Giving a Sweet Old Gal a Break

by SummerHuggins • Posted in: Where are they now

Xena’s first nine years were not what she expected. She spent her vulnerable puppy months and what should have been a happy and active adult life in someone’s backyard, lonely and often forgotten. The mange she’d developed stripped off much of her protective fur, probably making cold winter nights the hardest.

When the city asked Xena’s owners to either get her medical attention or to give her up, they chose to give her up, putting Xena on the city’s euthanasia list.

An Austin Pets Alive! volunteer saw something in her eyes, though — something that, behind their frightened exterior told him that Xena so desperately wanted a connection with someone.

That someone turned out to be two someones: Ann and Christine Fowler.

The sisters had recently lost their beloved 16-year-old dog, leaving them heartbroken and wanting to help another aging senior. They explained to APA! staff they were looking for a “sweet old gal who needed a break.”

While Xena was often overlooked due to her scarily skinny appearance with a mangey coat, volunteers introduced them and everything seemed to click.

“What we saw was a dog that needed a friend, a dog that was not likely to find a home quickly or easily … an old gal who needed a break.”

Sisters Ann and Christine Fowler, and 'good girl' Gigi.

Ann and Christine renamed Xena “GiGi” or “GG”, which is short for “Good Girl,” hoping she would start to associate her name with something positive.

During the first few weeks GiGi wore a painfully shy, protective layer. If someone touched her unexpectedly, GiGi ran yelping into the next room, returning sheepishly a few minutes later. She ate all her meals quickly and ravenously, as if she was afraid it could be her last. When other dogs approached her she reacted fearfully and would growl when someone leaned in to pet her.

“She was letting me know she was not yet comfortable enough to allow me in her personal space,” Ann said. “We did not punish her; we just gave her time to get used to her new environment and people.”

Ann and Christine also wanted to learn how to best work with GiGi so took training classes through PetSmart and the Canine Center for Training and Behavior, which they said they have found invaluable.

“In December GiGi had a ‘Helen Keller moment,’” Ann said. “I believe it finally occurred to her that the words we say have relevance to her. She now pays attention to words and reacts appropriately.”

Not only that, but GiGi has gone from fearful and anxious to relaxed and content. In addition to welcoming other forms of affection and new experiences (like letting her ears flap in the wind during a long car ride!), GiGi has grown especially fond of massages.

“She will come to me when I’m sitting on the couch and burrow her head between my legs and the couch,” Ann laughed. “She seems to like this ‘bridge’, because then I can massage her head and her back at the same time.”

GiGi has made such great strides that Ann and Christine have even signed her up for a weekend of hiking with other dogs at the Canine Center.

“She has taken a liking to a Husky named Isaac Newton,”Ann said. “Watching her run up to him and frolic as she playfully bites him makes us laugh.”

The Fowler sisters say that adopting GiGi has brought a joy back into their lives — a joy only a dog can provide.

“There’s probably not a day goes by that we don’t watch her snoozing in the living room and remark how happy we are that she was given the opportunity to live happily ever after.”

Written by Kristen West

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15 Responses to "Giving a Sweet Old Gal a Break"

  1. jose gomezsays: February 28, 2012 at 10:35 am

    beautiful story! amazing how love can transform a being! well done, bless you all!

  2. Hilahsays: February 28, 2012 at 10:43 am

    Thank you for sharing this great story! I needed something nice this morning.

  3. Jen Jsays: February 28, 2012 at 11:18 am

    Another remarkable story for an APA alumni! Another reminder how a little love goes a long way in the life of an animal. Kudos to the Fowler sisters for believing in the the power of love!

  4. bradsays: February 28, 2012 at 12:55 pm

    What a wonderful happy ending. Thank you Ann and Christine for providing a great home for GiGi. All animals deserve to have such a caring and devoted family.

  5. Franksays: February 28, 2012 at 1:33 pm

    A very heart warming story. I also needed something nice today. Thank you APA!!

  6. Betty Foremansays: February 28, 2012 at 2:44 pm

    I work with Christine Fowler and GiGi could not have a better home. The pictures before and after says it all.

  7. Ann I Houstonsays: February 28, 2012 at 3:08 pm

    What a kind thing for the sisters to do , happy the dog has a great home. Their are so many out there in all States that need our help. We all should do our bit to help those that need the help if we can.

  8. Jane Fowlersays: February 28, 2012 at 9:52 pm

    The best story ever! Love you gals!!

  9. David Fowlersays: February 29, 2012 at 10:38 am

    Wonderful story. A surefire win-win situation for all concerned! Well done, Ann and Christine.

  10. Susana McGinnissays: February 29, 2012 at 7:55 pm

    What a great story of compasion and love! Congratulations to the sisters that saw all that potential in GG. We have to learn to look a little deeper and we can find a wonderfull world! Great story!

  11. Christine Fowlersays: February 29, 2012 at 8:02 pm

    We did nothing but adopt a dog that needed a home. Thanks to Austin Pets Alive for saving her life and treating her for the ailments. That couldn’t have been fun. She gives us so much love, every day.

  12. Chris Lawlor - Bostonsays: February 29, 2012 at 11:07 pm

    Hi A & C .. hope allz well. What a wonderful story. I recently lost a furry 4 legged friend who was also lovingly called ‘good girl’ I have a feeling that name may be more common then we think :-) If only more people would give an old puppy a big break and give em a good home. Sounds like GG found a great one. Keep on keepin on girls.
    … your cuz Chris

  13. Rose Marie Fowlersays: March 1, 2012 at 12:33 pm

    What a beautiful story, Ann and Christine. I know the love, care and concern you have for your dear pets. God bless both of you! Your Aunt, Rosie

  14. Bettie Freemansays: March 7, 2012 at 10:56 am

    What an inspiring story. I pray that Roxy (11) and Sadie (10), two little dachshund,s will be so lucky. We rescued them from our street las week. We located the owner thru Roxy’s chip. Only to find out the lady was 85 years old and living in a nursing home for the past two years. Her daughter took the dogs but unfortunately died last year. Her daughter’s daughter then took the dogs. A couple of days before we found the dogs, the grandmother said her granddaughter had informed her that she was moving, and that the dogs had escaped from her yard. The grandmother was so happy we had found her beloved dogs. She said she had been unable to sleep and cried most of the night because of the worrying about them. She informed her granddaugher to retrieve the dogs from us and the grandmother immediately got in touch with a friend of hers to pick the dogs up from her grandaughter. She said he is going to keep them for the time being, but he has three dogs himself. These are the sweetest, well behaved dogs. We are unable to take the dogs. My husband is 81 and has health problems. Five months ago he underwent surgery to remove anurisms from his aorta and is scheduled to have hernia surgery this coming Tuesday. We have an eight year old dachshund Penny, who is the light of our lives, We can’t imagine her ending up like this. If your organization could help this lady, please contact me and I will let you know how to contact her. Bettie Freeman (210) 647-7388.

  15. austinpetsalivesays: March 7, 2012 at 1:17 pm

    Thank you for helping this family, Bettie! If you could contact our pass team, they might be able to help with the rehoming process: email hidden; JavaScript is required.