Hope for Christmas


guest columnist Jill Cahr, vice president of Trio Animal Foundation and a volunteer at Animal Welfare League’s Intake facility.


I met Hope today. Hope, a pointer mix, was brought into Animal Welfare League’s (AWL) Intake facility. She was shockingly emaciated with every rib prominently displayed through her skin and every single pointy vertebrae on her spine visible. Her waist measured mere inches although her legs and body were long. She stank of rotting flesh from the open wounds on her hind quarters caused by spending her life chained on a short leash, which allowed her to move only by turning on her rear end. She was starved, severely dehydrated and near death.

I was prepared to feel only anger and sorrow upon seeing Hope.

This dog, who arrived at the AWL Intake facility wasted and withered with bones literally sticking out of two large open wounds on her rear, was so happy, wiggly and filled with yearning for life that tears of joy instantly pooled in my eyes. I am honored that I was able to meet her and bask in her light. This sounds corny, I know, and I’m usually the first person to smirk at such exclamations. But, this dog truly moved me.

I cannot understand how this dog was not ruined by her life experience. The fact that she was not, moves me to tears even now. How can she be open to people? How can her tail wag? How can she muster the strength the stand up and then sit down despite her gaping wounds? The fact that she can do all these things is why, I believe, people are attracted to dogs.

Many of the people who work at AWL Intake have been there for years and
years and have seen thousands of abused animals. It’s no surprise that
they are emotionally tough and guarded. Who wouldn’t be when animal
after animal comes though the door all day? Hope, however, broke through
the barrier that people in difficult jobs often construct in order to
perform their duties. Seeing the effect this dog had on these people was
beautiful and moving.


Hope’s eyes are so bright and open. It’s no wonder that Diane Spyrka,
the shelter manager, who has worked at the facility for 37 years and has
witnessed gruesome and shocking animal abuse on a daily basis, knew
instinctively that Hope was special. Diane fervently believes that Hope
will ultimately recover. Diane correctly observed that “Hope is a
reminder of why we work here.”

The guys who clean cages, feed the animals and unload them from the
police vans and people that show up bearing unwanted animals day after
day were lingering in Hope’s living area to slip her treats, give her a
cuddle and keep her company. Hope touched them all. Not because of her
disturbing physical condition and history, but because of her invincible

Many people have said they can’t look at Hope or think about her because
her physical appearance is so dreadful or that it’s too depressing or
upsetting to know this sort of abuse happens. I admit, Diane forced me
to meet Hope. I am thankful that she did. I fed Hope meatballs, caressed
her head and chatted with her. Hope’s eyes, although dramatically
sunken in from malnourishment, sparkled and spoke volumes of forgiveness
and , well, hope. If this dog who has seen nothing but abuse can
forgive people and open her heart, I think I can too.

I know this dog will recover and live to inspire people. She has made me
rethink my routine declaration that “I hate people” every time I see an
animal mistreated, which is quite often when you spend time
volunteering in a shelter like I do. Watching everyone rally around Hope
and join together to mend her makes me think, I like people and that
perhaps I should focus on the wonderful things people can do.

Already, Hope has brought together three animal rescue groups and many
individuals. AWL Intake facility took her in off the street, gave her a
safe and loving place to begin her recovery, started her medical care
and gave her a chance, Parker’s Pets, a pet boutique in Hyde Park
donated premium food for Hope, Maureen C., a volunteer at South Suburban
Humane Society made special holistic fat balls to help Hope gain
weight, I brought blankets, Sue Naiden, the president of Trio Animal
Foundation publicized Hope and is sponsoring her medical care, and
Illinois Doberman Rescue Plus is giving Hope a home. The Rescue’s
president has taken Hope into her home and will provide 24/7 care and
nurse her back to health.

Diane, has renamed Hope, Spirit because that’s what she is full of and
it’s contagious. You can keep abreast of Spirit’s recovery on the Trio
Animal Foundation’s Facebook page.

The Trio Animal Foundation is a 501(c)(3) charitable organization that
assists shelters, rescues and individuals by paying the medical bills of
homeless pets.