- Reporters Desk
By Andrea Serna, Arts and Culture Writer
Prisons exist all around us. It is possible to wander past a prison and not even realize it exists.
In the heart of the Harbor, there exists a little-known site, right on Harbor Boulevard, where prisoners are released from solitary confinement on a regular basis. Animals Rule is an animal rescue group operated by volunteers and managed by Stephanie Crawford, the owner of Creative Pet Supply.
Each week fortunate dogs and cats are adopted into loving homes. Formerly abandoned and neglected animals find comfort with families seeking to grow their own families through the unconditional love of a pet.
Lokie, a pure-bred German shepherd, had a particularly rough start to his life. Through a stroke of fate, Lokie was saved in the effort to rescue a small bichon frise named Niño.
“We were closing one Saturday and a customer came in asking for a tie-out cable,” said Crawford.
Crawford was immediately alerted to the request because tying down dogs is illegal in Los Angeles. During the conversation, she found out that the man was a customer at a mechanic shop in Wilmington. He was concerned about the small dog who kept escaping from the mechanic yard. Crawford asked if she could talk to the owner of the shop. Astoundingly, the owner agreed to let her visit the shop. She found not one, but two animals chained to a wall.
Lokie was living a hopeless life, chained to the end of a 25-pound chain. Nuzzled in between a wall and a truck was his living quarters. He slept and lived in his own urine and feces his entire life. He had never been bathed. Lokie sat at the end of the heavy chain with his head cocked to one side. Visitors to the yard believed that his neck was broken from the weight of the chain and feared that he may be vicious. Lokie had never had human contact. He had never walked any further than the 3-foot chain would allow.
“He could only turn around and sit down,” Crawford said. “He was never off that chain. As he turned the chain cranked around his neck and caused his head to turn to one side. I asked them to remove the chain and they said it was rusted and could not be removed.”
After many attempts to remove the chain Crawford was ready to ask her husband to bring bolt cutters, but one worker finally unscrewed the bolts holding the dog. When the chain dropped to the ground, Lokie simply sat and looked at his rescuer.
“All I could do was cry,” Crawford said.
As the dog began to walk she noticed a limp. On Lokie’s first veterinarian visit, an x-ray was taken that showed no serious hip damage, but the muscles on one side had atrophied from sitting on cold concrete. Lokie also had blood bulbs and blisters on his elbows from the concrete. After a few weeks, those began to heal.
“Now, because he gets out twice a day he runs and jumps and each day he gets better,” Crawford said. “Today, you can barely tell that he had those problems.”
Animals Rule has created a wide network of relationships to assist with the rehabilitation of their rescue animals. In addition to the many volunteers, foster homes and veterinarian care, K-9 Companions in Corona helps with the reintegration of their animals. K-9 Companions specializes in dog training, as well as training individuals who want to become professional animal trainers.
“They have trained several dogs for me before,” Crawford said. “I took him out there to have him assessed to find out what kind of training he will need, how long it will be and how much it will cost. He passed with flying colors. On April 9 he will be going into training and they will work with him for three weeks. Our goal is to be able to train him to walk and respond to commands so he can eventually be adopted.”
According to the Humane Society, it takes about three months for a dog, who has lived his entire life on a chain, to learn how to play and chase a ball because they have been so traumatized.
The training will cost about $1,500. Today, Lokie is like a toddler, who jumps and plays and craves attention, but does not know how to sit and stay put. His gentle temperament provides a glimpse into his potential as a family pet. When he is finally adopted he will require new owners who are committed to his progress towards becoming a faithful companion.
Niño and Lokie are together now in the safe environment of the kennels at Animals Rule, but they will soon find new homes and the love they were denied.
It is easy to see how the cost of rescuing animals can run up quickly. Funding for the nonprofit organization is raised through their website and through tax-refundable adoption fees. With a small staff of volunteers, Animals Rule finds homes for about 200 animals each year. There are four full-time volunteers and another five who volunteer on a part-time basis.
To volunteer or donate to Animals Rule call (310) 832-9929 or visit animalsrule.org. Foster homes that house and assess a dog’s temperament are especially needed.