Animal Advocates of B.C.

"Until he extends his circle of compassion to include
all living things, man will not himself find peace." Albert Schweitzer 1875 - 1965

In Memory of Sara
Remembered by Vera van Diepen

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In Memory of Sara (1991-2002)

“God needed a special angel and decided to call you home

You were called from our world of memories, to a home of eternal rest,

Just when your life was brightest, just when your years were best,

Silently, peacefully, you slipped away during the early morning of that day.
Love you forever....Mommy, Buddy, Pepper,
Little Lily who you sent to help us heal, Bijou and Gizmo


On Monday, August 12, 2002, my beautiful Sara was taken from us to journey to the Rainbow Bridge.

I was unable to be with her - I was on vacation when the heartbreaking news reached me.

Her many years producing litter after litter of puppies finally took its toll.  My only comfort is that her passing was swift and painless and she was not alone.

A champion for all backyard breeders and puppy mill mothers, Sara is a poster child for all the misery that so many of these animals are forced to endure.

During her two years and ten months with us, we only knew love.  It was a privilege to provide her with respite and allow her in her senior years to be a gorgeous, goofy girl.  Sara never knew hunger, never knew sorrow, and never heard a harsh word while with me.  Her days were filled with long walks, the best food, companionship of other four legged friends including Buddy and Pepper, and endless touching, stroking and cuddling.  Her final years were joy-filled.

My heart is heavy and filled with unspeakable grief at her parting.   I will always carry sweet memories of how she enhanced every moment of every day.   I was honoured to be her loving mom.  Her final litter, born only weeks after her rescue, will always allow me to be connected with her here on earth.  Sara was approximately 11 years old when she took her final journey - to the Rainbow Bridge.

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On October 5, 1999 while at the local recycling depot, I glanced towards our municipal dog pound and saw a lovely small Rottweiler who looked as though she had recently been weaned from puppies.  I drove to the pound to take a closer look, and as the adoptive “mom” to a rescued Rottweiler/retriever and a blind corgi/collie just happened to have some dog biscuits in the car.  I gave one to her and she happily took it to her den to eat in privacy.

 I called the pound the following day to ask whether or not the dog had been claimed.  Her owner had been contacted, but refused to pay the $265 outstanding fine.  Apparently she had left home a number of times to forage in garbage and this time the fine was a bit too steep.  I bailed her out, with the intention of having her spayed and finding her a new home.  She got along well with my two dogs, and though she liked to chase the cats she didn't appear to want to harm them.  We named her “Sara Jane” and she seemed to like her identity.

When I brought Sara to my veterinarian to have her spayed and her shots updated, the vet advised me that she would like to take some blood tests.   Sara was quite thin and appeared to have been weaned from a litter of puppies in the past few weeks.  The blood tests revealed she was extremely anemic, and I was advised to feed her the best food possible to build up her blood and increase her weight before undergoing surgery.

Four days later, Sara began to pant and drool.  She also seemed to be straining an awful lot, and I wondered what she could have gotten into.   By midnight she was beginning to slather and I thought she was developing a reaction to her vaccinations (in particular rabies, since I had no idea when she had last had her shots).  At 1:30 in the morning I was convinced she had an obstructed bowel so I called a friend to help me take Sara to the emergency veterinary clinic.  Ten minutes into our journey Sara started to give birth!  She had nine puppies, of which five survived.  My regular vet was as amazed as I was to discover that Sara, whom she had seen only four days earlier, had been pregnant.  The emergency vet agreed that, because Sara was so thin, she would not have suspected her of being pregnant either!

 Imagine my shock when I suddenly realized that instead of finding a home for one dog, I would now be looking for homes for a litter of puppies as well!  They were, however, the sweetest little Rottweiler puppies you could ever imagine and I was ready for the challenge.  I was determined to be extremely cautious about who got to adopt these little precious gifts from God, in order that they would never know the horror of being chained, or relegated to the role of “vicious guard dog”.

Thanks to the generosity of several wonderful dog-lovers and adoption fees for the puppies, I was able to defray most of the expenses of my ever-mounting vet and dog-food bills.   Despite the costs, I wouldn’t have missed this incredible experience for anything in the world!

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Sara’s tattoo indicated that she was born in 1991.  She had her final litter of puppies at the age of eight.  The vet suspects she may have had as many as 12 to 18 litters.  Although I had initially planned on finding her a new home, after discovering she was so much older than I originally thought, I decided to let her retire with us.  Buddy and Pepper were happy to have her become our latest family member and very comfortable with her sharing the “big-dog bed”.

Her age, her breeding history, and the fact that during her entire time with us she was either in heat, undergoing a false pregnancy, or suffering from pyometra meant that spaying would have been extremely risky.  Sara died of pyometra.

 Having Sara in our lives was the most incredible experience.  She was such a loving, happy girl and adored everyone she met.  She spent her retirement years surrounded with love and the best a dog could ever want in life.  She was a much-cherished family member and went everywhere with me.  I am so honoured to have been able to be there for her when she was scared, lonely and about to give birth to her final litter of puppies.  I am so very glad that I was able to provide her with 2 years and 10 months of heaven.  I miss her every day.

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In my grief over Sara’s death I reached out to many friends, including those I connected with over the years who are also passionately involved in animal rescue.  One of the people I wrote to about Sara’s death was the first person I contacted when Sara surprised me with her litter of puppies – Grace Acosta in Florida who began the first Rottweiler Rescue.  She sent me a beautiful expression of sympathy and added:

“You were Sara’s Guardian Angel.  Now Sara is watching over you and it does not end here.  You will see how Sara manages to guide you to helping others.”

So I waited – but not for long.  I received a phone call three weeks later from someone who had heard I was involved with rescue.  She told me the story of two dogs a friend of hers was desperate to save …her friends name was Sarah. I told her to let Sarah know that in my own Sara’s memory I would do whatever I could to help.

The following week a skinny, matted puppy was unceremoniously dumped on me by a neighbour who had received her from someone who couldn’t keep her due to allergies.  I said I would be happy to take her in and find her a new home.  A few days later I had her assessed by a veterinarian who said she was underweight (she weighed in at a whopping 6 pounds) and needed some TLC and fattening up.  I called her Lily and knew she was heaven sent by Sara who loved the little fluffies.

 Not a little dog fan, I decided to find this silly, yappy , seven month terri-poo a new home immediately.  I was contacted by a sweet lady in her late 70’s.  She and her husband were ready for another puppy – their 14 year-old poodle-mix had died two years before and it was time!  I introduced Lily to them and knew I had found the perfect new guardians for this little angel.  These folks were perfect for her.  But something wasn’t right … and then it hit me … Sara had sent Lily to help us heal.  Yup – you guessed it.  She’s our latest permanent resident and we love her to bits!

A week after Lily’s arrival on my door step, a neighbour approached me and told me that he and his kids were eager to have another dog in their lives.  I said “Scott, don’t worry about it – over the next few weeks, one will probably land on my doorstop and that will be the one for you.”

 Two weeks later I received a call from Sarah.  She felt the backyard dogs are were danger – did I know what approach would be best to get them in a safe haven?  I told her to ask the owner for the dogs and if he agreed I’d place them in a foster home.  If he wasn’t willing to part with them, perhaps showing him a few hundred dollar bills might sway his decision.

A few days later she called to tell me the dogs needed a home that night.   I remembered my chat with Scott and caught him as he was heading to his car.  “Guess what Scott, your new fur-kids are arriving tonight!”  “We’ll be ready for them” he replied …

 On Halloween night Charlie and Casper arrived in their new safe haven.  A few days later I finally met Sarah for the first time.  I told her about my own sweet, goofy girl Sara.  She asked how I came up with the name.  I told her I didn’t – my neighbour Pat who had helped me with rescues in the past had taken Sara into her home while I assessed her for a permanent one (not thinking I would keep her …)  I asked Pat to find out what the dog (“dubbed “Lady” by the folks at the pound, since she was such a lady every time they picked her up and impounded her again …) wanted to be called. 

Pat called me the next day.  “Vera, her name is Sara, Sara Jane”.

Sarah looked at me in stunned silence.  “That’s my name” she said.

“What?” I asked.

“My name – it’s Sarah Jane!”

Grace Acosta was right when she wrote that “Sara is watching over you and it does not end here.  You will see how Sara manages to guide you in helping others.”

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Animal Advocates Society of B.C. Canada