Starting off the new year with another post in our THIS IS FOSTERING series, sharing the true-life stories of how fostering animals indelibly transforms not only animals' lives, but humans' lives, as well. We were lucky enough to get some time with the magnificent, brilliant, impassioned Jill Dyche, founder of OUTTA THE CAGE animal rescue, launched in 2014 and based in Los Angeles, and hear all about the fun + fabulous Pinky, a superstar rescue of epic proportions. Quite possibly our favorite part of this conversation is Jill's answer to how Pinky has affected her perspectives on rescue: "Pinky reminds me every day how much dogs can surprise us. We think we understand them and project our own histories and experiences onto them."
Here's Life with Pinky, as told by Jill Dyche!
A volunteer at Long Beach shelter notified us about Pinky. What she described sounded horrific: a senior female pittie surrendered by her owner with a larger-than-a-grapefruit, hanging mammary mass. The dog was in an isolation kennel, not viewable by the public. Her mass had begun to ulcerate and was bleeding heavily. The shelter veterinarian had planned to remove the mass, but on top of everything Pinky had kennel cough so they couldn’t do the surgery. At the time we had no personal dogs, so we took her home for 10 days so she could recover from the kennel cough. When we returned her to the shelter, we assumed the surgery was imminent, but for some reason it just never happened. A week later, we got another call from the volunteer: Pinky was back in ISO, her mass had ruptured and pieces of it were littering her kennel floor. We immediately authorized the volunteer to rescue Pinky for OUTTA THE CAGE. We had the mass removed by a private vet, then brought her home.
Lily Spindle/Pet Poufs: What was Pinky like when she arrived at your house that very first day?
Pinky settled right in, like she’d just returned from a long vacation. Like a lot of new dogs, she sniffed every inch of the property, then pretty much stuck to us like glue. She became territorial pretty quickly, growling at dogs passing by the house, and barking at the UPS truck. It was as if she’d always been here.
Lily Spindle/Pet Poufs: What was her prognosis after surgery?
Pinky’s mass turned out to be an aggressive spindle cell sarcoma. We took her to our oncologist, who explained that this type of sarcoma in the mammary area was rare, so there wasn’t much data on how to treat it. Even on oral chemo, our oncologist guessed that Pinky had around three months to live.
Lily Spindle/Pet Poufs: So were you treating her as a fospice dog?
Yes. Since she was still active and energetic, we figured we could find a kind person to give her a wonderful final few months. But realistically, who’s going to foster a senior pittie with terminal cancer who’s not dog-friendly? We figured we’d keep her until we found someone, or just give her a good time for a few months, and then go on vacation for the holidays.
That was in September, 2019. Clearly, Pinky had other plans.
Lily Spindle/Pet Poufs: How would you describe her personality?
Pinky’s just a wacky girl with a sense of humor. Even at the shelter, with that bowling ball dangling from her undercarriage, she would roll on her back, blocking your path, and ask for belly rubs. Like most dogs, she just needs a couple good walks every day and then she just hangs out on her bed—which is one of her two Lily Spindle pet poufs, BTW. She has moments of pure joy when she’ll get the zoomies, ricocheting around the backyard like a jumping bean. She has a joyful life, and it’s our honor to be able to give that to her.
Lily Spindle/Pet Poufs: How has life with Pinky influenced your perspective on animal rescue?
Pinky reminds me every day how much dogs can surprise us. We think we understand them and project our own histories and experiences onto them. Those assumptions often inform whether or not we take on a specific dog. Which is usually doing that dog an injustice.
We have rescued dozens of dogs with cancer. Some leave right away, others hang on and often have the best months of their lives. But we never thought Pinky would be rockin’ and rollin’ 18 months after we pulled her from the shelter. A dog doesn’t have to be sick to upend your expectations. All dogs come with issues—even puppies. Every adopter has a “Uh oh, what have I done?” moment. We just need to rescue them and then honor the dog that’s in front of us right now.
If you could sum up the importance of animal rescue in four words, what would those four words be?
Rescue's its own reward.