Carson Valley woman takes in abused dogs |

Carson Valley woman takes in abused dogs

by Linda Hiller

In more than 30 years of rescuing stray and abandoned dogs, Cherie Owen has never seen such an abused dog as Lacey, a 2-year-old black lab mix.

“She is so scared that even if I change my clothes, it frightens her,” Owen said. “My neighbors are probably beginning to wonder if I’ve come on hard times since I rarely change clothes any more.”

Lacey and her brother Denim, then young puppies, were dumped alongside a Carson Valley road and found by someone who said they were nearly dead.

“They were skinny, wet, dirty and half dead by the side of the road,” Owen said. “It’s a wonder they survived. The male was more social and was adopted out, but Lacey was terrified of everything. I’ve never seen so damaged a dog as this.”

Owen is known around what she calls “the dog network” for her work with German Shepherd Rescue, a Southern California organization she worked with for 22 years before moving here in 1991.

“I started out helping someone who was a rescuer at the time because I felt sorry for the animals,” she said. “As the word spread, we got up to 200 calls a week and decided we had to be selective and narrow it down a bit, so we specialized in German shepherds, which is a breed we both loved. I’m not really a little dog person, and besides, it’s harder to place large dogs because of the fact that they need more food and space and usually a fenced yard.”

– She’s seen it all. In the last 30 years, Owen said she has seen many dogs abandoned in horrible places and end up suffering terrible fates. She just wishes people would be more thoughtful of “man’s best friend.”

“It’s the reason I don’t carry a gun – I’d be in jail after seeing some of these monsters,” she said. “Sometimes, I’d like to tell people who dump dogs that if they don’t want their pet, it would be kinder to at least take it to the vet and have it humanely killed. I think people who abuse other living things will be consigned to their own special place in hell.”

Owen has seen hundreds of ways that man proves his “best friend” is disposable. She’s seen gaping wounds, evidence of cruelty beyond belief, and illnesses that could have been easily prevented with a little bit of care.

But still she keeps opening her home to these lost creatures and now, with Lacey, admittedly one of her most challenging patients, Owen hopes the right person will step forward, as have hundreds of true “best friend” lovers in the last three decades.

One thing, above all else, could make her rescue work unnecessary, Owen said.

“Spay and neuter your dogs and be a responsible pet owner,” she said. “It’s that simple.”

– The good and the bad. In 30 years, Owen has seen many sides of the rescue business. She was once sued by a homeless man for placing his two German shepherds and their puppies with good homes, after a friend asked her to do so (he lost the case).

Another time, she found a dog that went on to save its master’s life.

“I found Robbie Burns when I spotted about 60 dogs running around after a female in heat,” she said. “It was awful, the males were fighting, and Robbie – this round-headed mutt – had his face ripped open. I took him to the vet and later, a retired schoolteacher came along and adopted him.”

The man wanted a dog to take to his retirement cabin in Montana, Owen said, and when they got there, Robbie did the dastardly deed of killing the man’s milk goat.

Later, when the two were walking in the woods near the cabin, a bear came out of nowhere, heading toward the man, and Robbie Burns went after the bear. Instead of a fatal mauling, injuries were only minor, thanks to Robbie Burns.

“He saved my life,” the man later told Owen. “He can have all the goats he wants.”

– From phones to census. Owen, 63, retired from a career with Pacific Bell and moved to the Carson Valley eight years ago. The lost dogs followed her here, and to date, she says she probably cares for 40 dogs per year.

Taking in one dog, she said, averages from $225 to $250 each, for shots, spaying and advertising for their new home. Owen is currently working as a census taker for the 2000 United States Census.

After being rescued, Lacey spent the next two years in a cage, and the last eight weeks at Owen’s house. Her pet dog, 12-year-old Cleo, has accepted Lacey and the two are fast friends.

Because of Owens’ continuing dedication to rescuing German shepherds, she cannot have a dog with any qualms about unfamiliar canine house guests that constantly come and go. Owen said Lacey, though she is shy, growled at one of the dogs she recently had at the house, and that’s not good.

“I can’t even have cats here, even though I love cats, because I never know what kind of dog I’ll get, and how they’ll react to cats,” she said. “Cleo gets along with everyone, but I have to watch Lacey, so I’m hoping to find a good home for her. She does love to follow other dogs around. She has never shown any aggression to me – and I’ve had to corner her and catch her and do things that might have made her growl or snap at me, but she never has. She’s real sweet when I have her on a lead.”

Lacey has been housebroken, spayed and inoculated, Owen said. In the eight weeks the two have lived together, they’ve come to an evening routine that both seem to enjoy.

“She now sleeps on my bed,” Owen said. “She comes in the doggy door and goes to my bed and lays down. When she’s there, she’ll let me pet her and everything.”

This is a giant leap, Owen said, because when she first arrived, Lacey had her tail between her legs and was slinking around. Now, she prances around the yard with her tail up and although she is still shy and keeps her distance, her progress leads Owen to believe she is trainable.

“She’s traveled one million light years so far,” Owen said. “There’s no telling how much farther she’ll go.”

– What Lacey needs. Ideally, Lacey needs a medium-sized fenced yard with perhaps a young male dog to play with, Owen said. Adults or older children would be preferable to a family with young children.

Lacey is free to the right home, and that should be soon, because Owen will be leaving to visit her daughter in Southern California the end of this month. If no one takes her, Owen said she’ll probably go back to a caged life.

To inquire, call Owen at 782-3770.