December 24th will mark the one year anniversary that the 124 dogs imprisoned in the Olympic Animal “Sanctuary” in Forks, WA by Steve Markwell were turned over to the Guardians of Rescue in Kingston, AZ.
Markwell promoted his “Sanctuary” as a place where dogs with severe behavior problems could live out their lives peacefully and happily.
Sadly, it was no sanctuary for dogs.
Markwell kept up to approximately 160 dogs locked in crates 24/7 inside an unheated warehouse and forced to live on top of filthy straw soaked with their own urine and feces. They got no exercise. He fed them starvation rations that mainly consisted of maggot-filled meat stored on the dirty warehouse floor for days. They had no reliable access to fresh water.
While the dogs suffered, Markwell continued to collect hundreds of thousands of dollars in donations.
Fortunately, the “Sanctuary” is now gone, and Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson sued Markwell last summer for Washington’s Charitable Solicitations Act and Consumer Protection Act for failing to maintain records of how he spent $300,000 donated to the “Sanctuary.”
Markwell insisted that these dogs were extremely dangerous and unadoptable. He liked to say the dogs at the “Sanctuary” were the ones people “would rather see dead.”
But as you’ll see in my series of posts about these dogs, many of them are not dangerous. Others had behavior problems that didn’t prevent them from finding homes.
And the few dogs with issues that made them unadaptable certainly didn’t deserve to spend their lives locked in disgusting crates.
Since arriving in Arizona, all the dogs rescued from the “Sanctuary” have homes or are at real sanctuaries where they get more love and attention they have seen in years.
A former volunteer with the “Sanctuary” said Crockett didn’t do anything that warranted him going to OAS. He was just a stray that was uneasy around and suspicious of people.
Someone sent to OAS because he growled at a potential adopter who moved towards the shelter’s trainer with whom he had bonded.
The rescue group Lionel’s Legacy, which took in more OAS dogs than anyone else, wrote this description of him when he arrived in Arizona:
“Crockett was emaciated. His eyes were sunken into his head, and he had little to no muscle mass throughout his body. I can remember taking my finger and placing it on Crockett’s chest, and my finger just disappeared into his chest cavity. The atrophy in Crockett’s back legs was so significant that he had little control over holding himself up. When Crockett was standing his feet were unusually flat and wide, a clear sign of a dog spending too much time in a crate. Crockett was also covered in large puncture wounds around his left eye, neck and shoulder area. Part of his right ear was also missing which appeared to be the result of a dog fight.
Psychologically, Crockett was in the worst condition out of all the dogs. He was highly stressed, and suffered from substantial panic attacks. We found that the panic attacks were triggered by any type of activity or motion from behind or overhead. For example, if you approached Crockett quickly from behind or if you reached over his head, he would go into a panic. In addition, anything that touched his back legs or feet would also trigger a severe panic attack. (Still dealing with this issue to date.) When evaluated by the vet after his rescue, Crockett scored a 2 in relation to body condition.”
This awful video of Crockett spinning in his kennel taken inside the “Sanctuary” shows the toll the neglect and abuse there took on him.
These pictures of Crockett taken in early January shows how badly Crockett was starved at the “Sanctuary.”
Order of photos in collage below starting with the top row (going from left to right):
1st Row – 1) Buddy
3) Buddy’s jowls
2nd Row – 1) Crockett
2) Buddy’s back leg (scars, and flat feet)
3) Crockett – loss of muscle mass/atrophy
3rd Row – 1) Puncture wounds on Crockett
2) Crockett’s torn ear
3) Puncture wounds on Crockett
This is Crockett in February, 2014. Even though he’s been fed regularly for over a month, he still shows signs of severe emaciation.
What a difference a few months make! And check out his happy expression.
Crockett learns the joy of a belly rub.
Wait, why did you stop?
Crockett shows why it’s silly that anyone said he was dangerous.
Crockett had to learn how to play with toys. He loves them.
Crockett gets regular training now.
Another new experience – playing in the water!
What are we going to do today?
Crockett loves the beach.
This is how Crockett looks now. Thanks to the people who helped him escape the “Sanctuary,” Lionel’s Legacy, and his forever family, he now has the life he deserves.
I’ll let Crockett’s mom explain what his journey has been like after escaping from the “Sanctuary”:
“In the rescue world we all talk about the infamous “exhale” that we eagerly wait to hear from a dog we have rescued. You know the one I’m talking about. That deep sigh of relief that comes from the rescued pup as they start to relax and settle in. It’s the sigh that we interpret as meaning “ Yea…I’m going to be ok”. Sometimes that exhale comes upon the first night of being pulled from the shelter, and other times it takes a while for the pup to let go and realize that everything is going to work out.
Well, I think I finally exhaled for the first time in several months….and that was yesterday. As I walked with Crockett along the beach, I almost forgot that I was handling a dog that has been challenged by being around strangers, new surroundings, too much stimuli, etc. However,
yesterday….Crockett left all of his “OAS baggage” behind, and he simply let himself be a dog. A dog who was embracing the moment, and who was not going to be haunted by his past….even if it was just for the day.
While we were at the beach Crockett encountered people playing volleyball, people jogging, children playing, surfers walking by with surfboards, dogs on leash and off leash, etc. Rather than becoming overwhelmed, or fearful by all of the activity and new sounds….Crockett just took it all in. He curiously watched people go by, but then carried on with his walk. His biggest amusement was chasing after the tide as it went out to sea, and then running in the other direction when he realized the tide was chasing back after him. As Crockett played in the water, I could see that big goofy puppy resurfacing without an ounce of hesitation.
It has taken a lot of work, and a lot of time to get Crockett to this point in his rehabilitation. And, I am so grateful to everyone who has supported Crockett along the way. He still has quite a bit of work to do in regards to impulse control, building trust, and being protective. However, we are seeing that his fearful moments are becoming shorter, and that his desire to move forward is the direction he wants to go.
I realize that Crockett will most likely always be considered a “former OAS dog”, or an “OAS survivor” due to his history. Regardless, I will work hard to help Crockett put those stigmas behind him. Crockett’s past has haunted him long enough, and I know those ghosts will continue to be with him for some time…..but, this boy is creating a new life for himself. A life where he will be safe and will continue to receive the support he needs to be successful.
So, as I watched Crockett inhale the fresh sea breeze and take in his new surroundings yesterday……my eyes filled with tears….and I let out that HUGE exhale. My exhale was a sigh of relief….because it’s becoming so clear, that this boy is going to be OK. Slowly, but surely….this boy is coming full circle.”