Oklahoma Volunteers Save Stray Dog
YUKON, Oklahoma - This Thanksgiving, one family in an Oklahoma City suburb is grateful for a new member of the family, and she is equally grateful to have a new home. Because if not for a lot of people with big hearts, the young girl would probably have spent the holiday at a truck stop.
The Love's truck stop at I-35 and NW 122nd -- that's where "Roxy" had been living.
"I met Roxy when I was driving to work one day about a year and a half ago," said Susanna Della Maddalena. "It was nine degrees outside, she was shivering."
Della Maddalena had only recently moved to Oklahoma City and, as the new president of the Central Oklahoma Humane society, she was drawn to Roxy, a stray Pit Bull mix, and became determined to rescue her. In fact, she spent the next nine months trying to coax her to into a safer environment.
"I would try to throw little bits of hot dog to get her to come closer to me," Della Maddalena recalled. "I would get down on my knees and turn sideways to be less scary."
Roxy would never let Della Maddalena get closer than three or four feet. Nor would she let any of the many others who, it turned out, were also feeding her get close enough to catch her.
"She had a whole community of people who really wanted to get her off the street," Della Maddalena explained. "And so I called our friends over at the Animal Welfare division to ask if they would help us dart her to catch her."
On July 22, 2016, Roxy was successfully darted, and was then taken to the city shelter for the mandatory three days of "stray hold." Della Maddalena then formally adopted her and put her rescue plan in motion.
At Della Maddalena's direction, Roxy was taken in by K-9 University, a dog obedience and training center in northwest Oklahoma City; she was placed in the care of trainer Holly Toy.
"We've just started some obedience with her, and it's a little bit of a slow road with her," said Toy, when we first checked in on Roxy in late September,
Roxy remained timid around most people, and there was concern that it might prove impossible to get her ready for adoption.
All who had come in contact with Roxy, including the experts at K9 University, were certain that aggression was not a problem with her -- she was definitely a sweet dog.
"She's pretty level-headed," said K9 University owner Angel Soriano, "however, she does have extreme fear, and that obviously is something she picked up in the streets."
But the K9U team soon made what turned out to be a critical discovery: Roxy did not fear other dogs.
"That was the moment that she seemed to really start coming out of her shell and feeling more comfortable," said Toy, describing the time when they decided to let Roxy interact with another one of their dogs.
It was a sight that brought smiles, and kept Della Maddalena's plan alive
"Our hope was that we would be able to socialize her," said Della Maddalena. "And ultimately that I would keep her or that I would find a good home for her."
Roxy's interaction with other dogs, Toy says, seemed to help her become more comfortable around humans. In particular, Roxy became very comfortable with her trainer.
"I have decided to go ahead and adopt her," Toy told us the next time we visited, in October,
Midway through the training, Toy says she started bringing Roxy home with her, thinking that would help with her socialization. It certainly worked, because, in the process, she became part of Toy's family of two boys and three other dogs.
"She's done great here," Toy smiled. "She's the sweetest dog."
Della Maddalena also couldn't help but smile -- to think, she says, that a dog trainer who had never had an affinity for Pit Bulls was now giving thanks for one that had been scavenging, for years, at a truck stop.
"Ya know, it's a fairy tale story," Della Maddalena said. "I just think this is a very special dog."
Animal welfare leaders say, while Roxy may be a special case, the city shelter takes in strays all the time. It's a serious problem in Oklahoma City, and they urge pet owners to put a collar and tag on your dog, and have it spayed or neutered.