Stevie’s story is a truly heartbreaking one. At 5 years old, the little Yorkie was being held up to breathe by his breeder because his back two legs were broken. The breeder then decided he or she could no longer could take of the struggling puppy. “The first time we took him to the vet, they pulled 14 teeth,” Wallace says. “He then had surgery to repair his legs, which were like two little sticks. He was in pretty rough shape.”
But today, Stevie is 8 years old and has happily settled into the Wallace home. He is considered a celebrity within their Preserve neighborhood, proudly wearing his assortment of bowties and treasured University of Alabama hat. Wallace jokes that when guests come over, they have nowhere to store their clothes because Stevie’s wardrobe takes up an entire closet. Stevie still struggles with heart problems, but Wallace says it’s totally worth it. Last year, she was diagnosed with breast cancer and went through five months of chemotherapy. She says it was her dogs that lit up her life. “It’s a commitment. It’s just like when you marry someone, you don’t stop loving them just because they get sick,” Wallace says. “Our goal is make these dogs forget about life before.”
Holly Miller had been longing for a dog for several years but knew it was an impractical choice for a college student. Fast forward several years: She was living in a rental house with a fenced backyard. The timing seemed perfect for her and her boyfriend, AJ Roach. “He had patiently put up with day after day of me shoving my phone in his face saying ‘What about this one?’” Miller recalls. “His only stipulation was that whatever dog we got would be named Champ. One day, I saw the saddest picture on Craigslist—a Rottweiler that was so thin he looked like a Doberman. This time, when I held up my phone I got a yes, and the rest is history. It turns out that Champ was the perfect cartoon name for the perfect cartoon dog.”
And Champ would soon get a brother. Falcor, a Dogo, was one of a group of dogs seized from a dog-hog fighting operation in Cottonwood, Alabama. He spent approximately eight months in a shelter. “When we went to meet his transport, he was absolutely terrified of everything,” Miller says. “We had to pick him up to get him in the car. For the first few weeks, he would run away if you so much as made eye contact with him.”
Today, he and his brother Champ are the best of buddies. Champ has shown Falcor the basic ropes of obedience as well as how to dig holes and eat dirt. “Falcor takes cues from Champ and has learned to trust us and be less wary of other humans,” says Miller. “He has gained plenty of weight and even sleeps on his back. He’s still got a lot of quirks, but he’s turned into a real dog. His greatest disappointments are that he is not allowed off leash, and that the cat does not want to play.” Their rescue pups have truly brightened the couple’s days. For Miller, it’s reassuring that she doesn’t have to be at home by herself. Her dogs are a “security system that actually loves you” as she describes it.
“Whether they’re sleeping in absurd positions or making hilariously dumb faces, they always make us laugh,” she says. “Champ has matured into a fine, steady adult dog and is a grand champion snuggler. Falcor has become more puppy-like as he’s gained confidence. The resulting dynamic is definite big brother/little brother antics.”
“They’ve definitely made us better, more patient people,” Miller says. “They’ve also made us immeasurably happier and made our house into that much more of the home. We are very lucky to have found these pups.”
Carl Jackson of Butler, Alabama, has fallen in love with his Boston Terrier named Abby and his daughter’s Chow named Bear. Jackson was the Deputy Sheriff in the Choctaw County Sheriff’s Department that spearheaded a rescue with the ASPCA. He recalls the grim situation in which he and his team discovered the animals. More than a hundred dogs, including Pomeranians, Chihuahuas, and Yorkies, were stacked to the roof in a confined, unkempt area. Thankfully, the dogs were taken out of the horrific situation.
Today, Abby and Bear are part of a happy family of pets. Abby and Jackson seem to be meant for each other, as the lovable Boston Terrier doesn’t veer far from his side. “She’s never met a stranger,” he says of his new sidekick.
Angie Ingram’s longtime passion for protecting dogs from abuse and neglect led her to discover the extent to which puppy mills thrive unregulated in Alabama. After assisting in the rescue of numerous Cavalier King Charles Spaniels that had been placed for auction by a large-scale breeding operation, she began working for a solution to help improve quality of life for dogs being bred and raised in Alabama. “The Alabama Puppy Mill Project grew out of my experiences as a volunteer during the rescue, and the Project’s goal is to bring about puppy mill awareness and positive legislative change,” says Ingram. “A bill was introduced in the 2015 legislative session to provide commercial breeder standards, and although it did not become law in 2015, I will continue to lead the efforts again this year.”
Sweet, doe-eyed Victor came in after he and about 100 other Cavalier King Charles Spaniels were placed up for auction by a large-scale dog breeding operation that had been based in Clay County, Alabama. “Throughout the journey, as a rescue volunteer, I got to know Victor during his rehabilitation and foster care process in rescue,” Ingram says. “I fell in love with his gentle and funny personality and helped as he slowly learned to trust people. I cried tears of joy when I learned that my application had been approved and Victor could finally join our family.”
Ingram is preparing to start her own animal law practice, focusing on the welfare of pets and other animals and the humans who care about them. “I am proud to be among some of the first in Alabama to offer services designed specifically to address the legal needs of pet owners,” says Ingram.