Only five short months ago, 10-year-old American Pit Bull Terrier mix Arwen spent her days curled up in a makeshift dog run in the Mojave Desert, three hours outside of the city of Los Angeles. There she languished alongside 88 other dogs, all of them victims of a horrific hoarding situation.
With no shelter to protect her from the elements, Arwen was vulnerable to the often-brutal weather conditions in the Mojave. Left to freeze all night in the harsh desert winters and swelter all day in the blistering heat of Mojave summers, the exposure took a huge toll on Arwen’s health. Wind, sun, and sand had left Arwen with red eyes so infected and inflamed she was nearly blind and in constant pain.
Had Arwen and the 88 other dogs lived in another location, law enforcement could have stepped in immediately and removed the animals from the hoarder’s property — but the land in the Mojave is unincorporated, making the actions of the owner technically legal, so there was little authorities could do but watch and wait. Many of the dogs, like Arwen, were in bad shape, and would likely die without some sort of intervention.
Los Angeles-area animal rescue organization Karma Rescue was finally called in to assist when the hoarder decided she could no longer care for the 89 dogs on her property. Karma volunteers arrived on scene in the dead of winter, a light snow falling over the dogs in their runs. A quick look around revealed the dogs were living in deplorable conditions, with little clean water to drink, and only scattered, waste-covered kibble to eat.
The rescue operation would be a daunting one. Until Karma Rescue could gather together enough resources to pull these dogs and place them in foster homes, volunteers constructed temporary doghouses to provide shelter and brought in clean water and food.
Interacting with the undersocialized dogs proved to be a challenge — most dogs were very shy around people, and hesitant to leave their pens. Arwen was among the most frightened.
When it came time to remove the 89 dogs from the hoarder’s property, a Karma Rescue volunteer named Alex offered to provide transport for Arwen. While Alex originally planned to take Arwen to a boarding facility with some of the other rescued dogs, she knew soon after meeting the shy Pittie mix that the best place for Arwen was at Alex’s home. But Arwen, whose eyes were bloodshot and bulging from their sockets, would need a little extra TLC — and a good veterinarian.
An examination by the vet revealed Arwen’s eye condition was much worse than Alex initially thought. During a much-needed eye surgery, inflamed tissue the size of cherries was removed from Arwen’s swollen eyes.
The veterinarian also discovered that Arwen was missing most of her teeth, likely from years of trying to chew through the chain link fence of her makeshift desert pen.
“Her body was deteriorating,” Alex says of Arwen. “Had Karma Rescue not intervened and provided medical assistance I’m sure she would either be dead or in constant pain.”
When Alex first brought Arwen home, the shy dog struggled to adjust to her new life.
“She had some behaviors that were very typical of dogs that have been unsocialized, in confinement, neglected,” Alex explains. “She walked in circles constantly. She would walk back, and forth.”
Arwen also had to bond with Alex’s other dog, a Pit Bull Terrier named Keiko. Luckily, Keiko proved to be a supportive brother. With Keiko’s encouragement, Arwen’s confidence blossomed, Alex explains, and Arwen became the dog she was always meant to be.
“Animals like Arwen, they really do make a full recovery,” says Alex. “She doesn’t bear any grudge against people. She really, really loves being around people even though they were so bad to her to begin with.”
“I thought I had had good dogs before but now I know what a perfect dog is,” Alex adds.