Amelia, the Rottie —
A Rescue Years in the Making

August 10, 2009 | by Lise McComiskey, ARNO Feral K9 Coordinator

Amelia spotted near the house she called home and lived under for safety. Photo by Lise McComiskey.

Editor’s Note: If you would like to see a short video of this rescue (the filmmaker got so involved in the actual rescue she got a lot of the ground that had to be edited out!) and see our efforts to trap a feral rottweiler and her lab/rottie mix pups. The pups are currently up for adoption at the ARNO shelter.

Thanks to the fact that ARNO exists, we exist, this gentle dog who has spent at least the past four years on the streets is now safe and will never have to roam for food or water, or kindness, again.

In November 2008 I was first alerted to a roaming rottweiler who appeared to be nursing. Quite a few people had spotted the dog running across busy Claiborne Avenue, and quite a few had noticed she was pregnant or nursing. Once I tracked her whereabouts I found a feral [wild], nursing rottweiler with a litter of puppies stashed under a still abandoned house. The neighborhood she had chosen for her nest bordered between Claiborne Avenue and Freret Street and nearby Louisiana Avenue… really on the edge of what is known as Central City. This section of New Orleans is low income, high crime and has sporadic recovery efforts at best. The police refer to the area as the ‘triangle of death’ because if you plot the murders they form a triangle surrounding this area filled with houses from the early 1900s though most constructed in the 1940s and peppered with scattered site housing projects. It is an area whose sections have been well traversed by ARNO volunteers since Katrina with food/water stations and rescue efforts.  I was told by residents that the rottie was around before Katrina and survived the storm and that she had never allowed anyone near her. Amelia, her name because of the street near where she was first spotted, was a true feral. Being feral is the reason she survived not only the storm but the harsh living conditions following the storm and in this area now sparsely populated, but still more populated than those outside of the city in the eastern sections. The puppies were brought in to ARNO’s shelter in early December 2008, six rottie/lab mixes in all, but Amelia herself would never get close and proved impossible to trap. Several attempts were made, all unsuccessful.

A change occurred…


One of the ten precious three-week old babies. Photo by Gennifer Backert.

Amelia slowly changed over the next nine months. She was clearly happy to see me each time I pulled up… twice daily with food and water, but still never got close enough for me to touch. I knew she was pregnant but all efforts to bring her in pregnant failed. Our only chance was to let her have her pups and then bring them all in. Easier said than done. Finally the puppies were born and for three weeks I climbed under the house twice a day and handled the puppies. Finally Amelia began to come close and triumphantly she licked the back of my hand as I held a pup. I knew at that moment that she was to be ours.
On Sunday, July 19, I was proud to lead a 15- man team of ARNO volunteers, and we finally brought this beautiful rottweiler Amelia in off the streets, along with her ten precious three-week-old puppies. The volunteers had to be asked only once and they were ready and willing to do whatever was needed to get these dogs, one of which has been a street dog her entire life, a saga that began before the storm hit almost four years ago. I honestly don't think that a team of Navy SEALS could have done what we accomplished that day, they were positively fantastic and my heartfelt thanks goes to each and every one of them.


No one could keep their hands off of these cute babies. Photo by Gennifer Backert.

My A-Team (Amelia Team!) included our director Charlotte; Mimi who has become quite the puppy poacher; Tanya and Jill who stood guard at the gates and backed our dog down when she tried to escape; Carolyn and Mike who manned the welded wire fence barrier that my husband was kind enough to help erect the day before the rescue; Gennifer, Grandma Anne and Ashley who stood in the open doorways of the abandoned house ready to back down the rottie should she come through the rotting floorboards.  Barbara, one of our kitten bottle mamas who was willing to come help some bottle puppies, Jason and Melissa our dog whisperers, and Chris McLaughlin, an original ARNO member who was part of the Dogbusters back in 2005. Each one of these volunteers were awesome and stepped up to the plate to help get these animals to safety. While I am eternally grateful to each one of them, a special thanks must be given to Mimi, Jason, Melissa and Chris who were all willing to crawl under that house with me to face a rottie that didn't know them and could easily have chewed their faces off. Amelia gave us quite a chase in the start but when she finally cornered herself, we had her.

A different dog for sure…

Amelia and her pups

Amelia as comfortable as a domesticated canine… she knows she is safe now. Photo by Ginnie Baumann-Robilotta.

As much as Amelia has shown me that she is feral these past nine months while tracking and feeding her on the streets, as much as the residents reported she has never allowed anyone near enough to touch her, and as many times as I witnessed her barking and growling under that house when she heard someone walk by or a bicycle pass, Amelia now knows positively that she is safe. She is a totally different dog at ARNO, from the moment she was brought into her large enclosure. After the journey back to the shelter, after the intake of her pups, Amelia was hands down the easiest dog to pill, vaccinate, deworm and intake. Amelia had no less than 15 visitors at different times on her first afternoon in our shelter and she accepted each and every single one of them. No growls, no barks, no pulling back, no looking around, it is clear that this girl knows she and her puppies are going to be just fine. Each one of those visitors was encouraged to hold a puppy and then give it back to Amelia and each time she licked the puppy and accepted the visitor as if she has known them as long as she has known me these past nine is simply amazing. What a homecoming! Sadly, we lost Amelia’s tiny runt, George, one day after they came in, and although they were three weeks old, he was only developmentally one week old. I am happy that George had a name and a bed at ARNO, if only for a day.

Thanks to the fact that ARNO exists, we exist, this gentle dog who has spent at least the past four years on the streets is now safe and will never have to roam for food or water, or kindness, again.

Help us continue our rescue efforts

If you would like to help ARNO sustain our all-volunteer efforts and continue to be able to supply shelter, food, medical care and kindness to homeless animals please consider supporting us on a monthly basis. Even a small gift each month will help and you become a ‘Sanctuary Member’. Your monthly tax deductible donation allows us to know we have the support to care for and pay our rent, utilities, medical bills, food and keep our operation running. We know it is a trying time economically for most people, but even a small monthly gift of $10 will mean so much to our efforts. Every dollar is spent on the animals and their shelter and care. Please consider today becoming a ‘Sanctuary Member’ and let your gift support our work. Donations have allowed us to find permanent, loving homes for over 5,500 companion animals since March of 2006. ARNO is only the second organization in the country which rehabs feral dogs like Amelia and gives them a chance at a loving home. Please support our work with dogs like Amelia. Give securely with a credit card by clicking ‘donate.’ If you prefer to send a check payable to ARNO, please mail to 1219 Coliseum Street, New Orleans, LA 70130. Notate that it is for ‘Sanctuary Membership’ and we know you will be sending us something every month.


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