Canine Partners Spotlight:
Abandoned Pup Grows Up to Perform Heroic Act
Zoee started life as an unwanted puppy, left by a Minnesota road with her littermates. Good Samaritans rescued the pups, and Zoee went to a foster home with the hopes of eventually becoming a service dog. Even though that career was not for Zoee, she is an extraordinary companion to her family and saved her owner’s life, earning her an Honorable Mention honor in the annual AKC Awards for Canine Excellence (ACE) in the Exemplary Companion division. Read on to learn more about this special dog:
A box at the end of a driveway was nearly dismissed as trash until the driver took a second glance.
Three small cattle dog-mix puppies, only about 4 weeks old, cowered at the bottom of the box. Rescued and put up for adoption, two of them found homes quickly.
Laura Wiedewitsch of Rochert, Minn., heard about the pups and offered to foster the remaining pup, a small female. She hoped to raise her for a program that her mother, Linda Wiedewitsch, founded: Patriot Assistance Dog (PAD). The organization pairs rescue dogs with veterans with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and Traumatic Brain Injury, causing high levels of anxiety and night terrors among other issues.
As Zoee matured, she seemed to have all the right characteristics to make an excellent service dog.
“I really liked Zoee and thought she showed lots of potential to help someone overcome some of these issues. Zoee could not be accepted into the PAD program until she was a year old, but we started training at about 4 months with a puppy kindergarten class, then beginner obedience and a rally class,” Laura said. “She learned fast and was eager to please. By the time she was a year old and accepted into the PAD program, she had earned her Canine Good Citizen.”
Zoee graduated from PAD and was placed with a veteran, but her exuberance and herding instincts proved a challenge.
“Because of her energy level and having such a fast gait, she didn’t work out for one veteran who used a cane,” Laura said. “After about a year and half in the PAD program with unsuccessful pairings, the decision was made to career change Zoee and get her into a permanent home…I gladly accepted!”
There was just one issue with becoming a dog owner. Laura’s job, working in road construction, takes her away from home for about six months of the year, during the spring and summer seasons.
“I cannot take her to work with me as I operate equipment on highways, and 12 to 15 hours a day for six 6 days a week, being stuck alone in my camper, is no condition for a dog to live.”
So, for half the year, Zoee joins the family of Laura’s sister, which includes her three nieces. Zoee enjoys herding the girls and has developed a close bond with the oldest niece, 11-year-old Piper.
The dog’s former training has come in very handy as Piper now competes in several 4H events with Zoee, qualifying for the state 4H Dog Show and even earning an honorable mention in Rally at the 2016 Minnesota event.
But last year, Laura kept Zoee a little later into her work year than usual. Her first job of the season involved working on the road that runs past her house. Since she would be home every night, Laura decided to keep Zoee for the duration of the project. One day in early June, she decided to even take Zoee along. It proved to be one of the best decisions of her life.
“We were done paving the road, but had a few days of detail work left. One of those days was a short day and I was driving a truck, so I thought I would take Zoee.
“I started my tack truck and walked to the back to light my burners to heat my oil. When I stopped, standing behind the right rear set of duals, Zoee ran to the front of the wheels and went after something. She jumped back from the wheels, the hair on her back rising, lowered her head and slowly moved towards the wheels again. Calling her back, I walked to the front of the wheels. Coiled between the duals was a rattlesnake. I could see the rattle shaking the snake’s warning, but I couldn’t hear it over the truck’s engine or the burner noise. I took Zoee back to the pickup and realized she had a small cut above her left eye that was bleeding. She had been bitten. After a relocating my tack truck on top of the rattlesnake, Zoee and I made a quick trip to the vet. She just received a glancing bite with no venom. Thanks to Zoee’s nose, ears, agility and protective instinct, I didn’t get bitten.”
Because of Zoee’s brave act, Laura’s entire crew has enacted better snake awareness precautions.
Zoee has traveled from a throw away puppy in a cardboard box to a hero: for a young 4Her learning to care for and train a dog, as well as preventing serious injury or even death to her owner. And Zoee probably has more lessons to share with her family, Laura says.