Now she’s completely transformed — and she can’t stop smiling.
No one may have ever found the sick, abandoned dog if two things hadn’t happened.
The first thing was an alarm. People were doing renovation work on a house in Little Haiti, Miami, and one of the workers accidentally tripped the house’s security system. The sound blared, causing the second thing to happen — an American bulldog named Frances stood up on the landing of the house next door, and one of the workers, Claire Morera, spotted her.
Morera went over to check on Frances, who looked to be in horrible shape. The abandoned bulldog was emaciated and covered in ticks, and had infections in both her eyes. She was also tethered to the landing with a 5-pound chain — and it looked like she’d been out there for a while.
Morera snapped some photos of Frances and posted them on Facebook. Then she tagged a local dog rescue group, 100+ Abandoned dogs of Everglades Florida, which is how Jan Stenger, a volunteer for the group, got involved.
“We were actually on a different rescue that morning, but I looked up Frances’ location on my phone and we were 9 miles away from her,” Stenger told The Dodo. “[Other volunteers] stayed behind to try and catch that other dog, and then we took off to go get Frances.”
Stenger, who’s been rescuing dogs in the Miami area for the past four years, described Frances’ condition as “horrific.”
“I always said that one of our crew members, Carol, and I are strongest-minded,” Stenger said. “We don’t break easily, but we were both a mess on that rescue. That truly was the worst thing I had ever seen in my life. I get choked up just thinking about it.”
After talking with some neighbors, the team learned that Frances’ owner had died, and she’d just been left out on the landing, exposed to the sun and rain.
“People knew she was left there, and she obviously wasn’t being fed appropriately, if at all,” Stenger said.
Based on how skinny Frances was, they guessed Frances had been chained to the landing for at least a couple of weeks.
The rescuers had trouble removing the chain from Frances’ neck, so they carried Frances off the landing with the chain still attached to her.
“It took us a while to get the chain off her when we got her back to the animal hospital because we didn’t have bolt cutters,” Stenger said. “When we finally did get the chain off of her, that was the first time she wagged her tail.”
Frances’ biggest medical issue was her eyes, which were so badly infected, they needed to be removed. Then there were the ticks.
“She had thousands of ticks on her,” Stenger said. “She stayed in the bathtub for five hours the first night and three hours the next morning getting ticks taken off of her body.”
But otherwise, Frances was in pretty good health. Amazingly, she hadn’t gotten any diseases from the ticks, and she didn’t have heartworm disease, which is something a lot of outdoor dogs get. And while she was skinny, she’d be able to gain weight with a healthy diet.
Frances initially went home with Stephanie Palmer, manager of the animal hospital where Frances was treated. But when Palmer had to go away, Stenger agreed to temporarily foster Frances — but Frances’ stay with Stenger ended up becoming permanent.
“Never in a million years did I think we would keep her,” Stenger said. “I’ve always had boy dogs and I’ve always had Labs and goldens. But we knew pretty quickly that she wasn’t going to go anywhere.”
Now Frances smiles all the time — she couldn’t be happier living with Stenger.
“She’s a happy girl,” Stenger said. “The minute I walk in the door, I hear her tail thumping on the couch. She loves people. And as terrible as people were to her, she has forgiven us.”
Like most other dogs, Frances loves sleeping and eating, but her very favorite thing to do is to lie on top of Stenger.
“She’s a good snuggler,” Stenger said. “She’ll take naps lying on top of me, and at night she curls up in a ball next to me. She always has to be touching me.”
Now Stenger couldn’t imagine life without Frances, and Frances probably feels the same about Stenger.
“She’s amazing, and she gets more amazing by the day,” Stenger said.