This is a story about a once desperate dog named Clara and the couple who went the distance — and then some — to give her a second chance at life.
Last April, a good Samaritan found Clara, an English setter-mix, wandering in the Freetown State Forest. He brought the fragile animal to the Lakeville Animal Shelter. When New Bedford resident Charlene Rocha heard about the lost dog, she knew she wanted to offer it a loving home. The couple decided to adopt the dog, sight unseen. Little did they know the challenges that lay ahead."She was terrified and shaking," Charlene recalls of Clara. "She didn't want to leave the shelter."The first thing the couple did was bring Clara to a veterinarian for a wellness checkup. There, tests revealed that the dog, estimated to be 5 to 7 years old, was suffering from a host of illnesses — Lyme disease, kennel cough, conjunctivitis, heartworm and other more. The staff said they'd understand if, under the circumstances, the couple wanted to return Clara to the shelter.
Charlene and Matt didn't need to think about it."We're keeping this dog," Charlene insisted. "We're sticking with her."A regimen of costly treatments began, eventually mounting into thousands of dollars." It took a couple of weeks for her to lift her head off the floor," Charlene remembers. "She's still terrified of being alone. Clara is lovable and very sweet, but she has a lot of fear."The couple needed help quick. So they turned to Jason Santos, owner of Bark Buster In-Home Dog Training in Plymouth. The animal behaviorist, who makes house calls, spent hours working with Clara and her new owners on soothing the dog's anxiety."
I love working with dogs," says Santos, who has served some 500 clients since opening his business three years ago. "I teach the owners canine language and to use the right postures, tones and timing."
When Santos learned about the mounting cost of Clara's veterinary care, he returned his fee to the couple."They took her out of the kindness of their heart," the trainer comments. "They are the heroes."