Shot and left for dead, Sadie is now a champion for animal welfare

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A DOG’S LIFE: Sadie relaxes on the beach in Ft. Lauderdale during a recent trip to flim an episode of Lifetime TV’s 'The Balancing Act' -Photo: Courtesy

Before Hank, there was Sadie. 

Hank was found wandering around the Brewers’ spring training facility in Arizona with an injured tail and markings on his leg suggesting a car-related injury. The Brewers rescued the pooch, and in return he seems to have rallied the team and its fans. After a forgettable season last year, the Brewers began 2014 with a standing ovation for Hank and nine straight wins.

Sadie was less fortunate, but her rehabilitation has been all the more inspiring because of it. She was found in the woods of Kentucky with a bullet hole between her eyes and a bullet and shrapnel lodged in her spine. Someone had shot the doe-eyed, 5-year-old dog and left her paralyzed and doomed to die a slow, torturous death.

“It was a failed execution,” said Joal Derse-Dauer, the dog’s adopted human companion. “They just left her for dead. I guess they figured, ‘Why waste another bullet when she’ll be dead by morning.’” 

Through an unlikely series of events, Sadie’s fate and that of Muskego resident Derse-Dauer have become entwined. The two are on an astonishing journey to raise awareness of animal cruelty and the horror of puppy mills, which Derse-Dauer believes are responsible for the kind of cruelty Sadie suffered: She had given birth to a litter of puppies not long before her shooting. Derse-Dauer later learned that puppy mills in Southern states commonly dispose of breeding females in this manner.

Sadie’s path

Sadie’s path almost crossed Hank’s at Milwaukee’s General Mitchell International Airport in March. On the same day that Hank flew into Milwaukee from Arizona on Southwest Airlines, Sadie returned to Milwaukee via Southwest from Ft. Lauderdale, Fla., where she was filming an episode of The Balancing Act for Lifetime TV. The program airs on May 1.

Sadie and Derse-Dauer travel frequently around the country to advocate for tougher regulation of dog breeders, as well as for the rights of people with disabilities. This year, Sadie went to both the Golden Globes and the Oscars.

She’s also a spokes-puppy for Goofurr, a product that mixes with pills to get uncooperative felines to take their medication.

Derse-Dauer would like to find additional corporate sponsors.

Sadie’s journey from puppy factory to animal-welfare activist began at the end of April 2012, when animal-lover Derse-Dauer, who currently has two dogs and two cats, dropped by a local animal shelter to donate blankets. She was about to leave when Sadie’s large brown eyes caught her attention. Derse-Dauer asked a volunteer about the dog’s story.

The volunteer recounted how someone had brought Sadie to Wisconsin, specifically because the state has no-kill shelters, and left her there. At the time, Sadie was paralyzed and incontinent. 

“I scooped her up and took her to a few doctors, who gave Sadie a grim prognosis,” Derse-Dauer says on her website savingsadie.com. Two veterinarians encouraged her to put Sadie to sleep.

But Derse-Dauer saw life in Sadie’s eyes, she said on a recent visit to WiG’s office. She took Sadie to a vet who removed the bullet from her brain, and together she and the dog embarked on an intensive — and expensive — regimen of rehabilitation that involves a lot of alternative medicine.

Sadie undergoes daily exercise and physical therapy, including swimming, acupuncture, aqua puncture, laser treatments, chiropractic sessions, e-stim therapy, Power Plate therapy, cutting-edge stem-cell therapy and many other techniques.

“She takes a shoe box of supplements every day — but no drugs,” Derse-Dauer said. 

“I just check out every single avenue I can. I don’t care how far-fetched it is.”

Sadie has surprised veterinarians with her miraculous progress. She’s no longer incontinent, and although she still can’t walk without assistance, there’s evidence of nerve regeneration in her hind legs.

Except for refusing to use a wagon that functions as a wheelchair, Sadie cooperates fully in her recuperative activities, Derse-Dauer said. She’s alert, happy and active, with a tail that’s constantly wagging. She evinces no sign of pain or repercussions of the abuse she suffered.

Since Sadie is quite possibly the only dog to have ever undergone such intensive treatment, her long-term prognosis is unknown. But for now, she’s clearly a contented, active and loving dog, with an uncanny air of calmness and knowing eyes. So long as Sadie continues to thrive, Derse-Dauer will continue supporting her in every way possible, she said, even though the cost and scheduling involved have radically altered her life. Derse-Dauer is a consultant to companies that are downsizing.

Derse-Dauer acknowledged that many people have questioned the sanity of her quest and the toll it’s taken on the two of them. Derse-Dauer bristles at the notion that Sadie is somehow suffering or feels incomplete.

“She’s not a poor thing,” Derse-Dauer said, glancing down at Sadie, who responded by lovingly narrowing her eyes and wagging her tail. “Her personality is lively and animated. She flies down the stairs in the morning. When the plane lands, she looks out the window. She will not sit down in my car. She wants to soak in life. She takes half an hour to eat a bowl of food. She savors every bite.”

Moral dimensions

Mohandas Gandhi said that the “greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way its animals are treated.” Angela Speed, director of communications of the Wisconsin Humane Society, agrees.

“Animal abuse reflects the health of the whole community,” she said. 

Behavioral researchers also agree: Several major studies have found that people who are cruel to animals are also far more likely to commit violent acts against people, especially women and children.

Fortunately, animal abuse is relatively rare in Milwaukee, Speed said. For example, the recent case of a dog named Beatrice who was set on fire in Milwaukee made the news precisely because such incidents are infrequent, she said.

“We do see a lot of neglect” however, Speed acknowledged. “A lot of pets don’t have proper care or training. We respond to calls where they’ve been left outside in the cold or in the heat in dangerous conditions.”

A Wisconsin statute classifies cruelty that results in mutilation, disfigurement or death of an animal as a Class I felony, punishable by up to three and a half years imprisonment and a $10,000 fine. Animal welfare advocates, including Derse-Dauer, seek to enhance the penalty.

Wisconsin also has a law that sets standards and regulates dog breeders. Act 90, passed in 2009, was the last piece of legislation to receive unanimous approval by the Legislature. The compassionate care afforded dogs in the state makes Wisconsin’s wolf-hunting laws, which are considered the most barbaric in the nation (see story, page 14), all the more startling. The Wisconsin Humane Society is part of a lawsuit to overturn a GOP-backed law permitting domestic dogs to be used in the state’s annual wolf slaughter.

Recognizing not only the immorality of animal abuse, but also the danger it represents to society, the City of Milwaukee has created a task force to coordinate training so that anti-abuse laws are enforced. The group, which includes representatives from the Wisconsin Humane Society, the district attorney’s office, the city attorney’s office, the Department of Neighborhood Services and the Milwaukee Area Domestic Animal Control Commission, meets every other month.

Jill Kline, education and advocacy manager for the Wisconsin Humane Society, said the task force was successful last year in updating Milwaukee’s animal control ordinance to criminalize the possession of dog-fighting paraphernalia and to make it illegal to be a spectator at dog-fighting events and to keep animals in garages, sheds and vacant structures. 

The updated ordinance made it mandatory for the owner of an animal that’s been designated as dangerous to have a microchip inserted into the animal for identification purposes. Another change was enhanced penalties for second and subsequent violations of dog- and cat-licensing requirements, animal-cruelty prohibition and animal fighting.

Kline said it’s important for people to contact elected officials and urge them to support laws that promote animal welfare. She urges people to report animal abuse they witness to law-enforcement agencies.

“The way we treat animals is critical to our social fabric and the safety of our communities,” Kline said. “We’re glad to live in a county where people take these concerns seriously.”

Do you know?

• 76 percent of animal abusers also abuse a family member, according to a study conducted by the Association of Prosecuting Attorneys.

• Adult males convicted of animal cruelty are five times as likely to commit violent crimes against children and acts of domestic violence.

• 71 percent of battered women report that their pets have been threatened, harmed or killed by their abusive partners.

• South Dakota recently became the 50th state to adopt felony-level charges for animal cruelty. 

How to contribute

You can contribute to Sadie’s care at the website savingsadie.com or by sending a check to Saving Sadie, P.O. Box 413, Muskego, WI 53150. Joal Derse-Dauer says that “every penny donated goes toward Sadie’s rehabilitation,” which costs about $20,000 annually.

On the Web: savingsadie.com