By Starrla Cray
LESTER PRAIRIE, MN When Kay and George Moran of Lester Prairie first adopted Dixie, she was trembling from head to toe, with the saddest little eyes one could imagine.
It was clear that Dixie, a beautiful brown and white cocker spaniel (parti-spaniel), had suffered during her nine years at a puppy mill in Iowa.
“Dixie had spent all her life being a puppy mill momma having litter after litter of puppies who were then taken away from her and sold,” Kay said. “She lived in a cage no larger than a bed, and was never let out to experience anything on her own.”
As a result, Dixie became helpless and dependent, terrified of “everything and everyone.”
The Morans saw potential in Dixie, however, and through intense patience, love, and determination, they’ve given Dixie a second chance at life.
“After nine years, the puppy mill owner released her to a vet in Iowa, who then sent her to the cocker spaniel rescue group in Hudson, where we adopted her from,” Kay said.
Kay first saw Dixie on the rescue group’s web site, www.cockerspanielresources.org.
“I saw her picture on the web site and fell in love with her,” she said.
The Morans’ previous cocker spaniel had just died, and they were looking for another dog to love. When they brought Dixie home, the Morans were in for a bigger challenge than they’d anticipated, however.
“We had gotten other homeless dogs, but they weren’t traumatized to that point,” Kay said. “You have to have a tremendous amount of patience.”
At first, it felt like “two steps forward, one step back,” according to Kay.
“If we dropped something, she’d just take off,” she said.
For months, Dixie was even afraid of the noise that the doggie door flap made.
“She’s just a sweetheart, but terrified of everything,” Kay said. “She sits and shakes when other people are here.”
Dixie has a bed she goes to as her “safe place” when company is around.
Lost and afraid
Before the Morans adopted Dixie, the cocker spaniel rescue group placed Dixie in a foster home in Rochester.
Somehow, she had become startled and escaped from the foster home in November of 2008. Dixie, who was debarked while at the puppy mill, was unable to let anyone know where she was. Dixie was eventually found in a cave, but no one could coax her out.
“She survived on leaves, dirt, and snow,” Kay said.
Eventually, Dixie fell into a window well at St. Francis of Assisi Sanctuary, where maintenance men found her and called the phone number on her tag. Coincidentally, St. Francis is the patron saint of animals, Kay said.
“The people at the cocker rescue call Dixie their little miracle,” Kay said.
Safe and sound
The Morans have had Dixie for about a year now, and she is definitely making progress.
“She’s afraid of men, so I had to be very careful around her,” George said. “Slowly but surely, she’s warmed up to me.”
People are amazed at how far Dixie has come, Kay said.
It took nearly three months before Dixie acknowledged Kay’s voice with a tail wag.
“The smallest things can become the biggest accomplishment,” Kay said. “Like learning to go up and down the steps, letting us pet and hug her, learning what treats are, realizing she can eat her food without looking over her shoulder, running free in the yard, and probably the biggest thing is learning that no one is going to hurt her.”
Kay said that having Dixie has been an extremely rewarding experience.
“I would do it again,” she said. “I think you learn a lot about yourself, too.”
Kay said that Dixie is a sweet, curious dog that has been well worth her countless hours of effort. Dixie now has a yard to play in, and “prances around like a little horse” when she’s happy. She’s also started to beg for treats, and is “spoiled,” according to Kay.
“When she starts wagging her little tail, it just tears at your heartstrings,” Kay said.
“She’s had a hard life, and she deserves any comfort we can give her,” George said. “We’re trying to erase the hardship from her memory.”
To learn more about Cocker Spaniel Resources, Inc., go to www.cockerspanielresources.org.