SANFORD — Thanks to good timing, a little luck and a lot of love, two Sanford dogs are on their way to a better life. Carolina Animal Rescue and Adoption helped Maggie and her puppy Mimi, a pair of pit bulls, journey from the streets of Sanford to New York, where they’ve made a famous friend in Matchbox Twenty lead singer Rob Thomas.
Abbey Lindauer of CARA said Maggie and Mimi came to her through rather exceptional circumstances.
"To say that the stars were aligned for all of this to happen would be an understatement," Lindauer said.
About two months ago, Lindauer received a phone call at about 8 p.m. from a man who found Maggie and Mimi wandering along Gulf Road. He wasn’t able to take the dogs home, but he sat with them for two hours trying to track down someone who could take them.
"It was just by chance that I was able to go meet him," Lindauer said. "Animal Control was closed. He literally called everyone he could think of."
Both dogs were emaciated. Maggie was covered in mange, and her teeth had worn down to nothing. She had wounds on her face and appeared to have been in a fight, possibly for food or trying to protect Mimi. Both dogs were also covered with fleas.
Though CARA’s dog kennels are often full, that night there happened to be room at the shelter for Maggie and Mimi. Lindauer and the CARA staff bathed the dogs, fed them and vaccinated them. And despite the perception that pit bulls are overly aggressive, Maggie and Mimi were just grateful to have a place to stay.
"They were both so sweet," Angela Conway of CARA said. "They were great with kids. My girls just loved petting them in the recovery room."
Lindauer reported the dogs to Animal Control as found and took them to the vet the next day, and Maggie’s situation was worse than expected. She suffered from a painful condition in which her kneecaps came out of joint. In one of her back knees, the cartilage was completely gone. She needed knee replacements in both of her back knees, surgery that would cost around $5,000.
CARA couldn’t afford the surgery, so Lindauer took it upon herself to ensure Maggie had somewhere to go, whether it was another shelter or a hospice-type environment.
"Sometimes there are dogs that just absolutely touch you and Maggie was one of those for me," Lindauer said. "Not that I don’t go the length for all of the dogs, but she kind of became my personal cause. Despite all she had been through, she still just wanted human attention and affection and love. I wanted her to have that chance to feel safe."
Lindauer contacted everyone she knew in animal welfare. Most people gave her the standard, "We’re sorry, but we can’t help you." Because of their aggressive reputation, Lindauer said most organizations don’t want to take pit bulls because they can’t find homes for them.
Finally, Pets Alive, a no-kill shelter in New York, agreed to take both Maggie and Mimi. Pets Alive frequently works with the Sidewalk Angels Foundation, a nonprofit started by Thomas and his wife, Marisol, that provides funds for a wide array of causes, including animal welfare. After sharing Maggie’s story with them, the Thomases agreed to pay for her surgery. Lindauer drove Maggie the 12 hours to New York herself.
"As much as I knew that this was the right thing for her, it was the absolute hardest thing I have ever done," Lindauer said. "I just adored her. Had I been able to afford her medical care, I would have kept her."
But Lindauer found comfort in the people at Pets Alive, who immediately bonded with Maggie and Mimi. The dogs met Rob and Marisol Thomas at a Pets Alive event Sept. 3, and Maggie has since been adopted by a couple from New Jersey. She underwent surgery Tuesday without complications.
"It just makes you want to cry with happiness," Conway said. "It’s so fulfilling to know that a dog that had nothing is now about to have a family."
Mimi is still at Pets Alive waiting to be adopted, but Lindauer said she is confident the organization will take care of her and find her a good home. In only a couple of months, Lindauer said Maggie and Mimi touched her life, and she is thrilled that their story has ended happily.
"For this to happen and for it to be a good story is just a reminder that this is why we do it," Lindauer said. "For all the bad times and all the horrible decisions we have to make, this is something that makes it all worth it."