In 2009, the Animal Aid and Rescue Foundation (AARF) picked up a stray pit bull in Seattle’s Georgetown neighborhood.
He was a beautiful dog with a huge smile, a particularly large head, and tawny fur. He loved humans, but he also had a strong, aggressive prey drive which reduced his options for adoption considerably.
If you’ve ever met AARF founder Heather Enajibi, you would know she doesn’t give up on any dog she rescues. Determined to find an appropriate place for him, Heather heard about a place in Forks that took in dogs facing euthanization due to severe behavior problems – the Olympic Animal “Sanctuary (OAS).”
If you googled OAS at that time, you would have found several articles touting praising its founder Steve Markwell for his work with these dogs that he claimed most people “would rather see dead.” Based Heather’s research, OAS appeared to be the ideal place for Leroy, so AARF sent him there a few weeks after they picked him up.
Unfortunately, OAS was not a sanctuary. As the public learned in 2013, the Olympic Animal “Sanctuary” was nothing more than a jail for dogs.
Markwell kept the dogs in crates or small areas virtually 24/7. He rarely changed the straw in their enclosures so it was soaked with urine and smeared with feces. They were only fed periodically. It was a hellhole.
Markwell initially sent AARF a few reports and pictures about Leroy but eventually he stopped.
Heather realized something was wrong in 2012 when she went to OAS with a friend to deliver donated food for Leroy. Markwell wouldn’t let them inside the warehouse, and when he brought out Leroy, Heather said he didn’t seem “right.” He completely ignored them – when AARF had him he LOVED people. The only thing that interested him was a rock he had with him.
Heather’s concern grew in 2013 when she saw dozens of pictures a former volunteer took of the horrendous condition inside the pink warehouse where Markwell stored the dogs. And when she saw a news story doubt OAS called “Sanctuary of Sorrow” by former KOMO-TV reporter Jeff Burnside, she knew she had to get Leroy out.
In November Heather asked Markwell to return Leroy. He refused. However, thanks to the support of a generous donor Heather hired a lawyer to sue for custody of Leroy.
A few weeks later a judge ruled that “Markwell violated a 2009 contract that established Markwell as the dog’s foster caregiver by not giving the dog back when AARF asked.”
After an incredibly happy reunion with Leroy, Heather found a place that would board him and help him get healthy. Leroy was extremely malnourished, and his teeth had been worn down to nubs because of his excessive rock chewing, his only activity for 3 years.
Once Leroy had settled in, AARF went to work to find a home for Leroy. Not long after getting Leroy back, they asked former University of Washington Professor Jim Ha, a Certified Animal Behaviorist, to examine Leroy and determine if he could be adopted after his ordeal at the “Sanctuary.”
I met Leroy for the first time when Dr. Ha checked him out. Leroy made it clear from the outset that he LOVED people. He spent most of the time either rolling around in the lap of the person taking care of him or being cradled like a baby in their arms. Later a few of us went with Leroy to a large, fenced open field where he could run and play to his heart’s content.
Dr. Ha said that while AARF should watch for signs of PTSD in Leroy, he saw no indication of aggression towards humans. My unscientific opinion was that Leroy was a big, lovable goof.
But Leroy still had a few things working against him that made finding him a new home a challenge for AARF:
- He was a big, muscular pit bull.
- He spent 3 years locked away in the “Sanctuary”.
- He had a high prey drive so he had to be the only animal in a home.
- He needed a large yard with a high fence where he could exercise.
Heather knew these issues would be hard to overcome, but that didn’t stop her and AARF volunteers from working their butts off to find him a home.
Pet Connection Magazine helped by convincing two Seattle Seahawks to advocate for him as well.
Linebacker Kevin Pierre-Lewis also got in on the act.
Despite their Herculean efforts, AARF couldn’t find a home for Leroy until a couple of weeks ago when a woman named Lise read about his journey. She had been thinking about getting a dog, and when a friend tagged her in a post about Leroy from the Pawsitive Alliance.
After that, everything fell into place perfectly, and Leroy moved in with Lise permanently last Sunday!
You can see all the people and groups that helped him find a home and follow his exploits with his new mom on Leroy’s Facebook page.
The amount of time and effort Heather and AARF’s volunteers to find Leroy a home was nothing short of astonishing. AARF also spent about $9000 a year just to board Leroy for more than three years. That’s a huge chunk of money for a small dog rescue group like AARF.
To recognize AARF’s fantastic work on behalf of Leroy and celebrate his adoption, please click here and make a tax deductible contribution to this amazing organization that never gives up on finding permanent homes for the dogs they rescue.
And Leroy, I have only two words that you’ve waited eight years to hear: Welcome Home!