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Meet Lily - Rescued From Starvation, She Now Helps Alzheimer Patients

Alexandra Golaszewksa

Shelter dogs often fall victim to the old stereotype: If it's been returned, there must be something wrong with it. Mixed breeds can have a tough time finding a home because potential owners are unsure of exactly what they're getting, but when the rescue pup has bull terrier in its bloodline, the stigma can be even worse.

The truth is that many rescued mutts, regardless of their breed backgrounds, go on to become incredible pets that are sources of inspiration for their families and everyone they meet. (Benji, the canine movie star, was a mutt that brought happiness to millions.) In honor of National Mutt Day, which raises awareness and encourages adoptions from shelters, and to prove you should never underestimate a puppy with a checkered past, we want to tell you Lily's story.

Near Starvation
We know what you're thinking, but despite her strong build, Lily wasn't rescued from a dog fighting ring. Nor is she the least bit aggressive. This pup's sad story is one of severe neglect. In fact, when Lily was rescued by Pennsylvania SPCA officers, she was on her way to starvation, confined to a yard with two other dogs, including one that had died from lack of food.

Lily's rescue was featured on Discovery's "Animal Cops: Philadelphia" in an episode titled "Dead Dog Denial." As the story goes, Lily's neighbors noticed the dead dog and alerted authorities. Lily's owner claimed she knew nothing about the dead dog in her yard, her neighbors told officers a different story. After an autopsy concluded that Lily's brother had died of starvation, the woman was charged.

Meanwhile, Lily was taken in by PSPCA for treatment and put into its foster program. Though Lily's rescue was dramatic enough in its own right, her rescuers had no idea what bigger and better things were in the skinny pup's future.

A Second Chance
It was through the PSPCA foster program that Lily came to live with her new mom, Alexandra Golaszewska. "When I picked her up, she looked like a black-and-white mutt," Golaszewska tells Paw Nation. "But as she ate more food and got more exercise, her muscles developed. Even the shape of her head changed."

Only then did Golaszewska realize that Lily had some pit bull in her bloodline. However, in stark contrast to her breed's tough-guy stereotype, Lily was quite frail. "She seemed like a dog who probably never got out of her small, fenced-in yard," says Golaszewska. "Her paws were really delicate and got very irritated if we walked even a block on the sidewalk."

Even in the first days at her foster, then forever, home, Lily showed that she was special. "She immediately touched noses with my cat, and wherever I took her she always approached everyone with friendship," Golaszewska explains.

From Rescued to Rescuing
According to Golaszewska, a few friends told her about an upcoming Canine Good Citizen test being held by the PSPCA. Though she thought Lily was probably not ready yet, PSPCA behaviorist Nicole LaRocco encouraged Golaszewska to take Lily as a training exercise. Instead of simply taking notes, Lily amazed her new owner by passing the test on the first try.

Since then, Lily has completed her therapy dog certification and now visits a nearby nursing home regularly. She even has her own Facebook page. The first time Golaszewska took Lily to the nursing home, she witnessed firsthand the powerful effect her therapy pup had on 15 patients in the Alzheimer's ward.

"As soon as we walked into the room, it completely lit up. The patients came to life; they were so happy to see a dog," Golaszewska says. "Lily wags her tail so hard that she looks like she may fall over, which everyone thought was charming, and she toured the room and gave everyone kisses."

Lily's journey from a criminally neglectful home to bringing joy to people at a nursing home makes for an incredible story, but it also illustrates the power rescue pets have to impact and improve our lives. Believe it or not, Golaszewska says she wasn't looking for a dog when she was encouraged by a family member to foster Lily -- but look how that turned out.

Read Paw Nation's article on National Mutt Day and be sure to check out the main site here.



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