ChewyPet Parenting / Pet Stories

Sadie’s Story: Dog Shot and Left for Dead Gets Second Chance at Life

When Sadie was found in early 2012, her chances of survival weren’t good. The then 5-year-old dog, had been abandoned in the Kentucky mountains with a bullet hole between her eyes and one in her back.

Although Sadie was left to die, the scrappy little pup had other ideas. Thanks to the kindness of strangers, she beat the odds and now has a new “leash” on life.

Sadie’s Rescue Journey: A Grim Start

It’s unclear how Sadie ended up in the woods with two gunshot wounds, or even exactly how she was found. It’s believed hikers came across the injured dog and brought her to a local shelter, where she received initial emergency treatment.

From the Kentucky shelter, Sadie was then transported to a no-kill shelter in Wisconsin by Starfish Animal Rescue. The rescue, which is based out of West Chicago, Illinois, visits Kentucky twice a month to pick up shelter dogs at risk for euthanasia and brings them to no-kill shelters throughout Illinois and Wisconsin where they might have a better chance of being adopted.

“They [the shelter] took Sadie knowing full well that no one would adopt her there with her injuries,” says Joal Derse Dauer, a local from Muskego, Wisconsin, had been donating blankets at the shelter when she noticed Sadie’s sad eyes and instantly was drawn to her.

Dog story Sadie

Courtesy of Joal Derse Dauer

“She is just the type of dog that I gravitate to,” Dauer says. She had the “same black and brown markings as a few of my other dogs, so I went over to pet her.”

Even though Dauer wasn’t looking to adopt, she offered to take Sadie, as her own personal animal rescue mission, to see a specialist.

“I saw that her back was shaved, but we know little else,” Dauer says. “It looked like someone, possibly a vet in Kentucky, was looking for point of entry for the bullet and shrapnel, but we just don’t know. We don’t think that she received any medical attention at the shelter in Wisconsin because they jumped at the chance when I asked them if I could take her to a vet.”

Dog story Sadie

Courtesy of Joal Derse Dauer

At the vet, the news wasn’t good. The vet took X-rays and confirmed that there was a bullet between her eyes and a bullet and shrapnel in Sadie’s back.

“We already knew that they were there, but it was shocking to see all of the shrapnel that would have to remain in Sadie’s back to this day,” Dauer says. “The vet said that the only thing that I could possibly do was to get Sadie a cart; I was then sent on my way.”

Seeking a second opinion, Dauer drove Sadie to Chicago where two vets determined she was completely incontinent and had no feeling in her back legs. Both vets recommended euthanasia.

“But I saw too much life in her eyes, and I just didn’t believe that she was ready to leave this earth yet,” Dauer says. “I just told them that I had to think about it, and I left with Sadie in my arms.”

That night, Dauer took Sadie home and scheduled one last visit to a holistic veterinarian near her home.

“We had a rough night, with me being worried about Sadie in the garage,” Dauer says, “and Sadie probably wondering what was going to happen to her next.”

The next morning, things looked a little more promising. The holistic vet suggested giving Sadie a chance to regain movement in her legs, and put together a trial therapy plan that would last two months.

Dog story Sadie

Courtesy of Joal Derse Dauer

The Long Road to Recovery

After the hopeful diagnosis and a rollercoaster of emotions, Dauer says there was no way she could return Sadie to the shelter, so she followed the prescribed two-month plan, which included holistic medicines and vitamins, a special diet, swimming three times a week and acupuncture twice a week. Sadie also received special essential oils baths and probiotics.

“Because the holistic vet sometimes kept Sadie for hours at their clinic during the day to receive treatment, the first therapy that Sadie encountered was an essential oil bath,” Dauer says. “After what Sadie went through, she must have thought she was being treated like a princess!”

After the two months were over, it wasn’t clear if Sadie regained movement, however she did get stronger. From this point, Dauer decided to stop focusing on results and just continued to work on making Sadie stronger.

“After much angst, I decided that Sadie and I were in it for the long haul, no matter what,” Dauer says.

Dauer began adding new things at home to improve Sadie’s chances of walking again.

“Because Sadie had both muscle and nerve damage, I had to try working on both at the same time,” Dauer says.

“We tried a mini trampoline, we tried holding her up, we also tried a hydro treadmill, which was a disaster because poor Sadie couldn’t hold herself up in the pool for her legs to pattern on the treadmill,” Dauer adds. “The purpose of all therapies was to increase muscle mass and to decrease nerve damage, hoping to get nerves to regrow; all in hope to get her back withered legs strong enough to support her.”

Through it all, Dauer says Sadie’s eyes seemed to plead for her new mom to keep trying.

“I never knew such angst [and] such helplessness as when I was desperately trying to make Sadie a ‘whole’ dog again,” she says.

And then one day, after trying everything she could think of to help Sadie, Dauer had something of an epiphany that changed everything.

Dog story Sadie

Courtesy of Joal Derse Dauer

“I realized that Sadie was perfect just the way that she was,” Dauer says. “It was a problem with me that I had to correct. Sadie was happy, lively and such a joy; she was teaching me things in a way that I never knew dogs could.”

Once Dauer accepted that Sadie might never walk “like a normal dog” again, she decided to focus on what she could do to improve Sadie’s quality of life as a special needs dog. That included, among other things, maintaining Sadie’s muscle mass and increasing nerve regrowth, Dauer says. And it has made all the difference.

Dog story Sadie

Courtesy of Joal Derse Dauer

A New Life and a Touch of Stardom

Today, Sadie still can’t walk on all fours, but that doesn’t stop this spunky gal from getting around.

“Sadie needs help going up the stairs, but she flies down the stairs,” Dauer says. “All of the vets have said that she survived because she is stubborn; I can vouch for that.”

Sadie also uses a wheelchair when she goes out for walks, but she can move around without it too, half dragging her body, sometimes standing slightly, indoors.

And while she still takes homeopathic medicine for bladder strength, she no longer requires dog diapers.

Above all, Dauer says Sadie is lively, animated and a joy to be around.

“I have had dogs my whole life, and I have never had one like Sadie,” she says. “She has changed me in ways that I never knew a dog could.”

Sadie is paying it forward by traveling with her mom and teaching acceptance of those with special needs and fighting against bullying. Her dog story is told in the book, “Saving Sadie: How a Dog That No One Wanted Inspired the World.”

“Why did I choose that day to donate blankets to the shelter? We will never know the answer to that question,” Dauer says. “But one thing we do know, Sadie and I were just meant to be.”


Diana Bocco is a full-time writer and adventurer who has written for National Geographic, DiscoveryChannel.com, Yahoo! and Marie Claire. Diana has lived in five countries and taken her rescued dogs along to each one of them.

Featured Image: Courtesy of Joal Derse Dauer

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