by Pat Bozzo
Though presently retired, I have been a full time volunteer with Shelter Animal Rescue, mostly dogs, for 30 years.
About ten years ago I received a call from a local Animal Control Vet. I was asked if I could help find a rescue for a nine year old Pure Bred Yorkshire Terrior.
The owner of the dog had used him as a "stud" for her Breeder/Show Dogs. The woman was replacing Nikki as he was "too old for breeding...". This little guy was in danger of euthanasia as he had failed the temperment test, and because he had been relinquished by his owner, he had only two days to either be rescued or die.
The Shelter Vet saw the potential for Nikki to be "a dear little lap dog..perhaps for a senior".
However, there were some problems. Nikki had not been socialized,or housebroken. In fact, little Nikki had never been inside a home. He had spent his entire life living alone on an outside cement patio. He was extremely depressed, and hid in a corner of his cage at the shelter shivering and staring as though in shock.
When I heard Nikki's sad story I couldn't say no, and when I went to pick him up from the Animal Control I was shocked to see such a beautiful little dog. It was baffeling to see this georgeous little dog with a long luxurious coat, but foul smelling mouth full of rotten teeth.
Once we had Nikki's bad teeth pulled, his gum infection cleared up, had him neutered, nails trimmed and vaccinations updated I thought it would be very simple to place him into a loving home. I was so very wrong.
We had many obstacles to overcome... When I brought him home, he hid and would not come out from under a table, or under the sofa, the bed... So Nikki became my constant companion. I spent many hours with him on my lap watching TV, or reading a book. I found I had to carry him everywhere or once down on the floor, he would scoot into a hiding place.
When I brought him outside he would go poddy and then the hiding would begin all over again. Eventually he realized I was his friend and would follow me around the patio outside, but not on the grass. When inside he would follow me on the linoleum, but not the carpet. I guess I too would be afaid to step on grass or carpet if I had spent the first nine years of my life living on cold, hard, cement.
One of the saddest things I encountered was Nikki's fear of the brush. Though he came to me impecably groomed, he refused to be still when I even placed a brush near him. Just the sight of a brush would cause him to scream and squirm and run in terror. I thought a professional groomer would be able to advise me as to how to groom him without this terror, but the groomer too was shocked. She said it was the worst case of fear of grooming that she had ever seen. Poor Nikki, his owner must have brushed him to show him off as a "Stud", without caring how he felt about it. Those groomings must have been extreemly painful. I knew without grooming that luxurious coat would soon be tangeled so I decided to help the little guy out and had his coat clipped into a puppy clip. It was amazing! Nikki came alive! He seemed to know he didn't need brushing, as much as before, and little by little, every day, I would gently touch his back, or his feet, or head with a little soft brush until Nikki eventually allowed he me to gently brush his soft puppy hairdo.
Another sad thing was Nikki standing outside at the patio door refusing to come into the house....nothing I would do to entice him to come inside worked. Our other dogs would trample over him to get inside, but I would have to go outside and pick him up and bring him into the house. Eventually, little bits of cheese and lots of gentle encouraging words brought him inside...and once inside he soon began to blossom into a real little Yorkie.
On weekends I would bring Nikki to Mobile Adoptions to socialize him and show him to the public. I took many applications for his adoption, but after interviews it was evident to me that few people would be able to cope with his continued housebreaking, and socialization needs. I also found too many people wanted his coat to grow out ..so they could show him off. I quickly learned which people would accept him as he was, and were willing to continue to work with him as I was doing.
Eventually, I found what seemed to be a perfect home. Nikki seemed to relax with the single mother, her 7 year old daughter, and their little poodle. I placed him with them on a trial basis for a few days. Sadly, I received a tearful phone call the next morning, "He is so sad. He won't come out from under the table. He howled all night." When I went to the womans home, I didn't even have to call his name. She said, "He knew it was you walking up to the front door. He peeked his little head out from under the chair and when he heard your voice he came running out..."
Not only did he come out from hiding, for the first time since I rescued him, he came racing to me as if he was MY LITTLE DOG! It was at that point I realized I could not part with him anymore than he from me.
Nikki is still my husband and my little buddy. He is 19 years old and still lively. He eventually discovered it was safe to come inside the house...we have a doggie door when he was stronger he would go through it. Now I have to remind him to go outside several times a day. Not a problem.
Though he has cataracs and very few teeth, he still navigates the house and yard without problem, and he still eats dry kibble. He loves his baths, and eventually learned that brushing feels good. He has never been happy about nail clip days, but tolerates it. He gets along well with our five other dogs..all rescues of coarse..an assortment of breeds.
Nikki loves his treats and shares pieces of apple with my husband daily. He is no longer shy. Everyone who sees him loves his bubbly personality..especially his very wiggly little tail.
Once secure, he became a normal little Yorkie watch dog. He has only once shown aggression. The first time he met our son was when our son walked into the house on his own. Nikki took off after him and with his little toothless jaws and clamped onto his pant leg. That was the first and last time he has done that...but he still barks at our son.
We have loved every moment with our little Nikki. He was supposely too old (a senior at nine) and had too many special needs to be adoptable. How fortunate for us! He has been one of the sweetest dogs we've had and continues to be a treasure.
In rescue, I've encountered too many people who want "a puppy, or a young dog under three years old". How sad for them....and a joy to those of us who see the blessing a senior dog can be.
I believe we truly lucked out with our little Yorkie fella. His personality, is exactly what the books describe of the breed.
A perfect little lover and a mightly little mite.