An ACL volunteer treated Theresa to a spa day.

On a very cold day in November, a small white dog was found shivering in an Oak Park alley.  She was brought to the Animal Care League, where she was examined by ACL veterinarian Dr. Mary Eisenlor, and canine manager Gretchen Decker.  They made three observations quickly:

• She was filthy with a deeply matted coat—she had not received even rudimentary care for a significant period of time.

• She could not walk.  She moved by squirming forward in a sort of “army crawl.”

• She had given birth during the past few weeks.  She had been nursing puppies recently, as her teats were engorged.

She was made as comfortable as possible, while ACL staff tried to make a plan for her.  Questions and possible answers were discussed.   Why couldn’t she walk?  Had she been hit by a car?  Was her spine damaged?  Where were her puppies?  Were they safe?  How could we make her more comfortable when her teats were becoming increasingly engorged and painful?

While staff worked with the small white dog, another drama was taking place at ACL.  A new mother cat was overwhelmed by her litter of 8 kittens.  She willingly nursed two of them, but hissed and drove away the other six.  The rejected six mewed piteously, wanting their mother’s milk.

Dr. Mary connected the two situations.  We had a mother dog that had so much milk to give, and we had kittens that desperately needed to nurse.  She took a chance and placed a kitten next to the dog.  The kitten immediately started to nurse, and the dog lay back with a sigh of relief.  Dr. Mary brought over the other five kittens, and they also started to nurse.  The crippled dog became a loving surrogate mother to six rejected kittens for the next two weeks.  Nature took a detour, and it worked.

When the kittens were old enough to eat on their own, they joined their original family in the cat room.  Mother dog enjoyed a spa day, getting a haircut and a bath.  To no one’s surprise, she turned into a beautiful dog.  And while everyone at ACL had simply been calling her Mama Dog, she now received her official name:  Theresa.    But a formidable obstacle to Theresa’s wellbeing remained: she still could not walk.  Courses of action were discussed, all of which involved expensive extraordinary care, which is not easy to come by at an animal shelter.  However, every avenue was going to be pursued; this was a very unusual little dog, and she deserved all the help ACL could provide.

And then Theresa surprised us.  She started to use her front legs more when pulling herself forward.  Then she put weight on her back legs.  She pulled herself upright and took a few shaky steps.  She tried harder, again and again.  Watching her was inspirational.  She had been through so much, she had given so much, and now she was working diligently on her own handicap. 

Throughout her ordeal, Theresa recognized everyone who took care of her, greeting them with a thumping tail.  She loves sitting in the front office with staff, observing the process of animal welfare. With the help of ACL staff and volunteers she regained more strength in her legs.

Theresa’s generosity, diligence, and resilience have been an inspiration to all of us at Animal Care League.  Her story reminds us of the many animals lost, neglected, and in need of medical care.  Some of these animals end up at ACL, and some will never make it.  In an effort to assist as many animals as possible, ACL has begun a new medical fund in place to help more animals and give them a chance at a new beginning.

Theresa’s story is unique and we hope that by sharing it we can raise money for a medical fund that will not only help Theresa but many others in 2014.  We are working towards a goal of $10,000!  This will give us enough to help the dogs currently in our program as well as give us a solid base to help in-need animals in the future.  We need everyone’s help in spreading the word!

To read Theresa’s story or to donate to help her and others like her please visit

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