A Heartwarming Tale in the Winter Cold

During a cold spell in Atlanta, Georgia, when the whole city shut down and no one could go out for a week, we rescued a dog.  For those of you who do not live in Atlanta – this was how crazy it got.  We only had about five inches of snow, but what made the roads so dangerous was the sheet of ice that developed on top of the snow from the freezing rain that fell afterwards.  With temperatures plummeting to below zero, the roads were like ice rinks and people that ventured out in their cars were risking their lives to do so.  With only eight snow plows for a city of five million people, the city shut down.  Conditions were so bad that every school closed for a week, which made for many happy children.  In a way the snow was a blessing because there was nothing to do except stay inside with family and enjoy the time together.  My daughter was overjoyed to be off school and we made the most of it, sledding, building snow men, and watching movies.  It was also a special time because a few days into the big freeze, Ben came into our lives.

I had heard through a friend of mine that a large, male, brindle-colored pit/mastiff mix was wandering around their neighborhood in the freezing cold.  He was thin and nervous and even though neighbors had been trying for a week to catch him, he would skulk away when approached and not let anyone get close to him.  Thankfully one of the neighbors had provided a bed for him on their back porch and was feeding him two large meals a day, but even with all this kindness, he resisted all attempts to be captured.  When the snow and ice fell and the temperatures plummeted to dangerous levels, the dog would stand shivering in the cold, too scared to go in a house or let anyone approach him.  The neighbors were worried that the cold would kill him.  He was still eating but did not look well and was limping from a foot injury. The snow and ice had closed down animal control so there was no one to help rescue him. Things were beginning to look very bleak.

Thankfully the area where the dog was located was not too far away, so I got in my car and drove carefully to the road where the dog had last been seen.  As I arrived I caught sight of him limping into the undergrowth, but as soon as I switched off my engine he was gone.  As I slid over to where he had been, trying desperately to keep myself upright on the ice, I saw a trail of blood going off into the trees.  His paw had obviously been damaged in some way, probably cut on the ice, which was so sharp and thick it was like walking on glass.

The homeowner who had been feeding the dog welcomed me into her house and showed me where he had been sleeping and eating.  He came every night and several times during the day to eat warm food and sleep on the comfortable, yet cold bed that the neighbor had put out on the floor of their outdoor porch.  As we were talking, I saw out of the corner of my eye a tall, gangly dog emerge from the woods and walk to the porch.  He was skin and bones and was obviously hungry.  He spied us looking at him through the window and barked at us as he backed away.  Armed with a bowl of warmed up cat food (I do not recommend feeding cat food to a dog, but it is one of the smells and tastes that dogs cannot resist and is therefore the best kind of food to use if you want to catch a stray), I went out onto the porch and waited.  I could see his nose twitch as he caught the smell of the food and slowly he edged towards me, never taking his eyes off me as he approached.  I stayed still and reached out my arm with the bowl extended towards him.  He came right up to the bowl and started eating suspiciously but as soon as I made even the slightest move, he darted away again.  This was going to take longer than I had first anticipated.

My friend Laura Janssen, Director of Animal Cruelty Investigations and Cruelty Prevention came to help me catch the dog armed with a humane trap that we set that up for the night.  Surely this would be the answer and we could put an end to his misery..   That night the temperature fell rapidly and none of us slept as we thought of the poor dog out in the cold, desperately trying to survive.  I did not relish the thought of turning up in the morning to find that he had frozen to death, but I did not know how he could possibly make it through another night of below freezing temperatures.

To our astonishment he was still there the next morning.  He had been much too smart to go into the trap, preferring to sleep on the outdoor chairs instead.  His breathing was labored and he had hardly eaten any of the food that had been left out for him that morning, but he was alive.  The neighbors had been keeping a constant vigil all night but we all knew that surviving another night was near impossible.  We had to catch him and do it fast because time was running out.

It was at this point that the vets stepped in.  Because he was proving so difficult to catch even in his condition, our vet (the wonderful Dr. Duffy Jones from Peachtree Hills Animal Hospital) recommended putting a sedative in his food to slow him down.  There was a chance that his adrenaline might counteract the medication, but at this point it was worth a try.  After he ate the food, we watched and waited.  Now this was definitely going to work.

Two hours later he was as wide awake as he had been before the sedative.  Arrgh!  The night was drawing in fast and we were running out of options.  Finally Dr. Jones suggested that he use a tranquilizer gun.  He warned me that because the dog was in such poor condition darting might seriously harm him, but what choice did we have?  The situation looked hopeless; we had run out of options.

Sometimes the most obvious answer that has been staring you in the face all day takes along time to make itself known!  The neighbors had told me that even though the stray wouldn’t come up to people, he would come up to their dogs, even when their dogs were being walked in the neighborhood.  He was obviously dog-friendly and trusted them much more than humans.  That was the answer.  Go out into the back yard with Laura’s female dog Georgie and play – surely this is what was missing.   At first the stray wanted nothing to do with the friendly black Lab that came bounding over to him, but then the most beautiful thing happened.  The dog started to relax.  As the veterinarians and I stood watching ready with the tranquilizer darts, the dog came up to Laura  and Georgie and started to interact with them. Slowly but surely Laura put her hand up to him and stroked his head. As he came closer he nuzzled his head into her hand and then leaned his body into hers.  With catchpole in hand she gently slipped the loop over his head.  He made no move to get away but looked at her instead as if to say, “I’m done – take me home.”

My daughter named the dog Ben and as we sat with him at the veterinarian he put his head into my lap and went to sleep.  Utterly exhausted from his adventure, Ben had finally come into the warmth for the first time in at least a week.

Ben now resides at a boarding facility where he has made many human and doggy friends.  The other day Laura and I took him onto a local morning TV show to do theadopt-a- pet segment, and Ben took to the cameras like the true star that he is.  Now we just have to find the right family for him and we know that they are out there.  I have no doubt that soon our gentle Ben, who survived against all the odds, will find his forever home.

Watch video of Ben here.


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50 thoughts on “A Heartwarming Tale in the Winter Cold

  1. Becky Kendall

    This story really got to me. For the life of me I cannot understand how people can treat animals the way they do sometimes. Ben is so lucky the doggie gardian angels were looking out for him. Thanks to everyone for the group effort that got him to where he could be helped.

  2. Gail

    I am so happy that this baby was taken out of the freezing cold
    if i lived there id take him in a heart beat.
    such a gorgeous dog i hope he gets a wonderful forever home xx

  3. Skye

    Well done! I don't think there much in life that is more satisfying
    than finally getting your hands on the lost one, whether it's your
    own missing family member or one in need of help. I applaud
    all that you did to save this fellow. Now it's time to celebrate
    a happy beginning for him.

  4. Wendy Lubbers

    I just got your email about Ben and I was reading it on the phone to my friend and we were both crying! I live in Hiram, GA and my dog could hardly traverse the ice because he would take a step and slide, so I had to go out and chop up the ice for him so he could pee and poop during that wicked week.

    I have rescued 7 cats (which all now live with me) and my friend, Mark, has rescued a dog and 3 cats. He called me one day last October to tell me that his dog, Jake (who found Mark's 3 cats too and brought them home) was whining at the door and tilting his head, so Mark opened the door and on his mat was a cat carrier! He brought it in the house and inside was a tiny little puppy who was scared to death and shaking and wouldn't come out. I went over to his apartment right away to see this little ophan and I got him to come out of the carrier. He was ADORABLE! About 8 weeks old and a Pit mix. Mark could not take him because he already had a 90 pound Jake and 3 cats in his small apartment, so I agreed to take him. I watch your show every day and I worked with him from day one. He had a severe heart murmur at the time, so I named him Cory (because "heart" in Spanish is Corazon). He grew out of his heart murmur and is now 6 months old and 58 pounds of love! I adore him, and he has even made friends with the 7 cats and, of course, Jake is his best friend and they play together almost every day. I already have a full house of babies, but I know that there is a loving family out there for Ben, and although the beginning of hs life has been so hard and frightening, I just know that from now on he will be loved and cared for like no other. Thank you so much for sharing your story of the rescue of Ben! I love your show and I thank you for teaching me how to train my best friend, Cory!

  5. Jo Solinski

    Thank you Victoria and all who helped "Ben" It's only 8 degrees today here and I am blessed with two mutts that are safe and warm inside with me. That said, both "my boys" could use your expertise. Wish you could come to Oklahoma City. Oklahoma does not have any " positive" trainers available here. I would very much like to help change that status. What can I do? God Bless You Victoria, Jo Solinski

  6. Linda Tehee

    I loved the story about Ben. He is such a beatiful dog and I pray he goes to a very good home.
    Thank you for saving him.

  7. Bethany

    Hello,
    its a great thing that you rescued that dog, and you made a huge diference in his life! thanks for (again) making this world a happier and helthier place to animals and humans!

  8. Heather Mott

    This was the best story I've heard in years. It's so nice to see so many decent people care for a dog most would be afraid of. He's beautiful and I hope he finds a good home soon. Have a wonderful day.

  9. CHRISSY GORDON

    Just want to say how heartwarming this story was and that the dog was able to be captured and that there are still caring people out there wanting nothing more then to help these dogs in any way possible.
    Thank you for being so kind and caring to these dogs.

  10. Debbie Lytle

    Victoria what a BEAUTIFUL story, I wish this could happen all the time, there are so many four legged girls and boys who need a good home where they can be loved and treated well, thank you for all you do for these four legged kids.
    We have three ( four legged ) girls that I would give my life for, there is nothing we would not do for them.

    Debbie

  11. Kristina

    Hi Victoria! I watch your show everyweek. As soon as I move to NC out of this no-dogs-policy condo in PA, I plan to adopt a pittie/mix. What a beautiful boy Ben is! I can only wish he finds his furever home soon. As I tell my former feral cats, at least you're warm, safe, & fed!
    Thank you Victoria for caring about dogs.
    Kristina

  12. Judi Wallace

    Do you still have Ben ? I soooooo love the animals and dogs , they are so dependant on us. I do not understand cruelty to these poor creatures that God has given us to love.

  13. DeLinda

    This is the best thing I've read in a LONG time. KUDOS to all of you that helped this poor dog get out of the cold. Reading this entry made me feel like I was right along with you, experiencing everything that you experienced. And what a wonderful happy ending... though I hope there is more to this story when Ben finds his fur-ever home. I'm sure whoever gets him will be very lucky. Thank you SO much Victoria, for sharing this rescue with us! 🙂

  14. Victoria

    I read this and it brought tears to my eyes. I love animals. I don't really like big dogs, but Ben's story was amazing to read. WOW!

    Victoria

  15. Dana Anderjack

    You have such a wonderful way with dogs Victoria 🙂 I love watching your show and seeing all the progress you make with dogs and their skin families. It warmed my heart to read this story. I hope Ben gets a family soon. I hope you will keep us posted and let us know when he gets adopted

  16. Kit

    Awwww what a sweet story. You are a wonderful woman Victoria, you and everyone that helped Ben Give him a nice belly rub or head scratch for me if he'll let you. ^^ Please keep us all posted on his forever home. An best of luck with your show, ~Kit

  17. Mrs. Robbin L. Perry

    Dear Victoria,

    I think it is truly wonderful that you captured and rescued Ben! Without all of the compassionate and caring efforts of the homeowner, Laura Jenssen, and you, Ben might have tragically died from hypothermia and that would have been very, very sad & tragic. Unfortunately, many people wouldn't have taken these efforts to save a pit bull mix because of the negative stereotype these dogs have and apathy. It's sad but an unfortunate truth. So, thank you for caring enough to rescue Ben! I realize that rescue work is extremely rewarding in itself (I've rescued dog & cats and a former bait dog just a couple of months ago) but I wanted to express how much I admire you and appreciate the efforts you took to save this beautiful pit bull/mastiff mix. I commend you all of the rescue & rehabilation work you've done, for dispelling many pit bull myths, and for educating the public about pit bulls! You have such a good heart; I only wish that there were more people, like you, in the world! If there were, the world would truly be a much better place for animals and people! I sincerely hope that Ben makes a full recovery as soon as heavenly possible and that he finds a new and forever home with the family he always deserved! With your efforts, I am fully convinced that he will! I hope & pray that Ben will get a happy, new beginning in the near future!

    Wishing you and Ben the best of luck!

    Sincerely,
    Mrs. Robbin L. Perry

  18. Charlotte Hamilton

    Thank you for your perserverence! Thank you, thank you, thank you ......

    The 4 Hamilton dogs (all rescues)

  19. Joan

    If only everyone would be as compassionate as those concerned neighbors where Ben showed up! Not to mention your perserverance on his behalf! Nothing is more rewarding than saving a life, no matter what or who it is.

  20. Rachel

    What a heart-warming story! Thank God you were there to help! I believe he will find his forever family very soon. What an amazing personality he has, to be so gently even though he was injured. Wish I could come get him! Please stay warm and keep being a voice for the dogs!

  21. Roseann Schwartz

    Dear Victoria,

    Thank you for sharing this wonderful story. It is a reminder that love is the most powerful "treat".

    I'd also like to thank you for providing viewers like me with your show, "It's Me Or The Dog". When I was eight months into a quickly debilitating physical condition, our collie, "Barnum" became very ill. We exhausted every avenue of assistance we could find to help him, but in the end, I held Barnum in my arms.

    It seemed to take a long time to get a diagnosis and during that time, I could barely take care of myself. I was no longer able to work; I missed my students who had Autism. I missed our two daughters who are now grown and on their own. My husband and I never would have gotten a dog so quickly after Barnum's passing, but, I sensed that what I needed was something/someone to care about and to care for. It was then that I received my diagnosis of Fibromyalgia.

    My husband and I selected a Golden Retriever puppy. We met the father and the mother to the puppies and we both fell in love with the one who had a Mohawk cowlick on the bridge of his face. We named him "Mo" and welcomed him into our family.

    I was always too busy to watch TV, but now I had evolved to having it turned on all day. I stumbled on to your show and felt inspired and motivated. Mo has grown into a wonderful companion. He recently turned two years old and during that time, I taught him some general commands and even how to help me with the laundry. Mo also knows how to pick things up that are too heavy for me, and how to remove quilts and sheets from our bed. Because of your show, I was able to teach him service skills that help make my life so much easier and Mo loves it because he gets to "Help Mommy".

    I truly believe that people come into our lives for a reason; when things got tough, my husband became my hero. When Mo came home with us, he gave me a reason to make it through all this pain. And then there is you. Thank you, Victoria!

    Best Wishes on your next show and know that I will be watching!
    Roseann Schwartz
    Mechanicsburg, PA

  22. Carla

    Oh dear, I have tears in my eyes, tears of happiness.
    |t doesn't matter how long I live, bt stories of human kindness
    always amazes me.
    Thank you all those wonderful people!

  23. Terri

    Thank you for taking the time and effort that you put into this rescue. There should be more people in the world like you. Thank you for all you do for the animals. I love your show.

    Terri

  24. andyspal

    Wonderful story. Lucky, lucky Ben! I hope he finds the home deserves. Kudod to you and Laura for your caring and perseverence.

  25. Michele Maldari

    Victoria, I have written before. We have the same problem here on Long Island. A stray that has been surviving only on the kidness of strangers. We cannot catch her. It is so sad to watch this exsistence for a beautiful dog and no one in our area will help. The winter here has been brutually harsh and I am amazed that she is still living. Please help.

    Michele Maldari

  26. alice cambron

    Victoria you are a blessing to so many animals, the story about Ben is a good tear jerker. I pray for animals they are wonderful creatures that God has given to us. God bless you and all the good you do for our fury friends.

  27. Janet

    Such a great story! I can't believe that someone won't jump right up and adopt this dog! Please keep us posted as to what happens to Gentle Ben. IIf I lived there I would take him in a heartbeat! In 2007 I rescued a 4 yr old pitbull/boxer mix and he was in terrible shape as well. He had over 300 ticks on him and about 50% were embedded in his skin. He was very, very thin and was wandering around at a convenience store. He had been living a very rough life, but he is our baby now along with 3 other dogs and 5 cats that we have rescued.. I just don't understand how anyone can just "throw away" an animal. With hard economic times as they are, so many are not able to care for their animals anymore, but to throw a dog out the window of a car is disgusting! Find another way. Talk to the local shelters. Put an ad on Craigslist. Thank you Victoria for your love and determination in not only helping this dog, but all the others that you rehabilitate on your show! I watch it all the time!! God Bless you for using your God given talent!
    They are all God's creatures....great and small.

  28. Daniella

    I have a dog and a horse of my own and amaganig them in a situatio like that brings teers to my eyes what a lucky dog to have survived XxxX

  29. Heidi Cardenas

    Victoria, thank you so much or all your work educating people about dogs. There is so much neglect and abuse that comes from simple ignorance and you give really good, easy to understand and straightforward information that people really need. I have always wondered why we have to get educated and pass a test for the privelege of driving but anyone can get any kind of animal without knowing one thing about it, and it leads to so much suffering for the poor animals. I think people should have to be certified to be pet owners and it would eliminate a lot of abuse and improve the quality of life for animals, especially dogs. Knowledge is key and the laws need to be changed to protect vulnerable animals and require responsible pet care. But until that happens, your work in the media reaches so many with important, necessary information about dogs.

  30. betty from ILL

    oh how wonderful you were able to get him before it was to late . what a super great story. so very happy Ben is now safe. he is a special boy. i have done several rescues myself but never had to resort to meds. a Huge thank you to you and the others who helped save this really great dog. he is such a pretty boy. and i hope he finds the forever home that is out there waiting for him very soon. ( i have am staffordshire terriers so this is very special to me )
    i was nice to hear you and be able to talk with you this fall at the APDT conference. love your training methods !!! i tell every one to watch your show and learn that training does not need to be harsh. Positive training is the only way to go.!!!
    thank you for what you have and continue to do for dogs. and please keep us posted on Ben. Just love his face. !!

  31. Brenda "BJ" Hutter

    Dear Victoria,
    I am a dog behaviorist in Montgomery, Alabama and loved your sweet story about Ben. I rescued a little Yorkie that was in the middle of a very busy street about a year ago. I also used one of my dogs to coax her over to me after several attempts had failed.
    She is now mine and walks with us daily, or should I say Yoda takes her for her walks...LOL God bless you for your wonderful services and teachings!

    In their service,
    BJ Hutter
    Canine Paws Abilities

  32. Pat Dravk

    Hi Victoria!

    Awesome story! Beautiful dog! WoofStiock in Harrisburg, Pa is planned for September 18 . I hope you'll consider joining us. Last time you were here, everyone eas so happy to get to meet you!

    Thanks for all you do for the animals!

    Pat Dravk
    Central Pa Animal Allaince

  33. Robyn

    I will gladly take this little boy as a forever home. What can I do to get him? Tell me, please, how to go about getting him. I have 3 pugs and a cat right now, but I do have room for one more. I've seen a lot of comments, and people seem to have a lot of excuses. I am not offering excuses. I am offering a forever home. Please contact me. He is beautiful. And there is a lot of love here for him. You can contact me at the above email or by phone. 717 930 0888

  34. Tom S

    I thank you for rescuing Ben. I ended up adopting him and loved every minute of having him with me. Sadly, he had a heavy heart worm infection and only made it through Dec '11 before it became too much for him. We took him to the vet and stayed with him until he completed his journey over the rainbow bridge. His short time with us was enough to ensure that he made a permanent mark, for the better, in my life.

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