Dog Rescue Stories: Calista’s Eyes Were Begging for Help

By Jarissa Aquinde, Positively Woof Rescue and Adoption Story Editor

calista-featured

In July 2013, Calista was found by a police officer wandering the streets of Phoenix. She was so cautious that he thought she was blind. He brought her to the county shelter and the staff immediately began networking. They posted her picture on Facebook and contacted Mayday Pit Bull Rescue & Advocacy. Mayday was on a moratorium and they were not taking in new dogs, but something about Calista moved them. They reached out to Calista’s (now adoptive) parents and asked if they would be willing to foster. At this time, they were grieving the loss of their first dog to cancer, who died June 10, 2013. They were also trying to support their other dog, who was exhibiting depression following the loss of his sister. They didn’t intend on taking in another dog, but something about Calista was special. They immediately agreed, before seeing her photos. Then they saw her pictures. They were in disbelief. She was in such bad condition that they were surprised she was living, but her eyes were begging for help.calista-before-collage-1

The next morning, she was picked up from county and brought to the amazing emergency veterinarians at VetMED. She was not doing well at all. Her ears were severely damaged and the remaining tissue was infected and decaying. The wounds to her ears looked like bite wounds and her body was covered in old scars. She was also emaciated and dehydrated and had likely been like this for a while. Her body was covered in ticks and she tested positive for nearly every tick borne disease including, ehrlichia, babesia, and anaplasma. Given her external wounds, and her internal diseases, the veterinarians suggested that she was likely bred and used in dog fighting. She needed a blood transfusion, multiple surgeries to clean and debride her ears, and lots of medicine.calista-before

Seeing her for the first time was gut wrenching. She smelled like death, a smell so strong it filled the entire room. You could see every bone in her body and she was so dirty that her hair appeared brown. Her eyes were terrified, but relieved. Calista’s foster pawrents were outraged when the vet informed them it took weeks or months for her health to deteriorate like this. They became even more angry when they were told that she was most likely used in dog fighting. How could someone allow or create this? What was wrong with people? Then they looked in her eyes. She lay on that table with the vet’s hand on her side and she was not angry. She looked terrified, but relieved. How could they be angry when this little girl was forgiving? They promised her that night that they would show the same courage she did. That they would find a way to move past their anger, forgive, and begin to teach at every possible opportunity.
calista-2
The first night was the scariest. The odds of her survival were slim and Calista’s foster parents wanted to give her a name before they left, just in case she didn’t make it. Despite her horrifying appearance, her beautiful spirit shined through her eyes. They wanted her name to capture her soul, so they chose the name Calista, which means “most beautiful.” Fortunately, she made it through the first night, and the nights after that! Initially, she was scared of everything, including jingling keys and even food. Calista’s foster parents visited her at least once every day for bonding and slowly, she began to trust the people around her. She was so scared that the first few days they did not touch her much, just occasionally rubbing the bridge of her nose. They were careful to respect her process and not overwhelm her. She began eating, but they still kept any jingling items outside of her room. After a few days, she slowly crawled out of her kennel and picked her head up to give her foster Mom a small kiss. It is impossible to describe that moment in words. It was as though she was telling them she was ready to trust again and that she knew we were different from those that harmed her.

calista-sleeping

After she was stable, she came home with her foster parents. She had to be quarantined for a little while, but they took turns spending time with her in her room and even set up a camera so they could watch her while she slept without waking her. She was allowed to go outside, but exhibited fear, especially at night. Remarkably, she would look to her foster parents for reassurance and if they told her it was okay and allowed her space, she would explore.calista-collage-1

Eventually, she was allowed to meet her big brother, Zazu, and spend time in the rest of the house! Considering what she went through, they took the introduction very slow and she did amazing! Although she was on her way to becoming a healthy dog, she was still making regular trips to see her friends at VetMED and Mayday continued to fundraise for her medical costs. Other groups shared her story too, like the Anti-Dog Fighting Campaign and Hendrick & Co., the latter of which sold t-shirts to support her medical costs. People from all over contributed to her care and because of them, she is here today.calista-and-zazu-1

These days, her life in her forever home is awesome. Her hearing is intact and she is off all medications. She loves pretty much everything she does. Her favorite things are sleeping on the couch, giving kisses, playing with toys, long walks anywhere, eating anything possible, and snuggling on top of whoever (2- or 4-legged) is near. She always wags her tail, even when disobeying or pretending she cannot hear whatever command or instruction she is being given. Now that people have realized  that her furever mom is not chopping onions in the background of their videos, she has become known for her “tail drumming” on social media. She is honestly one of the happiest dogs her mom has ever known. She has also participated in a number of fundraisers and outreach/educational activities. She also became a therapy dog while they were in Arizona.calista-seal

She loves people and most other dogs, but her best friend is her brother Zazu. He lays with her when she is scared and played a considerable role in her emotional recovery. Not only did he help her, but Calista helped him, too. After the loss of their first dog, Zazu became depressed and stopped taking treats when his parents left for work. The first day Calista moved into the dog room was the first day Zazu took a treat again.calista-zazu-3

Follow Brave and Beautiful Calista on Instagram @calistathepitbull

>>Click to Discover more Pit Bull Awareness & Pet Rescue Stories

“Ermegerdddd Dad bathed me and forgot the towel!!! Patience is not one of my virtues especially when I’m wet!!”-Calista

A video posted by Calista the Pit Bull (@calistathepitbull) on

I am not someone else. I am Calista. Don’t judge me based on the behavior of others. To do so, would be the same as me assuming that because you are human, you will hurt me. It is not your fault, you have had your own experiences and been fed terrifying misinformation by the media, but it is your choice. You can choose to see me for who I am, or you can choose to see through a colored lens that distorts reality. I made my choice and I chose to see you for you, despite being hurt by humans. Can you make that same choice? If you see clearly then this is what you should find….I am a dog. I am loving, gentle, predictable, caring, courageous, protective, curious, and resilient and if you see anything else, its because you are still wearing those glasses that prohibit you from seeing me. Take a closer look because I am not someone else. I am Calista. It’s time you see me for me. ❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️ #educate #advocate #foster #adopt #donate #speakup #bethevoice #bethedifference #openyoureyes #livethroughlove #notthroughfear #bebrave #bekind #andseethetruth

A photo posted by Calista the Pit Bull (@calistathepitbull) on

A not so perfect picture, for a not so perfect post—-I love my dogs unconditionally, but they are not perfect. They still have lots to learn and will always have areas for growth. Some of those areas are minor and some are what we consider major. Each dog is different and no dog is perfect. Yet, as a result of the horrible misconceptions, discrimination, and stereotyping of pit bull-type dogs there is a unique pressure on pibble parents to have the perfect breed ambassador. On the one hand, that’s fantastic. Teaching our dogs is critical to their health and well being. It also supports the mission of advocacy. Yet, when parents feel so much pressure that they start to assume misbehavior is indicative of their failure (which only adds a layer of stress to training that your dog feels), or they return a dog because that dog is not the perfect ambassador they expected, then I think we have missed the mark. Social media is an amazing outlet and as we saw yesterday the positive impact it can have is profound and literally life saving; however, I want to make sure we remember it is media. I try to share my dogs misbehaving but to be honest, if they are misbehaving, I’m usually not filming I’m teaching. We teach a lot in our home and frankly, they teach us a lot too. We are constantly learning new ways to enrich their lives and support them in being happy healthy pets and wonderful breed ambassadors. They are constantly challenging us and urging us to find new ways to help them succeed. The fact that my dogs don’t always behave doesn’t make them bad ambassadors…it makes them normal dogs! ❤️❤️❤️ #imnotjustapibble #imadog #imnotperfect #imperfectlyimperfect #andiwouldnthaveitanyotherway #pitbullweek #nationaldogday

A photo posted by Calista the Pit Bull (@calistathepitbull) on

Proper POW positivelywoof_belowcontent
Larry Kay is the award-winning coauthor of Training the Best Dog Ever, which became a #1 best seller in dog training on Amazon Kindle. He is Leader of the Pack at Positively Woof, which helps shelter dogs get adopted by making videos and raises awareness and funds. Larry is an award-winning dog filmmaker and has been a frequent contributor to the American Animal Hospital Association and Dog Fancy magazine.