In late February, Canine Cupids welcomed a brand new foster mom, Kristie Ruhland, who was supposed to be participating in a 50K cross-country ski race in Hayward, Wisconsin, called the Birkebeiner, or Birkie for short. While Mother Nature did not come through with the snow, fate delivered a skinny and frightened brindle and white dog into her care.

Most of Birkie’s previous life is unknown, but there is evidence that she was bred and then discarded. She was emaciated, had double ear infections and tons of skin issues. She shrank and crouched when presented with a leash. All of that is heartbreaking, but is pretty normal for a dog entering foster care.

As it turns out, Birkie’s needs were far from normal. At her vet appointment, she tested positive for heartworm. Her foster mom, Kristie, agreed to the extensive care needed and Canine Cupids agreed to cover her medical expenses.

You would think that would be enough for this sweet girl to deal with, but during one of her visits to the vet, she had some mammary tumors aspirated, and the results were suspicious. Berkie went back to the vet to undergo a biopsy. They were cancerous.

A decision had to be made on what to treat first, the heartworm or the cancer. Anesthesia is risky being infected with heartworm. However, if the cancer metastasized, then her life expectancy would be less than a year. The decision was made to have Birkie undergo a full mastectomy.

Birkie is healed from her mastectomy surgery and all is well so far. She had three drains and multiple staples and stitches forming a 19-inch incision. In addition to the tumors, three of her body lumps were also removed.

Birkie had her first heartworm shot on May 1, 2017, and had her second shot at the end of the month, with the third one on the following day. The hardest part will be keeping her calm for six weeks after that last shot, according to her foster mom.

Despite all of the pain, uncertainty and medical issues, Birkie remains a bright and happy girl and flourishes under the love and care of her foster mom. She continues to heal while learning to be someone’s pet and likes to play with her foster brother. Birkie loves to snuggle and curl up in the bed. Her foster mom says, “She has been so resilient through this all and has taught me a lot about being happy.”

Update from Foster Mom: It’s PJ time again. We are trying our best to be lazy per the doctor’s order. Birkie is being such a trooper with the heartworm treatment, but when you look in her eyes and the way she holds her ears, it’s obvious that she’s not quite feeling like herself. She still wags her tail, though, because she has a lot to be happy about.

To date, her treatment has come in over $3,000 with more vet expenses to come!

https://www.youcaring.com/birkie-783181

STORY AND PHOTOS COURTESY OF ANNA OLSON-SAJDAK

On June 10, 2011, 25 dogs were seized in Milwaukee’s largest dog fighting bust to date. One of the dogs, “Renato” – the Latin word for rebirth, is believed to have been used as a breeding dog. He spent 22 months at MADACC on hold as evidence for the criminal trial. During that time he had little interaction with people, other than to be fed or have his kennel cleaned.

The Brew City Bully Club rescued Renato on April 1, 2013 and took him into their facility in Pewaukee to begin his true rebirth. For 14 months they worked to rehabilitate him in hopes he would be able to live in a family environment. They spent many hours desensitizing Renato to sudden movements and teaching him the value of human touch. Under their care he learned what it truly meant to be a dog and be loved.

I learned about the Brew City Bully Club after adopting a Pit Bull/Boxer Mix from the Wisconsin Humane Society in Saukville. I became an avid BCBC follower on Facebook and one day, there he was … a dorky, big-headed white dog with a black and white spotted nose and huge perky ears. Renato was ready for adoption.

Renato really captured my heart, but my family wasn’t ready to take on the responsibility of a second dog. I watched the BCBC ‘adopt Renato’ posts hoping someone would step forward. Months passed with no interested parties and Renato continued to call to me. We finally decided in early May of 2014 that we wanted to meet him and see if he would be a good fit for our family.

We made the trip to the rescue facility, and it was love at first sight for all of us. This crazy-looking dog was a giant lover who just wanted to snuggle and kiss everyone. We made plans for him to meet our dog and moved forward with the adoption process.

On Monday, June 30, 2014, Renato came home to live with us FOREVER!

It has been 2 years since we brought Renato into our family, and he is as happy as can be. He spends his time playing and causing trouble with his doggy sister, Brulee’, and is a whiz at figuring out new ways to chew through our backyard fence (tempted by bunnies).

While most dogs won’t pass up the opportunity for a snack, Renato attacks food, wolfing it down with a vengeance. I suspect that behavior is the ghost of his past still haunting him. After the disappearance of an entire loaf of bread, we learned it’s not safe to leave food unattended on the counter. Antics like that have earned him the nickname ‘Renaughty’.

He sleeps curled up with my son at night and is my daughter’s ‘shadow man’ showing an understanding of her emotions I can’t even grasp. He gives everyone he meets a giant grin and then proceeds to cover them in his signature drool (envision scenes from the movie “Turner and Hooch”). We spend countless hours snuggling him, kissing his over-sized head and giving him more treats than any dog should be allowed. He loves to have his tummy and ears rubbed.

Renato has remained active with the Brew City Bully Club family and serves as poster dog and ambassador for their annual “Ride to End Dog Fighting”. He also loves to make appearances at other BCBC functions throughout the year and is currently campaigning for the upcoming presidential election – although we’re not sure if he’s a Repuplican or a Dogmocrat. He has his own Facebook page (follow ‘Renato Enchilada’) where he stays in touch with all of his fans, old and new, posting photos and updates on his latest shenanigans.

We suspect Renato is 10 years old, but there is no way to know for sure. By becoming his family, we’ve accepted all that his is and isn’t, and we’ve promised to fill his remaining life with love. For all of the care and affection we’ve shown him, Renato has given us so much more. He continues to show us every day just how wonderful a rescue with a horrific past can become when given the chance to just be a dog!

Story and photos courtesy of Andrea Mlejnek

Audree loves kisses. In fact, there is nothing the 4-year-old English Bulldog/Pitbull Mix seems to enjoy more than cozying up to one of her favorite humans: Jessie Neassen.

As a volunteer for Milwaukee-based 501c3 nonprofit animal rescue organization Canine Cupids, Neassen provides care and love to the area’s most neglected and abused dogs as a foster “mom”. Audree is one of the foster animals currently in her care, and when Audree wants kisses, Neassen is happy to oblige.

“She just wants love and attention,” Neassen says. But when Audree was rescued by Canine Cupids 1.5 years ago, she needed much more than that.

“She had severe mange, secondary infections and was anemic,” Neassen says. “She also had entropy in her eyes, a heart murmur, ear infections and partial tears in her back ACLs.”

Audree’s mange resulted in swelling and inflammation and “weeping” open wounds on her skin.
“She could barely walk,” says Neassen. “The first couple of days I was scared that she was going to die. It was bad.”

While Neassen had cared for dogs with mange before, never had she encountered a dog with such extensive – and costly – health issues. Audree required constant supervision. She slept beside her just to make sure she didn’t stop breathing. She bathed Audree every other day, massaged her with
essential oils, administered many medications and coordinated all of her vet visits – anything to give Audree a chance.

Neassen’s effort paid off. Within a week Audree’s condition began to slowly improve.
“I could just see a difference in her,” says Neassen. “Through it all, her tail was wagging.”

Audree’s tale is one of betrayal and forgiveness. Despite suffering such neglect at the hands of her prior owners, Audree has given humans a second chance.

“She just loves people,” Neassen says. “Any person she’s ever met she adores. Aside from knowing and seeing the pictures you wouldn’t guess she had such a horrible past.”

Story & photos courtesy of Jessie Neassen