Emma, The Velveteen Dog

Friends For Life

“Generally, by the time you are Real, most of your hair has been loved off, and your eyes drop out and you get loose in the joints and very shabby. But these things don't matter at all, because once you are Real you can't be ugly, except to people who don't understand.” 

Emma had an unimaginably horrible life before we met her. She weathered the worst storm in Houston's history in the woods – alone. She was scooped up by a kind woman after being miraculously found alive. Emma was brought to the shelter where we would move heaven and earth to save her.

The day we met Emma, the sight of her malnourished body and her terrified spirit broke our hearts. Emma's skin was so ravaged by severe infection, it hung from her frame in bloody pouches. Her nails curled under in grotesque claws.

The team gently bathed this frightened soul – unaccustomed to kind touch. She heard soothing voices telling her that everything was going to be all right. Emma would need many such baths to address the out-of-control infection that has been destroying her skin for so long.


The Marathon Ahead

When you look at an animal in this condition, you know the path ahead is not a sprint. Getting this dog well would be a marathon. That's where a no kill program makes all the difference in the world.

Though Emma's nails had been cut to a healthy length, she still struggled to walk under the weight of the trauma. We wrapped her up to keep her warm and cozy while she waited to meet her medical foster.

The Fosters

Emma was ready to head to a medical foster's home. There, she would continue healing from not only the physical infections, but also from the emotional damage she suffered through a life of neglect.

A medical foster is a miracle worker/marathoner/guardian angel all rolled into one. These extraordinary people take on the tough cases and show patience and kindness that are life changing for the animals. Sally Jewell and her wife DeAun welcomed Emma into their home and hearts.

At that time, little Emma was still gripped with terror at the sound of a voice, brush of a human hand or sight of another dog. It would take patience. Ever patient, Sally sang to her, read to her and sat quietly waiting for the right moment for contact.

Emma's skin was so bloody, itchy and sensitive that her moms found her a very stylish way to feel better.

After just 10 days with her medical foster moms, Emma's hair and skin improved tremendously. But that's not even the best part. Emma's spirit was healing too. With this second chance at life, her confidence grew. There are scarcely words to describe the moment that an animal begins to feel that they matter — that you "see" them and they are safe. We feel blessed to experience that moment again and again through our work.

Every Animal Matters

After a couple of weeks, Emma visited Dr. Trevino at the shelter for a check up and got a kiss for her great progress! Our veterinarian wears a shirt that reads "Every Animal Matters." That's not a coincidence. Those three words inform every choice our shelter makes.

Weeks of earning Emma's trust, medical baths, and medication are part of the plan. Despite having terrible start, Emma wants to live. She is capable of feeling great love and joy. Life always wants to find a way. So we find a way. We try with her.

Today, this once terrified dog without a friend in the world has loving caretakers and canine friends.

This Saturday, October 21, Emma had another check-up with Dr. Trevino. There’s a reason everyone in this photo is smiling. The progress is looking good.

Last checkup: Emma with Atalie from our behavior team (left), Dr. Trevino (center) and DeAun (foster mom).

We Need You

If you are able, please help us with the ongoing support required to bring dogs like Emma to safety. 


Join us as an adopter, foster or volunteer at www.friends4life.org