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Way out on the far side of the Olympic Peninsula is a town named Forks, and in that town there is a dilapidated warehouse once called the Olympic Animal Sanctuary. In that warehouse dog crates were once stacked up row on row, dozens of them, pee-stained and filthy. In one of those crates lived a dog named Pixie.

She wasn’t the only dog to spend time crated in the reeking darkness of the warehouse. For many years the warehouse was packed with dogs, over a hundred of them, crouching in cramped misery, unable to stretch their legs, unable to escape their waste, unable to do anything all day long and all night long except endure.
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A few of the dogs were confined to small kennels lined with straw. For three years, before she was crated, Pixie had lived in one of the kennels. The manager of the “sanctuary”, Steve Markwell, modified her kennel by barricading it with plywood walls, leaving only a crack for light. That was his response to her aggressiveness toward other dogs: isolation. Sensory deprivation. Confinement in black hole.

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The warehouse was supposed to be a paradise for unadoptable dogs. The website for the “sanctuary” had promised exercise in compatible playgroups, homecooked meals, veterinary services, and rehabilitation for behavior problems. Some of the dogs confined there did have serious bite histories.  However, most were like Pixie: not perfect dogs, but adoptable to the right home.  Pixie’s problem was kennel-craziness.  She was over-active, demanding, puppyish. She was desperate for love and attention.

Pixie had experienced very little love in her life. She had been picked up as a stray and turned in to a Midwestern city shelter, just another pitbull, one of the millions of pitbulls turned in to shelters each year. And, like so many shelter pits, she came to the shelter young, untrained, undersocialized to dogs and pathetically, desperately needy.

 Pixie couldn’t handle life in a kennel. She lunged at the kennel door, barked too much, grabbed at people with her mouth. There was a young girl she loved who came to visit her, and some of the adult volunteers liked her, but no one adopted Pixie.  As the days passed she grew more stressed and anxious and needy.

Then time ran out for her. Her anxious neediness led to a bite incident and she was deemed unadoptable. That meant euthanasia unless an alternative placement could be found. And one was: the Olympic Animal Sanctuary.

Steve Markwell drove all the way out to the Midwest to pick Pixie up. He acted like he was doing everyone a giant favor, but Pixie was sent to him with a substantial donation. Her friends at the shelter threw Pixie a good-by party. They invested their faith in OAS to take care of their girl.

The shelter folks thought Pixie was going to heaven, but they sent her to hell. She, of course, had no idea why she was sentenced to a life of semi-starvation and close confinement in stink and noise of the warehouse. OAS became reality to her; the few good experiences given to her by the shelter workers receded in her mind, replaced by the daily experience of misery. Pixie endured for four years.

Four of the five years of her life were years of suffering.

 Then suddenly one night the manager and a few other men took the dogs out of the warehouse one by one. When it was Pixie’s turn, she got one quick lungful of fresh air outside the warehouse before finding herself once again confined to a small dark space: a wooden box. She, and all of the other dogs, were on a truck. The truck lurched into motion. The dogs barked their worries and questions as the truck rolled away.

Pixie didn’t know it, but once again people were concerned about her welfare. Not the driver of the truck; no, the main concern he showed for the dogs was their uses as  props for his pose as a rescuer. The people who cared about Pixie were the thousands who had seen the photograph of her sad face in the darkness of her kennel. Her picture, and pictures taken by the Forks police of the warehouse interior, had been posted on Facebook, exposing OAS for what it really was: a hellhole. Thousands of people were writing, calling and emailing Forks authorities, trying to free the dogs so they could be placed in legitimate rescues. Protests had been held outside the warehouse. Lawsuits had been filed. Consumer fraud complaints had been lodged with the state Attorney General. Many of the rescues that had sent dogs to OAS desperately tried to get their dogs back. Among those were the volunteers who had sent Pixie to OAS.

The driver of the truck was running away from the protesters and rescuers.   He knew he didn’t have the resources to feed the dogs.  He knew that sooner or later he was going to have a warehouse full of dead dogs. But he didn’t want to give the dogs to the people who were trying to rescue them. So he took the dogs and ran.

But he also knew that if he drove long enough, he would end up with a truck full of dead dogs. So six hours on the road, he finally called a rescue, one that had not been involved in the lawsuits or protests.

He called the Guardians of Rescue, a New York group. He agreed to turn the dogs over to the rescue provided the turnover site was away from any cities and not in Washington. The Guardians found a place: RUFF House, a rescue in Golden Valley, Arizona.

It took Markwell four days to drive to Arizona. He stopped for food, water and potty breaks for himself, but not for the dogs. By the time they arrived at the rescue site, Pixie, like all of the dogs, had been laying her own waste for days, hungry, thirsty and terrified. Two of the dogs were nearly dead from dehydration and starvation.

Pixie did not know what was going to happen to her next. Since her life so far had been a progression from bad worse, her expectations were not good. A photo taken just after she was unloaded from the truck shows her bellycrawling on the ground.  But, within minutes, she found herself in a spacious clean outdoor kennel. She had a dog house. She had a bucket of fresh water. She had food. People gave her treats and spoke to her. She could see other dogs, see birds flying overhead, could smell the sagebrush and the grasses and the wind…

The explosion of sensory input was too much for her. As days went by, Pixie began to bark and growl at people. She fence-fought with the neighboring dogs.

But time heals and routine is comforting. Pixie learned that people would give her attention and be kind to her. She got food and water on a schedule. She grew familiar with the smells and sounds. She recognized her caretakers and grew to enjoy their visits. She was able to relax in the sun, just stretch out, breath deeply, feel the warmth, close her eyes and dream. For the first time in many years Pixie was able to feel a little happiness.

Meanwhile those volunteers who had worked to free Pixie from OAS searched for a sanctuary for her, a place for her to live for the rest of her life. This time they did not trust to a website. When they found a possibility, they visited to see for themselves.

A farm sanctuary is planning to accept Pixie in as soon as housing can be built for her. Her story will have happy ending.

However, of the 124 dogs turned over to the Guardians by Steve Markwell, one hundred and two have been placed and twenty-two remain in Arizona. Rescues and sanctuaries are needed for those dogs so they can have the happy endings they deserve. Contact information and information about individual dogs is available through the link below. Please, if you are associated with a rescue or know of a rescue in your area, checkout the dogs. Offer to take one! All of them suffered for years and are now looking for someone, maybe you, to help them find a home for the rest of their lives.

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Wed May 14, 2014 at  8:23 AM PT:

That's a link to a fundraiser for Pixie. The sanctuary that is willing to receive her has a number of dogs that live in the home of the manager and some farm animals that live in pastures and barn. Since Pixie has been denied opportunities to learn to be social with other dogs, she cannot live in the house right away, nor can she be allowed to run around near farm animals; therefore, a fenced enclosure and house needs to be built for her. The house will not be just a doghouse; the plan is for a structure that can be heated in the winter and will give her some covered dry space to hangout comfortably when it is hot or raining. The manager has experience with abused dogs and will work with Pixie to integrate her into the life of the farm, with the goal that eventually she will be able to live in the house with the other dogs. This fundraiser is to help pay for Pixie's living space. Please help. I know some people will be disappointed that Pixie is not being adopted into a home, and will not in the near future anyway be lying on a couch or sleeping in the bedroom with some humans. Please remember that Pixie has not had the opportunity to learn normal dog relationships with humans and dogs. On the contrary , she ahs to unlearn the lessons of a lifetime of neglect and abuse. That will take time. Please help Pixie even if it is only ten dollars! Thank you!

Originally posted to wren on Thu May 08, 2014 at 05:48 AM PDT.

Also republished by PWB Peeps and Street Prophets .

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