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Ben Forman will never forget the story of how his dog Miracle came to Homeward Bound, an animal welfare group in London, Kentucky.
In the fall of 2011, a woman was driving down a rural road and saw 2 men had pulled their truck to the side of the road. They had guns, which they were using to beat on something in the dirt behind the truck. Terrified, the woman held back and waited until the men cleared out.
They had left their victim behind in a ditch. The purebred foxhound likely was abandoned because she had failed at her hunting duties.
The woman took the dog — with one eye missing, broken bones and a fractured skull that led to a traumatic brain injury — to Homeward Bound.
Amazingly, their veterinarian was able to heal her physical injuries. Her emotional scars took a little more time. But that’s where Ben and Kristen Forman came in.
A healing family
The staff at Homeward Bound was up front with Ben and Kristen, explaining that their next foster dog was a very severe case. She was to be the Formans’ 39th foster, so the team knew the couple was up for the challenge. The staff named her Miracle.
“At first, Miracle had to be carried everywhere,” Ben said. “Even if you would talk at a normal volume, she would cower and shiver. She would pancake and not leave her spot on the floor.” The Formans also suspect that Miracle wasn’t fed regularly, because she would get very excited at mealtimes.
It took a lot of time and patience to help Miracle recover from her trauma. The Formans’ other 2 dogs, Ozzie and Toby, helped her feel at home. “Toby, our coonhound, is a little...slower. So he relates to Miracle a lot better. Ozzie, a blue-heeler shepherd mix, is more intelligent and gives her confidence.”
“Recovery just happened one thing at a time,” Ben said. First, they introduced her to louder noises. Then, walking outdoors.
”On walks she was afraid of everything — mailboxes, shadows, the wind,” Ben said. “We had to help Miracle overcome her fear, which sometimes meant just sitting with her and waiting. She would pull herself together. Sometimes it took 20 minutes, sometimes 5. It’s easier to have extra patience and compassion when you remember what she’s been through.”
The real Miracle breaks through
Over time, Miracle has settled into the Forman household and revealed a wonderful personality. “Now, when we take walks, her favorite thing is to go and greet people,” Ben said. “It’s amazing. If it were me, I would not want anything to do with people.”
Her head injury is quite severe, and Ben said that definitely makes her different — in a good way. Miracle still gets wound up at mealtimes, and consistently has a spurt of energy at 2:30 a.m. But most often, her quirky energy translates into a playful demeanor.
“She likes to chase Kristen and me around the yard. We call her ‘spidermonkey’ because she is all over the place,” Ben said. “Because she has only one eye, she kind of zigzags across the yard when she runs. It’s adorable.”
A common language of recovery
Once Miracle was stable, both emotionally and physically, the Formans began to bring other foster dogs into their household — many of whom were more difficult cases, like Miracle. Quickly, Miracle became the communicator between Ben and Kristen and their new canine companions.
”We’ve had several dogs who have just run upstairs to hide, but Miracle will venture right up after them and help them feel comfortable,” Ben said. “It’s night and day how much faster she gets abused dogs to snap out of it.“
Miracle not only assists with the canine family members, but she has become great with people. Ben says Miracle never barks, except when their son, Zeke, cries. “Sometimes we’ll be in another room and she’ll bark, and it puts us on alert,” Ben said.
Miracle officially joins the family — and gets a job
Miracle‘s powerful story resonated with so many potential adopters that Homeward Bound wanted to make her their official adoption ambassador. She would visit adoption events at the PetSmart store in Lexington, Ky., where she had a nickname: “love on a leash,”which, appropriately, isthe name of the therapy certification program in central Kentucky.
One of the trainers, Becca, suggested that the Formans look into getting Miracle certified to be a therapy dog. After some thought, her recommendation made a lot of sense to the Formans.
In April 2012, the Formans officially adopted Miracle — she was already part of the family, so it was really just a formality. Ben and Kristen began to train her to become a certified therapy dog. “We didn’t know with her head injury how she would do with commands, but she has done great,” said Ben. “She truly just wants to love and be loved. It was an easy decision to make her a permanent part of the family, and she shines as a therapy dog.”
Spreading a healing message
Miracle has brought joy to so many in her first year training as a therapy dog. The Formans say she really shines in hospital settings.
“We both work in hospitals so we know how important it is to maintain composure while giving that healing love that both kids and adults need,” Ben said. “We feel so blessed and honored to have Miracle. She creates so many smiles.”
An extra perk: Miracle was able to come to the hospital with her therapy-certification scarf when Kristen gave birth to Zeke.
Miracle brings comfort to people outside of traditional therapy settings, too. “We take Miracle to Bark in the Park events for the minor league baseball team in Lexington. There are often groups of handicapped children, and they always want to hug Miracle because she has one eye. Last time, there was a little girl who was missing an ear, and said she related to Miracle because she was missing something, too.”
“It’s so much for us people to take in — to recover from abuse and go above and beyond and start helping people.”
And that makes Miracle truly remarkable, even among dogs.
It’s hard to believe that Miracle was once so traumatized that she needed to be carried everywhere. After a scary start to life, Miracle is now thriving as a therapy dog — and a foster parent — in Kentucky.
“She really just loves people, despite everything she’s been through,” Miracle’s mom, Kristen Forman, said. “She enjoys being social and loves getting to go places. Anytime we put her collar and leash on, she gets so excited.”
In addition to taking her “love on a leash” to nursing homes and adoption events, Kristen has introduced Miracle to the local library. They visit every week for storytime, when kids come to the library to read to Miracle and other therapy dogs. The program is designed to help kids boost their confidence and reading skills.
Miracle’s “work” is never done, and she loves it. The Formans just finished fostering their 52nd dog — with Miracle’s help, of course.
“She’s so low-key, so she’s easy to get along with. She takes many of our fosters under her wing and just looks after them,” Ben said. Miracle was their 39th foster dog, and she’s helped with the 13 new dogs the Formans have welcomed into their home since she became their first and only foster failure.
When she’s not on the job, Miracle enjoys her time at home with her 2 permanent furry siblings, Ozzie and Toby, and her 16-month-old human brother, Zeke. “She’s so tolerant with Zeke,” Ben said. “She’ll let him pet her and hang on her without ever getting upset. She’s so patient with him.”
You can check out a day in the life of Miracle and the Forman family in our latest video.