It’s hard to tell when you look at her today, but Miika is an abuse survivor. The Pit Bull mix who now works as a therapy dog survived being thrown from a second-story window when she was just 10 weeks old. And while she carries many scars both physical and emotional as a result of her trauma, Miika is an example of what the power of love can do for a rescued dog.
Miika’s Emotional Past
Miika’s past is somewhat blurry.
“The information on her chart said her first owner’s boyfriend threw Miika out of a second-story window and no reason was given,” says Victoria Albanese, Miika’s owner. “The girlfriend then took Miika to animal control and thankfully abandoned her there.”
The fall left Miika with a broken pelvis, severely damaged teeth and a number of chronic health issues. If not for the intervention of the Elmbrook Humane Society – the group that pulled Miika from animal control, provided basic medical care and put her up for adoption – Miika might not have made it.
There was never any follow up with the woman or her boyfriend, so whatever happened to Miika as a puppy will remain a mystery.
A Meeting Meant to Be
Albanese had been looking for a puppy for many weeks when she found a picture of Miika (then Amelia). When Albanese got to the kennel, the first thing she noticed was that Miika didn’t bark, jump or act crazy like other puppies around her.
“She just looked at me with that famous Pit Bull head tilt and that was it,” Albanese says.
It wasn’t until she went into a private room that the shelter worker mentioned Miika was listed as special needs and had been there for almost two weeks – much longer than most puppies – because nobody wanted to deal with her injuries.
Even though Miika had a prominent limp, Albanese says it didn’t seem to slow her down at all.
“When I learned of her abuse my heart broke for her,” Albanese says. “It was at that moment that I decided that even though I had never owned a dog nor grew up with dogs, I needed to help save this dog because no one else wanted her.”
Because Miika never received early treatment, her fractures didn’t heal properly and she continues to walk with a limp. As she’s aged, Miika has also been diagnosed with hip dysplasia and severe allergies.
“At one point her allergies had her scratching all the fur from behind her ears and from her belly,” Albanese says. “In the past year, a new medicine has been released that has been a miracle for Miika’s allergies and now she has a full coat of fur even on her belly.”
Between her hip issues, special diet, allergy pills and swim classes for hip therapy, Albanese says she spends about $300 a month to keep up with Miika’s care.
“I am by no means rich, but Miika’s care comes before even mine and I will do what is necessary to make sure she lives a very happy and fulfilled and pain-free life,” she adds.
From Survivor to Therapy Dog
In owning Miika, Albanese began to learn more about some of the controversy surrounding Pit Bulls, specifically the distrust (and sometimes hate) she received directly from random people when they met Miika. Hoping to learn more about the breed, Albanese became involved with the Brew City Bully Club in Pewaukee, Wisconsin.
“I didn’t know as much about the breed as I wanted to, so I started going to events and seminars to learn more not just about the breed but how to make my dog a positive breed ambassador,” Albanese says.
It was at one of those events that somebody noticed how well behaved and calm Miika was and suggested she should become certified as a therapy dog.
“Once Miika passed her final test and was certified, she became an official breed ambassador for the [group],” Albanese says. “The work we do with them mostly revolves around giving people a positive experience with a Pit Bull to help stifle the negativity.”
As part of her work, Miika goes into schools and teaches kids about proper way to meet a dog. She also visits a local nursing home, where Albanese says they are assigned the surgery floor.
“Miika knows her job is to give comfort and compassion to those who need it the most,” Albanese says.
Not only does Miika love her job as a therapy dog, but Albanese says that, together, they both have discovered a passion to help others.
“So many of these dogs die because of the negative stigma, and though I can’t save them all, I can maybe save some by bringing my amazing dog around and showing them that not all Pit Bulls are mean dogs,” Albanese adds. “Miika has gotten me through some very tough times in my life and has given me a new purpose to continue to educate people on a very misunderstood breed of dog.”
Images via: MilPAWkee Pet Photography
Diana Bocco is a full-time writer and adventurer, whose work has been published in DiscoveryChannel.com, Yahoo!, & Popular Mechanics.