I recently met Oliver, the mastiff, during a family walk, at Indian RiverSide Park. You can’t miss him! He is enormous, stunning and regal. Walking along the sidewalk with his sister Abigail (another mastiff breed,) and his devoted parents, doctors Greg and Susan Braunstein, one would never know Oliver’s horrific story, unless one stopped to ask….
Greg and Susan Braunstein are well-known along the Treasure Coast for their tireless work with all animals in need, especially at the Humane Society of the Treasure Coast (http://www.hstc1.org), but their greatest love is the large dogs known as “mastiffs.” (http://mastiffrescuefl.org)
Unfortunately in the dog rescue world, it is well-known that the expansive “Everglades area,” including the Everglades Agricultural Area, the surrounding Glades and cities around the Everglades, is a region where dogs are often abandoned—this includes dogs of the very largest of breeds…
According to Everglades Dog Rescue: “These dogs may be starving, dehydrated, alone, snake bit, frightened, sick, injured, pregnant, missing limbs or with ears cut off. They may be covered in ticks and fleas, in sweltering heat or cold weather, old or young, purebred or mutts, abandoned and forlorn….and yet, amazingly, THEIR TAILS WAG when they see their rescuers…”
There are many, but a couple of the organizations working to save the “literally thousands of dogs” that are dumped and abandoned in the Florida Everglades as noted by the Braunsteins are:
Mira Malters: Friends of the Clewiston Animal Shelter: (https://www.facebook.com/mirta.maltes?fref=ts)
Everglades Rescue: (http://evergladesdogrescue.com)
After running into Susan and Greg at the park a few months ago, I asked Susan to share Oliver’s story and how he came to live along the St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon. Susan did such a remarkable job telling his story that I will not edit it, and will share it fully with you today:
Today we signed Oliver’s adoption papers. He is identified on the paperwork as Oliver – the Everglades Dog.
Many people dump unwanted dogs in the Glades, and most live short, miserable lives in the wild or go to small rural high-kill shelters for a brief time before they are euthanized.
Animal Control had seen a mastiff for three months near Clewiston, Florida. He was spotted near a school, in sugarcane fields, in the Glades, and by canals. They could never catch him although several times they came close. They had tried to trap him, but he was so wary he successfully eluded them time after time. They watched him grow more and more emaciated Finally, they darted him with a tranquilizer, captured him, carried him to their truck and took him to their small, rural shelter. One of the two staff members remembering hearing about Mastiff Rescue and emailed.
Greg was doing transports that week, and he offered to go to Clewiston, do a dog evaluation, and transport the dog back to Mastiff Central. He prepared for the event by stocking up on hot dogs and turkey, two items we find almost irresistible to mastiffs.
Oliver was in a fenced area, and Greg sat quietly holding out treats. Oliver approached and retreated, approached and retreated in a classic approach/avoidance dance. When frightened by a movement inside or outside the enclosure, he slinked so low he became one with the ground. Eventually he took the treats, and later still he allowed Greg to put him in the van. On the two-hour drive back to Mastiff Central, he took tastes of hot dog and turkey as they continually appeared in Greg’s hand. Somewhere on the drive, Greg and Oliver fell in love.
Oliver went to the vet where he was found to have no micro-chip. He had a parasite-borne disease, and he was emaciated. He could not be neutered until his disease was gone and he gained enough weight.
Oliver became Greg’s foster dog in a family of two humans and one other mastiff, Abigail. Abigail is a former puppy mill breeder who had been chained to a tree her whole life. Oliver and Abigail became instant friends. He was wary, slinky, and silent. During the time his family waited for his good health and weight gain, many people worked with Oliver so he would regain his confidence. He slowly began accepting treats from some people. He re-learned walking on a leash near other people and dogs. He began to willingly enter rooms where strangers sat.
He began to bark. It is a big, deep, and joyous sound. He barks when his van approaches his favorite parks and places to walk. He barks when he sees his special friends approaching. He barks and dances when Greg re-enters the house after a short time away. He is still wary. He still does not willingly approach strangers. When a person he normally likes picked up a stick-like device to throw a tennis ball, he cringed and ran away. However, he becomes more confident every day. He now rolls over for tummy rubs from his parents, sleeps touching his sister Abigail, and allows a few special friends to pat his head.
Many people collaborated so we could rescue Oliver, and, in turn, he could help rescue Abigail from the behaviors forced upon her by a cruel past. Both of these dogs are a testament to the nobility and infinite forgiveness of the breed. —–Susan Braunstein
What a story…
What an inspiration…
Look for Oliver if you visit Indian RiverSide Park!
Kudos to doctors Greg and Susan Braunstein for their rescue work in the Everglades, as well as our along our St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon!
And Oliver, “welcome to our SLR/IRL family!” 🙂