RED PAWS Chicago’s beloved ambassador finds a home
by Julie Mazzola | May 01, 2012
Red, a loving Pit Bull Terrier, was seven years old, when his world was turned upside down after his owner was attacked and robbed in their home in 2009. Attempting to protect his owner, Red was shot in the back and lost the use of his hind legs. Fortunately, Chicago Police Officer, Brian Cicio, contacted Animal Care and Control (ACC) to help Red. As his owner was taken to the hospital, ACC officers picked Red up and took him to the city pound.
With his owner unable to care for him, euthanizing Red seemed, at the time, the only humane option due to the major care he would require for the rest of his life. Fortunately, Red was spotted by a PAWS Chicago team member who was making her daily trip to transfer in pets for adoption. Red was taken into PAWS Chicago, given medical care, led by PAWS chief veterinarian, Dr. Jessica Von Waldau, and eventually placed into the adoption program, where he quickly became a favorite among staff, volunteers and visitors.
According to Dr. Von Waldau, Red was paralyzed from the last segment of his spine and down, thus he was unable to move or have feeling in his lower back, tail and hind legs. Dr. Von Waldau was, and continues to be, Red’s primary veterinarian and worked with team members and volunteers at PAWS Chicago’s Adoption Center to learn how to care for his daily needs, including playing and socialization with people and dogs, expressing his urine and stool, getting him in and out of his wheelchair, providing him with a special diet and supplements, and arranging his room to prevent skin injuries, sores and infections.
Red also received extensive special care and rehabilitation from PAWS Chicago partner veterinarian, Dr. Barbara Royal. To help strengthen muscles and keep him healthy, Dr. Royal provided Red with weekly acupuncture treatments, time on an underwater treadmill, B-12 supplements and a special diet high in nutrients needed to keep him strong.
After two and a half years under the care of PAWS Chicago, the Schaible family from Stockton, Ill came forward in late 2011 and expressed interest in giving Red a temporary foster home. PAWS worked with the Schaibles on how to transition Red’s care and, in December, he moved in.
In foster, Red thrived and loved life. He settled in very well with his new family, which included a 17-month-old baby who giggled when she saw him, and a sixyear-old Beagle named Razor who came out of his shell to play and snuggle with Red. The Schaible family, who brought Red to aqua and massage therapy, took him on regular walks and emptied his bladder every eight hours. They fell in love with Red and finalized his adoption in April 2012.
Red owes so much to the volunteers who enriched his life. There are many stories of volunteers who gave their time and devotion to him. Laurie Gentle helped design custom-made ‘scooty pants’ to help his mobility, transformed expressing him from a daily chore to a fun, playful process and even sang to him. Kara Severson provided Red with physical therapy support which helped him gain strength and agility in his chair. She also created the “Red Ironside” Facebook page to raise awareness of his need for a forever home.
Julianne Harmon provided transportation in a car she customized for Red so that he could get to and from his therapy appointments.
Sue Van Winkle raised funds to purchase an orthopedic bed which made it easier for Red to sleep and lounge. She cleaned Red’s room and stocked it with his favorite toys, bathed him and assisted in expressing him.
“More than any other animal, Red personifies PAWS Chicago’s mission. We took in the neediest dog, nurtured him to great mental and physical health, and kept our promise to find his forever home. His resilience is epic. His adaptability is Nobel-worthy. We can all take a real lesson in dealing with adversity.” – Laurie Gentle, Adoption Counselor
“Red is my hero - my teacher. Each day I worked with him, I learned something about myself while encouraging him. He will always be a significant part of my life.” – Kara Severson
“PAWS Chicago provides a lifetime commitment to each pet we save. Red is a true ambassador for Pit Bulls and is a shining example of the wonderful animals who are euthanized each day because they don’t have a home. Our work to build a No Kill Chicago is underscored by stories like Red’s. ‘‘ – Paula Fasseas, Founder of PAWS Chicago
“When guests learn about Red’s story, many become sad. However, when I share how dearly loved and cared for he is by so many people at PAWS – through the donation of his wheelchair, food for his special diet and those who take him outside to run and play – they understand what a good life he has been given. Red’s wonderful personality made him fight for his life and now makes him happy to be alive. He has an incredible energy and love of life and people. He is a prime example for all of us to keep going no matter what obstacles are placed in our way. Red showed me his courage, love, joy, patience and incredible will to survive. No one could have been a better teacher than Red. He will always be in my heart.” – Julianne Harmon, Dog Town Level 2, Adoption Counselor
“To me Red represented all the good that an animal can teach humans – acceptance, overcoming adversity and absolute trust even when that trust is violated. He made lemonade out of lemons and represents survival. He should be the poster boy for Pit Bulls – gentle, sweet, loving, playful, great with children, and very smart as opposed to the perception of the breed that we largely have today. He is what everyone wants in a pet. One of my favorite moments was taking Red to the Little Sisters of the Poor nursing home. The residents loved him, including 89-year-old Sister Lucille, who clutched her walker with one hand and Red’s leash with the other.” – Sue Van Winkle, Level 2 Dog Town Volunteer