I have spent fifteen years inside the world of animal rescue. Past the excitement, the exhaustion, and the heartbreak, the honor of the work is the reason I have stayed put. Each rescue important. Each one personal.
As long as I can remember, dogs have been my thing, so the fact that I have been rescuing dogs for nearly two decades feels like a natural fit. It is exciting, exhausting, and involves a fair bit of heartbreak. Saving canines – for me – has always been a non-paying full-time job. In addition to our own professions, many rescuers remain on call, around the clock.
If one is involved in the world of rescue, you know that person must be finding their joy to do it. There is nothing easy, nor casual, about the GIANT need for advocates who serve as the voice for the abandoned, the unwanted, the abused, and the forgotten. Each dog is dependent on some human to help get them to safety and back on track to a new chapter.
There have been countless numbers of pups who have made their way to my life – thousands – and yet, in the multitude, there are those cases, those select, sentient beings that tattoo your soul, and better inform who you are as a person, and how you view life. This is why I call these rescued dogs: My Teachers. It is also why one young pup named Thor became my most admired professor.
Over three years back, a picture of a paralyzed, dying, starving, diseased, nameless dog on the streets of Mexico made its way to me. The dog was helpless and broken and had been living alone, dragging his paralyzed body around begging for food.
I instantly knew -along with our team that we would do all we could to help this discarded soul at least die here in the United States with dignity. His name became Thor. Every star smoothly aligned to get him scooped from the streets of Mexico, put on an IV for a week and then crossed into the US. Thor was circling death the day he arrived. Every original doctor we met with agreed we should “Let him go!”
As I held his broken 25 lb. body, I told him he was loved and mattered. I told him that he now had a team behind him. The doctors said, “If Thor lives, he will be special-needs.” I replied, “You know what? We are ALL special-needs!” There is something unique, and wounded in every human I have ever met. Looking deep into Thor’s weak, kind eyes, I asked him if he wanted to leave. To go. To finish. His eyes were clear and loud in their reply: “Let me show you what I can do!” So instead of ending Thor’s life – We began it!
Three plus years full of work, and hope, and a whole lot of magic- nothing was promised. For the first year we cared for Thor like an infant. There was no life below his chest so we did EVERYTHING manually for him. He was in his wheelchair, or attempting to drag himself around. Then one day – a day just like the one before – we were working on Thor’s lifeless paws, and HIS DEAD TAIL MOVED. A sign. Life there. So we continued on looking – and open – to the next indication.
Six months later and he could hold a stand. Months after he could move himself along an underwater treadmill. It kept happening. Not only has Thor defied every odd to live, but he has NOT used his wheelchair in over a year. He WALKS! The impossible became possible. There is a reason that 28 million people – and growing – have watched, shared & celebrated this brave, beautiful survivor’s video of Thor. There has been a light following Thor, from dying on the streets, until this very day. He knew it before we did. Left for dead – Thor inspired us instead.
People now call Thor their hero. He refused to quit. I believe that is what resonates with people. We all know what it is to be challenged, overwhelmed, and ready to give up. So how is it this ravaged, homeless, dying street dog from another country, was guided to hold tight to life? I will likely never have that answer, but I know Thor will continue to teach us that heroes come in all shapes and sizes – and some even have four legs.
*** Love + Acknowledgement to the entire amazing Team at The REAL Bark who united to become Thor’s daily family and caregivers during his long recovery. Also kudos to Dr. Jessica Waldman and the amazing staff at California Animal Rehabilitation who joined Thor’s journey, and kept us ALL headed toward the unimaginable.
About Jf Prior
Jf Pryor serves as Executive Director of the 501c3 The REAL Bark. He is also owner of the popular Rescue-Based Dog/Cat store Echo Bark Inc. (echobarkinc.com). He is a writer, actor and accomplished equestrian too. Jf lives with his pit bulls in a tree house in Echo Park. You can find him on Facebook @jfpryor