Michael's history is unclear, but his future is bright.
The Great Pyrenees/Anatolian shepherd mix recently found himself in a city-run animal shelter in Palmdale, California. Scared, confused, and acting out, Michael was dubbed "rescue only," which means he was a tough placement that wasn't available to the general public. Luckily, he crossed paths with Rita Earl Blackwell, a Los Angeles photographer who uses her skills to help shelter animals — giving needy pets professional photoshoots to help them find adopters and matching them with rescues that can provide them with assistance.
She received a call about Michael letting her know that his time at the city shelter was likely running out if he couldn't find a rescue to help him transition into a new home. So Blackwell went to visit the dog to see what could be done.
"When I first met him he was a hot mess — terrified of the world," Blackwell says of her first encounter with Michael, adding that "he was shaking and cowering in the corner of his kennel."
"He needed a very experienced foster/trainer to teach him how to walk on a leash, trust human contact and generally figure out how to be a dog," she adds.
Through her animal rescue connections, Blackwell was able to connect Michael with Delaney's Dogs for his care and with her friend Louise Crane for a temporary home.
Crane, a TV producer in Los Angeles, used to have a "house filled with other people's dogs" but recently took a break from fostering, at least until she met Michael.
"There was something about this dog that made me say 'Yes!'" Crane says, even though the the behavioral notes that Blackwell passed along "were pretty bleak."
Michael's first few weeks at his new foster home were rocky. It took him 45 minutes to feel comfortable enough to enter Crane's house, and days of slow, cautious work to get the canine into a collar and leash without any meltdowns. Based on his initial anti-social behavior and fear of being restrained, Crane believes that Michael likely spent most his life chained outside before her ended up at the Palmdale shelter.
Thanks to Crane's patience, Delaney's Dogs' support, and Michael's eventual willingness to open up, the only roadblocks that stood in the pooch's path to a new life were a bath and a vet check up. When Michael arrived to Crane's home his white, fluffy coat was dirty, stinky and dull.
"Usually when I bring a dog into my house the first thing I do is give them a bath but there was no way with this guy," Crane says of how Michael's stand-off attitude at the start got him out getting groomed.
Knowing that getting Michael clean in a way that was safe and comfortable for him would take some time and a professional hand, Crane reached out to Pride + Groom, a female-founded dog grooming supply company that is focused on creating all-natural, well designed, products with a pleasing signature scent.
Understandably, Pride + Groom is a team of animal lovers, and so they made sure they built a charitable element into their company that would benefit rescue pets. Since starting in 2019, they have donated part of their proceeds to animal rescues, and kept an ear to ground for special-case pets that needed a little extra help. So when Crane reached out to Pride + Groom about potentially financing Michael's much-needed grooming and vet visit, the company instantly signed on to assist.
"Because of Michael's terrified state and his very large 90-pound size he needed to be sedated to be properly examined and professionally groomed. He also required x-rays," Regina Haymes, one of Pride +Groom's founders, says of what her company provided. "We sent shampoo and paid the medical and grooming expenses."
This act of kindness and Michael's overall story has inspired Pride + Groom to help more dogs like Michael.
"Michael is the first of many dogs we intend to help," Haymes adds.
According to Crane, Michael emerged from the grooming and vet appointment a different dog, with a "clean, shiny white" coat that smelled "delish" — and also a clean bill of health. It was a turning point for the dog, who spent the last few weeks at his foster home enjoying life instead of running from it.
"The last few weeks in my house Michael was a COMPLETELY new dog — I couldn't keep him inside — all he wanted to do was go for walks, hikes, trips to the beach and I indulged it all. We had a blast!" Crane recalls.
Now that formerly fearful dog, who didn't want anyone near him, has found a loving forever home thanks to the time, energy, and affection that Blackwell, Crane and Pride + Groom poured into him.
"Patience and kindness goes a long way," Blackwell says of Michael's transformation.
"Now, he has found the most amazing forever home in the country with other dogs and a wonderful human family.," Crane adds. "They hike him for about 5 miles every day in the mountains and he's in heaven. I couldn't have imagined how great his life turned out to be. "
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