Her Forever Home

Abused and neglected, Erica faced a bleak future -- until a group of friends banded together to rescue her.
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Erica's Wounds

There was something odd about the on-screen photo of the gaunt black Labrador retriever mix named Erica. Frankie Prouty leaned in for a closer look. She was horrified to see an open wound on the 1-year-old stray dog's scrawny neck that was just beginning to heal. The painful necklace of damaged tissue was left behind by the removal of a too-small collar that had become embedded in Erica's skin as she grew. "Even though she has every right to hate humans, she does not," said the Web site post that accompanied Erica's photo. "She's as sweet as she can be!"

It was August 2006 when Prouty, an avid animal-rescue volunteer, came across the disturbing picture as she was scrolling through the "Animals in Need" forum of one of her favorite animal-rescue Web sites, the Best Friends Animal Society's BestFriends.org. "I'd never seen anything so bad," she said.

By then the 61-year-old, a purchasing agent for a Sterling, Virginia, chemical supply company, was no stranger to the suffering of animals. After Hurricane Katrina she and her husband, Ted, 65, a retired police officer, joined the Utah-based Best Friends Animal Society, one of the largest national groups devoted to rescuing abandoned or abused pets and companion animals. But the picture of Erica was still enough to shock her.

As Prouty scanned the post, she discovered that the King William, Virginia, pound holding the Lab was going to euthanize her in just three days. In her time as an animal rescuer Prouty had learned a painful truth -- that she couldn't save all the animals that needed help. "That's not possible," she says, "but we learn that we have to do what we can for the ones we can save." Here was a sweet young dog who had clearly suffered from an unconscionable level of neglect, her collar so tight her body had been forced to grow around it. "I thought, I can give this dog a new beginning," Prouty recalls.

Other members of the Best Friends Network around the country thought the same thing. Within hours of the post by Amanda Hook, 39, of Boston, Virginia -- who had received the information from a friend who had seen it on Petfinder.com -- online messages poured in. Marti Lombardi, 52, offered to foster Erica at her Norman, Oklahoma, home if someone could get the dog there. In Portland, Oregon, 52-year-old Carrie Fagerstrom provided a link to contact information for the Virginia pound that was holding Erica.

Galvanized by the online support, Prouty e-mailed the president of the Middleburg Humane Foundation, a farm shelter in Middleburg, Virginia, where she volunteered regularly. Within a day, the facility agreed to take Erica, and Prouty posted the good news on the forum. "Look what teamwork accomplished in two days!" wrote back a jubilant Fagerstrom.

Continued on page 2:  Forming a Connection


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