AHNA Staff Member Adopts Abused Dog: The Happy Story

April is Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Month. According to the ASPCA, every ten seconds an animal is abused or beaten, but recognizing cruelty is not always that simple. Crystal, who is part of our amazing Client Care Team at Animal Hospital of North Asheville, and her husband took a pit bull into their life who had suffered unnoticed for months or years. This dear dog had suffered from a form of abuse we see far too often. Here is their story of love and a second chance.
Bruschi was clearly neglected, sad and dirty when he was brought into Animal Hospital of North Asheville by one of Asheville’s wonderful Animal Control officers. All we knew was that Animal Control seized him from his home, and that he came to AHNA with a deeply embedded collar. The embedded collar was the result of him growing and no one adjusting his collar or buying a new one. He had always been kept chained, so the collar was deeply cutting into his neck all the way around. Malnourished and skinny, he had been badly neglected. My husband and I are both pit bull lovers, and when he walked through our hospital doors, he immediately tugged at my heart. I knew that Bruschi would be coming home with us after he was treated here at Animal Hospital of North Asheville and released by Asheville Humane Society.

We believe that he spent the first 2-3 years of his life outside on a chain. He had clearly never been inside a home and was not house broken. His initial reactions with us  were very hesitant, mostly involved him lying at our feet. We also noticed that he would self soothe, seeming to pet himself, by rubbing along the back of the couch and mattress. The first few nights his breathing was labored while he slept.   He took quick hard breaths, and seemed almost on high alert - even while sleeping. We are not shy with our affections for our fur babies, but knew that we should go slowly and give him time to get accustomed to us. When I would first try to snuggle him he would resist and pull his face away. We knew that he just wasn't used to that and was probably uncertain of what the gesture meant.   

While reserved with human interaction, he quickly warmed up to our other pup, Hercules. They instantly became friends, and started playing and snuggling. Or rather, Hercules just started lying all over him and cuddling up next to him (so precious by the way!). We think Herc had a huge hand in showing Bruschi the way and getting him used to what we call the "pampered lifestyle."

And slowly he figured it all out. Bruschi started to not only accept our love, but to give it back. He began to prance around the house with confidence, with his head held high. He also started talking to us, howling loudly when he wanted our attention. All those things he did in the beginning, he no longer does. Now instead of lying at our feet, he lies not just close to us, but almost on top of us. He also nudges us with his nose when he wants affection. We are most comforted by his breathing while he sleeps - it's slow and calm and peaceful (but what dog wouldn't get accustomed to being in between their humans on a pillow-top mattress). He accepts my demonstrations of affection when I get down on the floor and squeeze him and shower him with hugs and kisses - and he lets me do it! While we’re cuddling on the floor I tell him "Mamma loves her precious Baby Bru," and he looks at me with a contentment that was not there when he first came home.

Thankfully, Bruschi learned to trust again; trust that we would never hurt him. Watching his transformation has been one of the most rewarding experiences for us. When he looks at us we see love, loyalty and happiness. We are completely head over heels in love with Bruschi and we can't imagine life without him.  I've come to believe that although it may seem like we rescue them, really they rescue us.

Most people recognize well-publicized types of animal cruelty such as starvation, having animals fight for sport, or physical abuse. But there are many types of cruelty that you may not realize. Just like no one looking from afar or driving by could tell what was happening to Bruschi, many animals are left outside without shelter in inclement weather, or left without food, water or sanitation. Some are tethered or left in a crate 24 hours a day. Painful medical conditions go untreated. Animals are hoarded and allowed to breed and suffer from infectious diseases. All of these situations and more can be considered animal cruelty.

Not all animals that suffer abuse get a second chance at life, but there are many wonderful pets that can be rehabilitated and show great appreciation for the love and care they finally get. We love the amazing people that choose to take animals that have been abused into their families and give them a chance at a new life filled with love and patience. Asheville Humane Society always has great pets, all from our community, available for adoption. Some have histories of abuse or neglect, but many have no history of abuse and just need a home. Please consider adopting one of these wonderful pets! 


Thank you for this wonderful story! Our babies need and deserve the very best of care. I'm so happy that your dogs are loved, carefully tended and cared for. This made my day!

Bruschi's first experiences of life were so senseless and incomprehensible, but his story has turned out to be a heartwarming and touching one. Why would anyone want a dog if they are only going to treat them in such horrendous ways. I can only think that they enjoy being cruel to defenseless beings. There are way too many examples of abuse to all different kinds of animals in this world. You, Chrystal, and your family have made up for all the evils this poor dog had to endure for way too long. The picture of him wrapped in the blankets is so sweet and speaks volumes about how he now feels safe, secure, relieved, at peace and in a deep state of healing from what he had to endure. He can finally rest easy in a loving and warm environment. I feel that Hercules is laying on top of Bruschi to provide extreme closeness that Bruschi so dearly needed after being so isolated and it also shows a desire to protect him. It makes one's heart break for what this poor dog experienced. No wonder he self stroked himself for some little bit of comfort. It is so sweet to see them together. You have done a wonderful thing for Bruschi and I am sure that it gives you great comfort to see how he has responded to love and caring. It is an inspiring story. Thank goodness there are kind people in the world that can set wrongs right.

God bless you for your compassion. He is a precious love bug! Yes they rescue us!

Thank you so much for rescuing Bruschi. Sometimes it is difficult to see potential in dogs that have not been socialized or treated decently.

There are other kinds of “abuse” that are even more subtle. Puppies need guidance – and that is something their mother teaches them on a dog level and continues to do even or maybe especially after weaning. First time dog owners will get young puppies not understanding what kind of animal dogs are. Just because a puppy is old enough that it is weaned does not mean it does not still need companionship and a “pack” to be part of. We currently have 2 wonderful dogs that were definitely on their way to being shelter repeaters because of previous owners that did not understand “puppy”. Once poor patterns are set in a puppy at a young age, their undoing is often a very long process.

We adopted our oldest dog (a German Shepherd) at about 4-5 months. We were her 4th home that we know of, not counting the shelter we where we adopted her. Her last “home” had 4 children less than 5 years of age. She was given to the shelter because she had chewed on a cast on one of the little girl’s arms that was broken. She chewed on us too, and teaching her “no mouth” took awhile. We had to teach her that she had things (toys, etc.) we gave to her that were hers and that she could do what ever she wanted with them including chewing them to shreds, but that there were things she should not chew that had not been given to her. The only thing good was that she was housebroken (although at first the “great out-of-doors” at our farm seemed to overwhelm her). We lost several good water hoses in the process of teaching her do’s and don’ts including numerous other issues. At times we despaired of her ever catching on. Then one day it was as though everything clicked all at once. She is a wonderful, affectionate and obedient dog. She was worth all the patience (and sometimes impatience) on our journey together. I cannot imagine life without her.

We also adopted our other dog (a Boxer and Whippet? Mix) at about 4-5 months of age. We did not learn any of her background. She too was housebroken or else she caught on really, really fast. Other than maybe “out”, she knew no commands and we don’t know if she even knew her name because we had given her a new one. She was a real “wild child” and we immediately started to crate train her. We would take her out of the crate and slowly introduce her to the rest of the house – room by room. We knew she had separation anxiety, but we felt she would get over that in time. (It took her over a year to understand that we always come back. She still does not like it when one or both of us leaves the house, but she now sighs in resignation and goes looking for something interesting to do – like wrestling with our other dog.) One day I started to introduce her to my bathroom and she ran away in terror. She was on a leash and she almost pulled me over. I took her back to the bathroom immediately and went in with her, closed the door, sitting on the toilet seat lid and just let her calm down. It was then that I figured out what she must have been through. As a young puppy she must have been left alone locked in a bathroom for long periods of time – probably while her people worked. (She did not react like that to any other place in the house, and was used to my bathroom by the time she discovered the master bath.)

I used to think crates were cruel, and it took me a long time and a lot of reading to come to accept them as a wise choice for some situations. At least the crated dog can see out of the crate and not feel as alone as they would locked up in a small walled space. All of our crate trained dogs came to like their crates but they also let us know when they no longer needed them. We always kept a sheet over the crate covering at least half – if not the whole crate – except for the door. It became their den. This second dog was the most active dog I have ever seen. She loves to run, run, run and play, play, play. After we had her about 15 months she (thank goodness) started to slow down. Although she was curious, and she did find and chew up some unapproved things, she could have done a great deal of damage and didn’t.

In the case of either of these dogs, I don’t think it would have worked out if my husband and I were not (early) retirees that could spend time with the dogs. And dogs need things to chew! Dogs enjoy chewing, probably a carryover from teething time and the pleasure that chewing on things brought to them at that time. I buy stuffed animals for my dogs when toys are on sale at Goodwill and stockpile them. I don’t know what dogs think they are – a representative of an animal form or not, but I have not had a single dog that did not enjoy them and I’ve had dogs for over 45 years. Every once in a while the stuffed animal gets unstuffed suddenly and completely but in the meantime we and the dogs have both taken pleasure in them having the toys.

Thank goodness for those of you who recognize neglect and then rehabilitate these dogs into companions. Asheville Humane Society has several larger dogs available for adoption. You have to come when they are engaged in playgroup. Their joy will fill your heart. Thank you AHNA. I don't know if your followers are aware of the thousands of dollars in surgeries and treatments you donate to the animals at Asheville Humane Society every year, but it is lifesaving in the most literal meaning. We love you! (And your staff and clients who are so generous with pet food and other donations.)