Meet Dahlia

Mary and Allie

Dahlia has garnered a great deal of attention recently. And for good reason, her journey is a tragic and heroic one.

The following is from the LA DAILY NEWS:

They'd seen bloodied dogs. Starving cats. Broken birds. A mangled monkey. And unyielding bestial abuse.

But for animal rescuers at All the Same Wild and Tame, nothing came close to the dog they've named Dahlia.

When a good Samaritan dropped off the golden-eyed mutt after a 400-mile journey from Mexico last month, there wasn't a dry eye in the store.

"I went home and almost quit," said Rhea Redding, a groomer at the nonprofit sanctuary and pet boutique in Sherman Oaks. "I couldn't take it. I was mad and I was hurt.

"And I couldn't stand how forgiving she was."

The mutilated boxer mix licks everyone she meets - despite being lacking from head to tail.

Dahlia had her nose gouged out. Her ears cut off. Her lips trimmed back. Some toes removed. And her tail hacked away to a nub.

With just a pinhole for a nose, the 20-pound pooch no longer sniffs, but snorts.

"This thing with the dog, I can't believe that. I sure get choked up," said Harry Stanford, 80, a neighbor who walked in off the street and met Dahlia. "Cut the ears off, cut the nose off. Jeez."

How a ragamuffin dog from a fishing village on the Sea of Cortez wound up at a sanctuary on Ventura Boulevard is testimony to the Internet, international expatriates and a pipeline of caring souls.

Animal rescuer Steven Foreman first spotted her among an estimated 10,000 stray dogs running loose in San Felipe, Baja California.

She'd been abandoned near a radiator shop by a man who'd fled to Mexicali, 125 miles north. Her name, apparently, was Leona - Spanish for lioness.

"She was young and she would have come out in the road and got hit, which is common down here," said Foreman, 63, who retired in Mexico after 20 years in Northern California. "I've never seen an animal this bad, that had lived, that was so adorable, so trusting, so social, just a little doll."

Foreman, who sells used shoes on eBay to fund his spay-neuter group, Zero Additional Pupulation Project (ZAPP), gave her to a British expat for care.

Then a San Fernando Valley woman saw Leona on Foreman's website,, and arranged to pick her up in San Diego.

"When I saw her picture, she broke my heart," said Lizzette Schley, of Burbank. "But she is so proper and so nice. Every chance she got, she tried to lick me.

"I just said, `Welcome to the USA."

At rest stops on the way back to the Valley, however, motorists stared at her in horror.

And when Schley, who already had a house full of pets, tried to find a home for the badly scarred dog, Leona was scorned for being just too ugly.

"Only future Jeffrey Dahmers would do something like that," Schley said. "It's just not right. They're just sick in the head."

Fortunately, Schley had met someone from All Things Wild and Tame, which specializes in saving injured animals.

The rescue, which began by taking in exotic animals in Las Vegas, may be the only storefront sanctuary in Los Angeles.

"They're all the same. They're all babies. They all need love," said Mary K. Miller, 36, a Las Vegas native who opened the Sherman Oaks shop in early 2007 to be near her mother. "I can't say no, I can't say no. I do love animals. I have terrible asthma, so I think I relate to the disabled."

In Las Vegas, she and her boyfriend Larry McNary didn't say no to a quadriplegic mountain lion, a monkey with a broken tail and bobcats with leukemia.

And in Sherman Oaks, squeezed between a hoagie shop and a handicraft shop a half-block west of Van Nuys Boulevard, she and her 14-year-old home-schooled daughter, Allie, haven't said no to hundreds of animals - and nearly $30,000 a year in veterinary bills, paid for by donations and family funds.

To help support the sanctuary, they also offer grooming services, pet carriers, collars, clothes and doggie beds that Miller sews herself. Animals are kept in foster care for adoptions that run $50 to $300 per pet.

"I specialize in medical cases, the disposable," said Miller. "We are overwhelmed."

Cases like the four collie pups from South L.A. whose mother was hit by a car.

The starved tabby found locked in a car in a wrecking yard. The rabbits being sold for the cookpot. The pigeon found shot with a .22. The dehydrated duck found walking down Ventura Boulevard.

The mallard found by Redding blocking the fast lane of the Ventura Freeway.

They rescue dogs and cats "red-tagged" for euthanasia at public animal shelters. Or the "ding-dong ditches" - boxes of abandoned dogs and cats left on the doorstep.

"Hi, my name is Cooper," said a note accompanying an abandoned white cat. "My owner got evicted, I'm a wonderful girl cat ... Please find me a home."

Then came the dog they would rename Dahlia.

"She's kind of like the Black Dahlia," said Miller, referring to the infamous L.A. murder. "She was so strikingly beautiful, but nobody knows who she was.

"She has no ill intent on anybody. She loves every creature. This beautiful baby needs to educate people" about the danger of abuse, she said. "Whoever takes her will have to have a lot of money, because of the medical issues.

"But in the meantime, she can always stay with us."

Also see Dahlia's story in the Mesquite Local News

Update on Dahlia!

Click here for the direct link to the story:
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