Gwen, San Diego, CA

Hi! I’m Gwen and I’m a 5-year-old pit bull mix.

I was found wandering the streets of San Diego in June of 2008 along with Mikey, a Chihuahua, and Cindy, a Min-Pin. The three of us were dubbed “The Unlikely Trio” and became famous in San Diego. The kind folks at the shelter had quickly learned that we could not be separated as Mikey and Cindy would become lethargic and stop eating. They had even dug 2-3 feet under their pen and went to go find me — often ending up in a cage of another pit bull!

After 5 long months of trying to find us a home together, it was decided by the shelter to separate us and adopt out Mikey and Cindy separately…and euthanize me!!

Thanks to a local rescue, we were saved together and we went to live with our foster mom in October 2008.

For 9 months we lived with our foster mom at her home, and she tried and tried to find us a home together. This was not an easy challenge — they said it’s because I’m a pit bull and the enormous responsibility it would be to take on 3 dogs at the same time. Our local celebrity status skyrocketed; we became the rescue’s mascots and logo!

People would follow us on Craigslist and always inquire about us at adoption events. However, our foster mom learned that I was not dog-friendly. I would definitely show aggression and I don’t know how this happened — it occurred gradually as I had easily played with our foster mom’s brother’s dog.

Our rescuers tried different techniques and some professional training help. She even petitioned to be on the Dog Whisperer hoping to get my aggression in check to improve the chances for my adoption. It was getting to the point where adopting us out separately was being forced again. But our foster mom, along with 2 other volunteers, Auntie Kay and Auntie Alisa, was certain that they could find the right home for us TOGETHER.

Then one day in July 2009, our foster mom got a call from a lovely lady who was interested in meeting us three, “the Trio.” She had a large house with a huge backyard and a heart big enough to love all 3 dogs; she also had no other pets so we all assumed it would be safe for me and the perfect home situation for us.

For my rescuers, it was a dream come true and for the dogs it was even better! They were adopted at the first meet and greet! For the next few months, she kept us updated through emails, photos and allowed us to visit. We were thriving. It just made your heart smile to see how perfect this had turned out for everyone involved.

Over the months, our new mom worked with a trainer on my dog aggression. The level of consistency and exercise that I needed was difficult and although I responded to techniques, the dog-to-dog aggression was not improving.

Then, I attacked a neighbor’s dog through their fence. I was able to get hold of the other dog’s tail through the chain link fence. Upon hearing the commotion, the neighbor came out and had to hit me very hard on the head to get me to release. This incident unfortunately stigmatized me — as when there is an ‘incident’ with a pit bull, the dog is looked at very differently. My adoptive mother concluded that she just couldn’t do anything more to help me and I needed to be returned.

My rescuers initially thought they would have to euthanize me, but they started reflecting on all of the first-hand information they knew about me and the things they had seen in me: No one was willing to take legal responsibility for me and the only option was to euthanize. My foster mom agreed to accept ownership of me, and with the help of Auntie Kay and Alisa (the same team that worked with the Trio — I love them very much), they came up with a viable and realistic plan to try to help me one last time.

Now for the good stuff on why I was worth it:

I really am a sweet dog, very loving and loves to cuddle and pretend to be a ‘lap dog.’ I LOVE all people and do great with children. I’m happy to lay by your feet when it is time to rest, and then bring on the tennis balls!!! I’ll chase them all over and have a nice run in the yard!!! Also, the love I showed towards Mikey and Cindy was awe-inspiring for any human to witness. The way I would clean them, cuddle with them, let them play by climbing all over my head, let Mikey come and share a big rawhide chew with me, showing no signs or sounds of irritation or resentment. I love Mikey and Cindy for almost 2 years and now my rescuers want to see me get the life I deserve. It would truly still be a VERY HAPPY ending for San Diego’s ‘Unlikely Trio’!

In July 2010, I completed 12 weeks of training in a dog class with Darrell Weber who has over 43 years of working with the bully breed. Darrell has successfully helped rehabilitate 1000’s of dogs thru his years and has only recommended that 4 dogs be put down due to no chance of rehab. Thanks to Darrell, my reactivity towards other dogs has become SO MUCH more controllable. Darrell says I will be just fine. I now play with two other dogs on play dates — Lulu, my mom’s friend’s dog, and Zipper, Auntie Alisa’s pittie. Properly introduced, I have shown that I love dogs and that humans just need to understand me better. After all, I’m a pittie and as Darrell says, “a pit bull will always challenge their owner, if they stop doing that, they are not a true pitbull!”

So my rescuers learned a lot about me as well through this process, especially on how to understand me through my body language.

Now for the good part about me and my fate:

After completing all of the training, my foster mom has built more of bond with me. She fostered me along with Mikey and Cindy from October 2008 to July 2009. She then took me back into her home for fostering on February 2010. She has seen my progress and, as my handler thru training, she is astounded with how great I’m doing and how far I’ve come. This has been a very significant journey for my foster mom as well because she has learned how to handle me and their bond has increased a million-fold! That’s when my foster mom decided that I should remain with her. So all along, I was already living in my forever home!!

In December 2010, my mom was so happy to end 2010 knowing I am fully rehabilitated and settled in a loving home! I’ve made many friends — human and furry — thru my journey this year. I’ve played with and been around other dogs with no incident — Lulu, Zipper, Buster, Rex and Bentley. Auntie Alisa, Auntie Kay and my mom are continually astounded with how well I’m doing as my progress has far exceeded their expectations. And to see the number of friends on Facebook that love and care for me! I was even lucky enough to meet two of them in person in 2010 — Judy and Colleen. 🙂

I hope that I can continue to educate people on why pit bulls are great, why rescue dogs are worth saving and how I’m doing on a daily basis. Plus I want everyone to take the time to smile and laugh as well, as there is too much sadness out there we have to work on! My humans say they are truly blessed for all of the wonderful experiences and friends who have come to love me just as much as they do!

So my journey was a roller coaster, but thru the love and tenacity of 3 humans, I have proven that any misunderstood dog can be beautifully rehabilitated with the help of a knowledgeable trainer, the love and dedication of a foster mom and the support of over 1,000 fans!

My journey is still going on. You can live my life thru my updates and outings on my Facebook: Gwen’s Last Chance. I also want to continue to show people how important and significant it is to help shelter dogs as a lot are not given these many chances. We are a village and it takes a village to rescue dogs in danger!!!

Thank you!

Parent: Kayla