot of time carrying him like a baby and soothing him.
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