Two years ago my last dog, Maggie, died of congestive heart failure. We knew it was coming and I didn’t know how I was going to feel about getting another dog. I have always had dogs in my life and this was the first time in many years when I didn’t have one. She died in early December of 2013, About three weeks of coming home to no one running to greet me with a tail wagging was all I could take. I talked to my sister, Debbie, and we decided to try fostering. So we contacted a rescue group and a lovely lady named Jenn came out and did a home visit and suggested JJ, who was being called Junior, actually John Doe, Junior. She said he needed us the most. So Debbie went and picked him up and brought him home. She said he rode the whole way on her head. He was about 8 months old when he came to us and had been badly abused as a puppy. He’d already had a broken leg and he flinched every time we came toward him. At the same time he wanted affection and it was easy to give. He would lay his little head on our shoulder and we’d melt. We shortened his name to JJ.

At the same time, I wanted to adopt one to keep, furever, as they say. I searched every day. When I saw a picture of Beau, I fell in love. He was at Diamonds in the Ruff, in Tennessee. I contacted them and they agreed to the adoption and even offered to meet us with him in northeast Arkansas. So on the arranged day, we set out to go fetch him home. There was the most horrible rain storm imaginable that day. On the way up there we were seeing ditches full, fields flooded. We got there and he was beautiful and twice as big as his photo looked. Debbie and I looked at each other and said, “We’re going to have to get a bigger doggie door!” He weighs in at almost 100 lbs. We decided that we would go back through Little Rock, on higher, bigger roads. And we tried. But there were also bad straight line winds that day and before we got to Little Rock, traffic came to a complete halt. We later learned that some big trucks had been blown over by the wind. All the traffic was exiting and so we did too. And we proceeded through every single small town in Northeast Arkansas, trying to get back home. Some roads were underwater and all I could think was, I’ve got JJ and Beau, suppose to be rescuing them and I think we are all going to die.  We finally made it back to Searcy and it’s a good thing. We were almost out of gas, we’d been on the road for hours, everything was flooded and we were sure JJ and Beau needed a potty break. We found a gas station and let them out for some blessed relief. But then, this 100 lb dog didn’t want to go back into the kennel. Neither did JJ. They’d both had enough. Finally, after much shoving and pleading we got them back in and made it home.

In January, the rescue group that JJ belonged to, cross posted a dog who was set to be killed, due to lack of space in the shelter. Beautiful dog with a huge happy grin. His name was Nutmeg. We went to see him and took JJ and Beau. He was an older dog and intact, so he immediately started showing them just who was going to be boss. We decided that it wouldn’t work. So Cathy, the ACO said if we took any dog out, it would free up space for Nutmeg to stay a little longer. She went back in and brought out her favorite, a little girl she called Logger, because she came in with a logging chain embedded in her neck. Logger wanted nothing whatsoever to do with JJ and Beau! Cathy was getting desperate and asked if we would look at one more. we said okay, and she brought out Charlie, who was then called Clown. Charlie and JJ immediately started playing. So we agreed to take him. They had him neutered and got his shots done and I picked him up and brought him home. He was a great dog! Laid back, easy going, somewhat submissive and very intelligent. I kept telling the lady who ran that rescue what a great family member he would be for someone. And she kept saying, ” You know you can adopt him.” Having just opened my own business, I was afraid to commit, for fear I wouldn’t be able to afford his vet bills and I told her that over and over. She offered to forgo the adoption fee. I said no. She finally said she would pay his vet bills for a while and forgo the adoption fee. I was sunk. Talk about an offer you can’t refuse!

We took JJ to a couple of adoption events, but the ones who showed an interest in him either lived in apartments where dogs weren’t allowed or lived in towns that had breed bans. So, no takers and he stayed with us. In November, after we’d had him almost a year, the rescue that he belonged to announced that they were closing. We were heart broken. We had met some really good friends through the group. Then the director said she was going to ship JJ up north to another rescue! No hesitation. Deb and I both said “NO!” We kept him. He’s our little Dennis the Menace, that annoying little brother who loves to pick and poke but you gotta love him! So then there were 3.

Meanwhile, we were also fostering other dogs. There was Mama Ina, and her 8 pups. One, sadly, died of overwhelming complications. They were found, together with ten other puppies and adults, locked in kennels inside a house, in a city where Pit Bulls are banned. They were never allowed outside, because of the ban and the stench coming from the house was what prompted neighbors to call in. Ina’s pups were born just a day or two before the bust and she was so understandably nervous for her new family. Luckily, the ACO had a heart and didn’t want to have to put all these dogs to sleep, so he called his friend and fellow ACO in a non breed ban city, who said he would take them in. He turned to us for help finding fosters and brought Ina and her pups to me at my store. They stayed here for seven weeks and then went to another rescue in Minnesota. There was Missy, not a Pit Bull, but a sweet little lap puppy, probably Lab mix. And Chrissy, a Pit mix who was a match for JJ in her rambunctiousness. They were both adopted. And a few others in between who had shorter stays.

A little over a year ago, Penny joined our pack. She’s a pocket pittie, so tiny and petite looking, but a firecracker under all those perfectly formed muscles. She, also, was a foster failure. She and I fell in love and couldn’t give each other up. She clings to me and doesn’t trust other people much. So now there are four dogs and three humans in our pack. Although she’s never had any issues with other dogs, Penny has people/trust issues so we make sure never to put her in a situation where she needs to feel defensive. She’s getting better and will continue to improve as she meets more people and learns that sometimes there are good people in the world.

And that brings us to Captain Marvel. On Sunday, February 7th, we got a text message from a lady in our rescue, whom I trust 100%. She had gotten a call about a dog who was badly injured and she was away from home that afternoon. So she contacted Debbie and me to ask if we could go and get him. If anyone besides Charlotte had asked I might have said no. We had just gotten 11 puppies off to their new life and we were exhausted and looking forward to a break and some rest. But it was Charlotte and she did ask , so we went. We met the two gentlemen who had found him and transferred him from their truck to Debbie’s car. It was hard trying to figure out where we could touch him without hurting him. It was obvious that both front legs were damaged, the right was a compound fracture, no doubt, and we suspected gunshot. I called my neighbor for help and she met us in the driveway. When she saw him, she immediately called another friend who came and helped dress the worst of the wounds. The next morning we brought him to our vet. Our regular vet was out of town and had another vet filling in for him. She did x-rays, confirmed that he had been shot and recommended we put him down. She said she did not feel up to the challenge of his horrible wounds. Then she said if we wanted to try to help him, we should take him to Dr. Dew at Azzore Veterinarian Specialists, in Russellville. I called Charlotte. She asked, “What does your gut say?” I told her my gut said this dog wants to live!  and that he deserves the chance. Through all of his ordeal, he never once growled or nipped. He whimpered in pain a few times but mostly, he wagged his tail and he licked out faces. Charlotte called Azzore and they said they could get him in on Wednesday morning. We left him at the vet’s clinic so they could give him antibiotics and pain meds. He was not the best of patients. He tore his IV out and kept trying to get up. Debbie picked him up Tuesday night and we took him home for the night and up to Azzore Wednesday morning. Before we went home Tuesday night , though, Stephanie Sharp, from Channel 16 News came to meet him and do an interview. She shot video of him and talked to me. She had also stopped in Jacksonville and met and interviewed with the two men who had found him. They had looked around while waiting for her and they found four shell casings and a blood trail. They said they were glad that they had found him and glad to see him getting help. They still check on him now and then. Marvel will be with us for a while. He still has a lot of healing to do. He’s already had surgery three times and will have a fourth on Monday. In the third surgery, Dr. Dew amputated his left leg.

Captain Marvel’s story and his warm, loving temperament has touched so many people. I feel like I’m in the presence of a celebrity. The story isn’t over yet. He still has a hill to climb. But he has a lot of people pulling for him and we’ve all promised him a good life, with nothing but love and belly rubs.