By Nikki Senecal
Shortly after the Ryans lost their dog to cancer, mom Nancy began searching Petfinders for the right dog to join their family: must like cats, must be good with young children. (Younger daughter Kelsey is three.) Daughter Megan, 11, had felt the dog’s death keenly, “They had grown up together,” Nancy explained. She had looked at many, many dogs before seeing a post about Nellie. Nellie seemed like a good candidate.
On a run to PetSmart for cat food last June, Nancy and her mother, Mary Ann, happened upon an ACDC outreach event. Nellie was there. She was as wonderful in person as she seemed online. The pair raced home so Nancy could begin filling out an application for Nellie. Nana Mary Ann, who doesn’t like to drive, brought Megan back to PetSmart to meet the dog. In a school essay, entitled “The Dog Who Changed My Life,” Megan recalled the meeting: “When we got there I knew she had a monopoly on cuteness…I knew she was my type of dog.”
After a home visit, it was pretty clear that these were Nellie’s kind of people too. The match was made. After Nellie’s bladder infection cleared up, she could go to her forever home with the Ryans.
But a round of antibiotics didn’t cure Nellie’s problem. Veterinarians suspected ectopic ureter. While waiting for a scheduled appointment for a scan of her abdomen and bladder, Nellie began limping.
In September Nellie went to Drs. Lori Cabell and John DeBiasio for a physical exam. There was no evidence of ectopic ureter. (She did receive a prescription to control periodic incontinence.) Her hip X-rays, however, revealed dysplasia. The situation would be monitored for a few months as she matured, but it looked like surgery was in her future. Joining her forever home was pushed back again.
During this time, Nellie went to the Ryans for playdates with the family. It was during these visits they learned that she turns pink when she gets wet and how much she loves belly rubs. Dad Mark became a favorite wrestling partner. The Ryans decided to wait for Nellie, “She was such a great match for our family.”
“It was like a rollercoaster ride,” Nancy says. “Megan had really connected with Nellie, and she was devastated when she heard about the hip.” Megan sprang into action. She and her cousins collected their loose change and donated it to ACDC toward Nellie’s surgery. They even held a yard sale for the dog, with Mary Ann matching the money raised. (Donations to ACDC also covered the costs of the surgery and recovery.)
“I kept telling my daughter ‘try not to get so wrapped up in this, it might not work out.’ My mom used to ask if it was really going to happen. I didn’t want to think about it; it was too sad to think it wasn’t going to work. We didn’t want to give up.”
Finally, Nellie had her surgery. She came through with flying colors. After six long months, Nellie joined the Ryan family shortly before Megan’s birthday, the perfect gift.
Nellie may not know that she’s the dog that changed a girl’s life but she surely knows the girl who changed hers.