Susanna the Rottweiler had been heartlessly left for dead in mid-2018 at an infamous spot in South Florida where natives of that state dump all sorts of unwanted items. But this unfortunate living creature had been left in a terrible condition. Rendered lame, starving and close to death, Susanna was not in a good way; indeed, things looked bleak for her. But then a good Samaritan came across the abandoned animal – which proved to be the first step on the pupper’s remarkable road to recovery.
Isabel Zapata is a fervent animal lover who originally hails from Colombia but now lives in Miami, FL. The energetic 50-something is forever trying to do her best for any furry creatures in the city who may be in need of assistance. “Caring for animals isn’t what I DO; it’s who I AM,” she proudly declares on her Facebook page.
As part of her altruistic efforts, Zapata regularly patrols a semi-rural local location called Redland on the south-west margins of Miami. And she pays particular attention to a notorious dumping ground in the district where feckless people often abandon their pets. On May 8, 2018, Zapata was scanning the area when she came across a truly heartbreaking sight.
Indeed, the animal advocate must have been devastated to discover a young Rottweiler in a desperate condition down there in the heat and dirt. And Zapata was no doubt even more upset that the poor pupper was just lying next to a dumpster, hardly able to move. The desperately sick dog was emaciated and her coat was clogged with ticks and fleas. A victim of immense cruelty and neglect, she was alive – but only just.
Zapata did two things straight away. Firstly, she gave the suffering soul a name: Susanna. Secondly, recognizing the seriousness of the situation, Zapata decided to call in the experts. The dog lover reached out to the Gulfstream Guardian Angels Rottweiler Rescue, based in North Miami’s Pembroke Pines district. Needless to say, volunteers at the not-for-profit immediately agreed to help Zapata out. Local woman Laurie Kardon, a board member of the charity, said that sadly Susanna’s case was far from unusual. In fact, she reported that dogs are readily abandoned in Redland more often than most Miami residents realize.
Indeed, the 62-year-old Rottweiler rescuer spoke to animal interest website The Dodo in June 2018. “Animals are just routinely dumped out there to die,” Kardon explained. “It’s a very dangerous place because there are a lot of trucks going through there at high speeds. It’s just heartbreaking. So many [animals] don’t make it.”
As the not-for-profit’s name would suggest, Kardon’s Gulfstream Guardian Angels Rottweiler Rescue works to retrieve and rehabilitate members of that breed who find themselves in need. So Zapata had made the right call, but back in Redland she now had to move fast. In a video shot as the rescue unfolded, Zapata’s voice can be heard telling the unfortunate animal to “hang on.” The Good Samaritan’s voice breaks with emotion as she adds, “Everything is going to be alright.”
Susanna is seen being carefully placed upon and then wrapped up in a tarpaulin sheet by Zapata and some helpers. Next, the Rottweiler is carried on to a waiting truck and transported to Mueller Animal Hospital in the nearby city of Hialeah. Once Susanna had reached the Gulfstream Guardian Angels-affiliated facility, veterinarians began to work on the pup – but it did not look good.
The vets put Susanna’s age at about three years old and promptly gave her fluids while some blood work was done. But this was just the start of her treatment, and the Mueller specialists spent a few days working to stabilize the desperately ill dog. After this, Susanna was transferred 40 or so miles north to the Clint Moore Animal Hospital in Boca Raton.
This is where the still seriously poorly pupper came into the tender care of Dr. Brian Butzer. And he spoke to local Miami TV station WSVN about the case in late June 2018. “Susanna was pretty much left for dead,” the 62-year-old veterinarian recalled. “She was laying on the ground, she couldn’t get up and walk, really thin and emaciated. I don’t think I’ve ever seen an animal in worse shape than her.”
But Butzer and his team came to realize that Susanna was unable to walk because her back legs were to all intents and purposes paralyzed. X-rays were conducted, and according to Butzer, her “vertebrae were so damaged that they just fused together.” Indeed, the Boca Raton vets believed that Susanna’s appalling injuries were the result of her suffering particularly cruel abuse at the hands of her previous owners.
Gulfstream Guardian Angels’ Kardon carried on with the sorry tale to The Dodo. “She had some arthritis and physical deformities to her legs, which make us think she was just stuffed into a crate since puppyhood,” the volunteer told the website. “She was likely in there most of her life and used for breeding. And when breeders are done with dogs, they just dump them.”
Although the odds were firmly against Susanna’s survival, staff at the Clint Moore just would not give up – and neither would the determined dog. “The first time I saw her, she lifted up her head and licked my face,” Kardon recalled the weakened pupper’s resilience. “I said, ‘There it is. This girl wants to live. We were going to do everything in our power to get her going again.’”
Susanna was subsequently fed up on a special diet and given alleviating medication for her painfully wasted bones and muscles. In addition, the young Rottweiler began to receive regular physical therapy. And so after just one week, the brave girl managed to walk unaided through a rehabilitation pool. It was an emotional moment for the Clint Moore carers, who feared that the poor pooch may never have walked again.
And while Susanna may have been treated terribly by her heartless previous owners, that cruelty and neglect has not stopped her from showing love and affection. “She is just so happy,” Kardon exclaimed to The Dodo. “It’s probably for the first time in her life she’s felt this way.”
But Susanna did not just look for human contact; the Rottweiler soon learned that she loved to cavort and play with other canines, too. And, after two months of rehabilitation and relearning how to walk, Susanna was now getting ready to move on again with the help of her rescuers. The Gulfstream Guardian Angels team had already swung into action with a view to finding the dog the perfect forever home with the right adopter. To this end, Susanna was spayed, and Kardon revealed on Facebook that the pupper “flew through surgery.”
In fact, the charitable Gulfstream Guardian Angels organization is keen to accept donations to help cover the cost of Susanna’s medical bills and to give further assistance to hounds like her in the Miami area. Meanwhile, however, plenty of people have taken to social media to give their two cents in a different way.
Indeed, it seems that the online community has been extremely moved by Susanna’s touching story. After various articles and Zapata’s video of the sick dog were shared around the internet, users became inspired by the work of the Gulfstream Guardian Angels. One Facebook fan wrote, “You guys are so awesome. What a wonderful outlook on life [Susanna] now has… thank you for all that you do!” Another follower was in full agreement, saying, “I am in tears, so much love for this strong, brave girl. And for all of you who fought to save her.”
And it is clear that Dr. Butzer feels the same way about the Gulfstream Guardian Angels after working on Susanna’s case. “We are so appreciative to them and everything that they have done, and the lives that they save, like her life,” he told the WVSN cameras. “I’m just glad that there are those kind of people on the planet.”
While the Pembroke Pines organization works with all kinds of critters in need, it has to be said that Susanna’s story is very special. “She’s really a testament to her breed,” Kardon told The Dodo. “She is strong, determined and brave, but also so sweet and loving. She’s got the heart of a Rottweiler, that’s for sure.” Dog lovers are encouraged to contact Gulfstream Guardian Angels if they want to apply to adopt the pup, or indeed one of the not-for-profit’s other available animals.