Newfie Saved from Hoarding Thrives in Newfound Freedom

Senior dog’s second chance leads to joyful life

newfie poses with pet sitter CindiTeak’s favorite pastime is romping around her yard in Manitowoc, Wisconsin. The 8-year-old Newfoundland’s fluffy tail blows in the wind when she zips past playfully, almost like a puppy.

But that wasn’t always the case. It was only recently that she had a fluffy tail. A few months prior, she was unable to run at all.

Saved with the community's help

Teak spent the first 8 years of her life locked in a cage in a hoarder’s home. The house was full of pets — 21 cats, 17 dogs and 6 puppies. They were all different sizes, ranging from as small as a Yorkshire terrier mix to as large as a St. Bernard.

Concerned community members knew there were too many pets in the house, so they called the police in August 2014.

The owner agreed to surrender her pets. Authorities think she meant well in rescuing pets, but things quickly got out of hand. She named and fed every one, but they all were kept in small cages. Some needed immediate medical attention.

Lakeshore Humane Society (LHS) also went to the home to help remove the pets and take them to the shelter. The staff wasn’t prepared for the unsightly scene. “You see pictures on TV of these hoarding situations where there’s urine and feces piled around the house. You can’t imagine what it’s like in reality,” said Tina Nichols, LHS shelter manager.

Emergency Relief grant sparks light at the end of a tunnel

Finding room for an additional 44 pets was almost too much for LHS to handle. The cats and dogs had fleas, so the staff had to make a temporary shelter outside.

Despite being locked in cages all their lives, Teak and her housemates behaved nicely. Physically, though, the dogs were in rough shape. Many of them had tumors, hernias, mange and eye problems.

The community LHS serves is small, so the shelter doesn’t get the donations it needs to cover emergency situations. PetSmart Charities® stepped up to help with an Emergency Relief grant worth nearly $2,000 to get the pets the care they needed.

“The grant was amazing. We did not have all the necessary supplies to care for all these pets — you have to feed them, you have to have beds for them, they needed medical attention — we weren’t prepared. The grant from PetSmart Charities enabled us to survive and keep our doors open,” Tina said.

Shelter staff falls for lovable Newfoundland

While some of Teak’s housemates found forever homes after a few weeks, she needed a little extra time before she was ready.

Teak was much smaller than a typical Newfoundland, likely because she spent her life in a small cage. She suffered from cherry eye, which made her eyes swollen and made it difficult for her to see. She also had hair loss and tumors all over her body.

“Some people looked at her like she was Frankenstein, but she would grab your heart if you gave her a chance. She would come over you and just lay on you,” Tina said.

Teak craved pets and hugs, so she quickly became a favorite at the shelter. “She couldn’t see well because of the cherry eye,” Tina said. “So she would have a cute sideways look when she looked at you.”

When Teak’s personality began to shine, Tina and her team wanted to be sure to find the perfect home for the sweet dog.

Compassionate heart can’t resist Newfoundland in need

Georgeann Knier is a social worker who loves Newfoundlands. She’s a pet mom to 2 Newfoundland boys, Calvin and Hobbes. She also has 2 Siamese cats, Sam and Sassie.

She heard about the hoarding situation through a friend who alerted her that a Newfoundland needed a home.

Georgeann was sure Teak would quickly find her forever home, but she kept an eye on her anyway. She was certainly not looking for another dog, but the social worker’s compassionate heart couldn’t keep her from checking.

That compassion got the best of Georgeann, so she went with her husband Phil to meet Teak. Rather than focus on Teak’s looks, they saw only her love. “Looks are nothing. Her personality was so sweet. Just because a dog doesn’t look pretty doesn’t mean she doesn’t need love like anyone else,” Georgeann said.

Despite Teak’s age, she acted like a puppy when she met the Kniers. Their connection was instantaneous, but they wanted to be sure Teak would get along with their other dogs. They also wanted to know they could handle the responsibility of her medical care, including her cherry eye. They decided to try fostering-to-adopt.

“It wasn’t even a question. We knew we loved her, but fostering-to-adopt was a good option at the time.”

Two weeks was all they needed to know Teak belonged in their home. The Kniers officially adopted her in December 2014.

“I didn’t want her to think her life was 8 years in a kennel. If I can give her 2 years of a happy life, love and kisses, that’s what I’ll do,” Georgeann said. 

Learning to live like a normal dog

Adjusting to a normal life didn’t come quickly for Teak. Since her eyesight is limited, she had trouble learning the layout of the house. Because of the time she spent in a cage, her back legs didn’t work well, so Phil had to help her with the stairs.

She also didn’t know how to play, but Calvin and Hobbes helped to teach her. “She doesn’t like to be away from them,” Georgeann said. “They play very well together, they teach her how to go outside and they’re so intuitive to her needs.”

Now, Teak is the first dog to run outside to play. Georgeann suspects it’s because she loves her newfound freedom. Her tail is full of hair, and her coat is growing back. “I hope that her dark days are dimming for her,” Georgeann said. 

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