On June 2 last year, John and I agreed to help RASP (Rescue A Shar Pei) a statewide organization based around Chicagoland and pull a black female Pei from Joliet Animal Control. Before we went to get her, we picked a Chinese name for her (as we had for our last). 黑珍珠 – pronounced Hei Zhenzhu translates to Black Pearl, regarded as the most valuable in Chinese culture. We call her Zhenzhu or Z for a simplified shorter name.
The pup had been picked up as stray near Joliet and had been at Animal Control for nearly a month. She either had to be pulled out or face her demise which we could not bear the thought of. Having had a Shar Pei in the past, they had reached out to us knowing we were without, but knew and understood the breed and could offer her the care she needed as foster
parents. We arrived at JTAC to retrieve her and were informed there had been an accidental crossing in a hallway with another aggressive dog and she was at the vet to get looked at. We arrived at the vet and asked to see her before surgery to find she was definitely in need of stitches! The entire right side of her face was torn loose and flapping off her body.
She was taken in to surgery and stitched up for us to pick her up several hours later. We arrived to a slightly groggy but much happier pup, got her in the car and headed off to the city with a face full of stitches.
Over the next 10 days of healing – while she seemed to be friendly and adjusted to John and myself, she was terrified of everything else. Going outside, leaving our bedroom any visitors to the house, literally, everything!
Seeing we how afraid she was of everything only led us to believe how horrific her past had been. The vets guessed her to be around 2 to 2.5 at the time we pulled her, and she had already been bred at least once. After talking to the vet and some others we are quite sure she was a breeding dog in a puppy mill, and she either managed to get loose or she was dumped before she was picked up as stray. She didn’t under stand treats or being rewarded and if we gave them to her, she would not eat them. The only time she would eat them was if they were by her food bowl, thinking it was just more food. She didn’t grasp the concept of toys or playing with them at all. She could go down stairs, but didn’t know how to walk up them. She cowered every time we came towards her. All of these things were small indicators of how horrific and rough her past must have been.
We officially became “Foster Failures” and adopted Zhenzhu in October 2012 knowing there was no way we could ever send her to another “Forever Home,” she was ours, and we were hers. Over the last year and a half, she has grown tremendously! After weeks of only leaving the bedroom to run to the stairwell and go outside, she finally built the courage to explore the 2nd bedroom as it was just steps away. This quickly became her new hideout during the day while we were gone. It was dark, and small room and quiet. After several weeks of trying different treats, we finally figured out lunch meat was the only thing she got excited about and she began to grasp the concept of being rewarded for doing good. Eventually we were able to use other treats as substitute for lunch meat and she understood why she was getting them.
Several mornings around August last year we woke up to find socks or underwear drug out of the closet and on the floor of the bedroom, one Saturday morning we used those to attempt to play with her after getting out of bed and she finally began to romp around and get excited about playing with a pair of underwear. Over the next several days we continued to try to play and work toys into the equation, which she slowly started to take hold of and enjoy.
Nearly a year and a half after taking her in, Zhenzhu still has a long ways to go, but she has come so far!! She now rules the house and loves to hang out in the living room or wherever we are at. She will even come out to greet guests in the living room as long as its only 1 or 2. Any more than that, and she still disappears to the bedroom as her safe haven. Walks have gotten much easier as noises don’t spook her as bad as they used to, but she’s still very alert and on edge every time we are out. After much coercing, she ventured on to the front patio and now loves to lay out there, watching the traffic, people walking by and taking in (or guarding) the neighborhood. The back patio off our bedroom might be her favorite spot! If the weather is nice, we open the door each morning while getting ready for work and she lays out there, watching people walk by in the alley, watching all the birds flutter around the power lines and is somewhat tormented by the squirrels on the wires – her nemesis! Stubborn, yes, typical of a Shar Pei very, do we love her? More than you can imagine!
Taking a rescue dog may take more work on your part as an owner, but it has been the most rewarding experience to watch her learn and grow and experience everything a dog should enjoy in life. I can’t imagine the hell she lived before being with us, but giving her a new lease on life has been amazing!! She loves playing, she loves her toys and she loves to be in our company.
Please, if you’re considering a new (or additional) pet – rescue or adopt! There are thousands of dogs and cats that are put down every day that need good homes and make amazing pets! There are certainly lots of “mutts” out there but if you want a specific breed of dog, there are rescue groups that focus on nearly every breed and you can still get a pure bred dog via a rescue organization. Many of them pull breeds from Animal Control when they come in, others pull them from bad breeders when they are shut down.