Alsana belonged to a backyard breeder in Massachusetts and gave birth to litter after litter of puppies for years, until the breeder finally no longer had any use for her and dumped her somewhere across town. She was found by animal control officers, emaciated and suffering from all sorts of infections, and taken in to a local shelter, where the team was immediately taken aback by just how scared she was. She refused to interact with people at all, and it seemed impossible at the time that anyone would ever be able to adopt and care for such a fearful dog — until the perfect family came along.
Kara Pittsley and her husband were contacted about Alsana by a friend of theirs who works in rescue and thought they might be interested in helping her. Pittsley immediately called the shelter to inquire about her, and they explained to her Alsana’s situation. They told her that the cane corso could only be released into the care of a rescue who was equipped to handle such a scared, traumatized dog. The shelter seemed less than optimistic about her, but that only made Pittsley want to help her more.
“They told me that she didn’t act aggressive at the shelter, but that made them even more concerned because she was so still and quiet,” Pittsley told The Dodo. “She would literally stand still and stop breathing if you walked by her kennel. They told me that she was deteriorating at the shelter, and that they would have to put her to sleep if a breed-knowledgeable rescue didn’t step up for her. I showed my husband her picture, told him the story, and he was like ‘OK, let’s do it.’”
The couple went to the shelter to meet Alsana, and the poor dog wouldn’t even look at them. Whenever someone looked in her direction she would run and hide, and she seemed as if she had completely shut down. Despite her issues, the couple decided she was worth taking a chance on, and so they came back to the shelter a second time. This time, they brought along their trainer and the president of a rescue they had fostered through before, as they needed the support of a rescue in order to pull her.
“They took her out of the kennel and she ran from one end of the shelter to the other, completely frantic,” Pittsley said. “Her level of fear of people was something I have never seen.”
The trainer and the president of the rescue both agreed that it would take a ton of work to help Alsana overcome her extreme fear, but by that point, Pittsley and her husband were already committed. Issues or not, Alsana was their dog, and one way or another, she was coming home with them.
“Our trainer looked at my husband and was like, ‘Pick her up,’” Pittsley said. “My guess was that he was wondering how the hell we were supposed to foster a dog like this. My husband was like, ‘If I get bit, I get bit,’ and picked her up. He didn’t get bit. We got her in our truck and brought her home after that as a ‘foster.’”
Besides her extreme fear and anxiety, Alsana also faced a lot of medical challenges, and it took a lot of work at home and with a vet to get her completely healthy again. Her previous owner had cropped her ears, severely damaging them and causing her to have persistent ear infections. She also had all sorts of other infections, and had to have one of her nipples removed due to a mammary tumor. Despite the fact that she didn’t yet trust the couple, they still had to give her medication every single day in the beginning, and each day they did their best to try and gain her trust little by little.
“We would hand-feed her so she got used to us,” Pittsley said. “We would attach her leash to us, and just walk around the house. We forced her to be near us, so she would learn that we were OK and safe. She hated it; she wanted to be near us but was still so scared.”
Alsana had two dog siblings in her new home, but she wasn’t able to meet them at first because of how sick she was. Once she was finally medically cleared, her parents brought her and her siblings into adjacent rooms and let them sniff each other through a baby gate — and from that moment on, Alsana was a completely different dog.
“She lit up,” Pittsley said. “She got all wiggly and full of life. It became clear to us that she needed to be with other dogs. We slowly let her be with our two and she came more and more out of her shell. She really became a dog. She had no clue how to play, but just wanted to be with them. They were like her comfort blanket.”
Once she had met and bonded with her dog siblings, Alsana was able to bond the same way with her parents, too, and it was as if she had suddenly decided that this was her family. She was making progress in leaps and bounds, and it was then that her parents finally made it official and adopted her into the family.
Alsana has now been with her family for two years, and is absolutely nothing like the terrified dog they first met at the shelter. She still has some fears, but she’s always able to get through them with the help of her parents and her dog siblings. The dog who used to try and hide from the world now goes camping and hiking, and loves running around outside and jumping into the air for joy. She’s come so far from her days living with the backyard breeder, and her parents are so grateful that they were able to give her this second chance.
“She wants to be with us 24/7,” Pittsley said. “She went from running away when we looked at her, to wanting to watch us and be with us all the time. She is truly an amazing dog, and we are thankful that she came into our life every day.”