The auction advertisement identified her as dog number 194. She would be in heat soon, the ad said, and she had produced 49 puppies in her last five litters. A good mom, but shy.
Just a number who could produce more numbers. Litters, puppies, profits.
Her name was Harley Beth.
Harley Beth was shy for a reason. She had spent her entire five-year life as a commercial breeding dog. Her likely fate at the auction was to become the property of another breeder and face several more years of forced puppy production. But luckily for Harley Beth, a team from Retrieve a Golden of the Midwest was at the auction, in partnership with Friends of Flicka. Their hope was to free Harley Beth and nine other dogs from life in a cage.
No longer known as “194” – Beth takes her first steps of freedom.
Thankfully, each of the dogs was rescued and Harley Beth began a new life. She was welcomed into the home and loving embrace of an experienced volunteer foster dad, Kelly, who specialized in rehabilitating severely traumatized dogs. Kelly had a gentle touch and we hoped Harley Beth would begin to thrive in his care.
It didn’t come easy. Harley Beth was overwhelmed with fear. She had never known the kindness of humans and was extremely slow to trust. She spent much of her time in her kennel, where she felt safe, but she enjoyed being outside with Kelly’s other dogs if Kelly kept a safe distance away. It was obvious that human contact was very scary for Harley Beth. Kelly had previously faced many challenges with shy and fearful dogs, but he had never seen one as traumatized as Harley Beth. Kelly knew it would take tremendous amounts of patience and time to soothe her fears.
• • •
So many angels made Harley Beth’s rescue possible—funders, volunteers, her foster dad Kelly—but there was another angel who was about to enter her life: Michelle, a potential adopter who was seeking a new friend and requested a visit. Kelly had been hesitant to adopt out Harley Beth too quickly, but she let him know they’d found the right match when she shyly went beside Michelle and licked her hand – quite a sign from a dog who was terrified of humans.
Michelle took Harley Beth home to begin a heartwarming new chapter in her life.
For the first time Harley Beth had a permanent home and a family, which included another dog, Cooper, who immediately set her at ease. Michelle gave Harley Beth a new name, Skylar, to reinforce to her that she was no longer a puppy mill dog. But Skylar was still a timid and fearful dog, hardly sleeping for the first month, and constantly monitoring her surroundings.
Michelle tried to ease Skylar into her new life. Skylar established safe spots in the house and Michelle provided patience, space, and consistent daily routines so Skylar would know what to expect. Michelle always moved slowly and gently, knowing sudden movements would frighten her distressed dog. Observing a few months after her adoption, she knew Skylar still had a long road ahead. “She does not trust me yet, but she wants to,” Michelle said at the time. “When she goes outside, she checks to make sure I am looking. Some days she’s comfortable enough to eat when I am in the kitchen, but sometimes not. Every day is different.”
Gradually, Michelle saw positive and encouraging changes. Skylar started showing excitement when Michelle returned home from work. She began to run around outside, head high and tail wagging, tracking the scent of rabbits and squirrels. She bonded with Cooper and a new puppy who joined the family, and she gained confidence helping Michelle care for the little pup.
A year and a half later, Skylar’s progress is slow but steady. She gets stressed by any change in routine, new visitors to the house, car rides, and new places. Vet appointments are exhausting. “My belief is that Skylar was a very spirited dog,” Michelle explains. “And when they kept her caged and used her over and over, they took everything she had until they broke her.”
But as scared as she is at times, Skylar is conquering some of her fears, too. Recently, Michelle woke up in the night and was stunned to see Skylar sleeping right outside the bedroom, which meant Skylar had overcome two fears: first, leaving her security spot behind the downstairs couch; and second, walking up a flight of stairs. Clearly, she wanted to be by Michelle.
Michelle believed adding Skylar to her life would be challenging but knew in her heart it was the right thing to do. Seeing her progress, emboldened with patience, encouragement and love, is rewarding to all, as Skylar gradually reveals more of her trusting, loving, playful, and mischievous spirit.
And then there are the special, magical moments when Skylar looks at Michelle with a shy, gentle joy, expressing gratitude for her new life, assuring her mom that her sweet soul is healing.
“I was never aware of Friends of Flicka before but they have changed my life,” Michelle wrote. “I am so grateful to have this special girl in my life. I am determined to help Skylar know what it is like to be a normal dog, and to trust human touch. The other day Skylar was outside and when I looked out she was playing and carefree, like a normal dog. My hope is that soon she can experience that kind of carefree joy every moment of every day.”