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36 in my Heart but only 28 portraits.


From December 2017 through February of the next year, 36 beautiful German shepherds entered my life. They changed me forever. My perspective on love, life and dedication was redefined.

These dogs came to the NHSPCA as part of a cruelty case filed in the courts. In the beginning, they were housed in a nearby boarding facility because we didn’t have enough space. Day in and day out, staff and volunteers did all they could to care for the mental and physical health of these magnificent animals. Despite all the love, attention, walks and enrichment we provided at this external facility, we began to see some behavioral decline.

The dogs were starving for permanent human contact.

I loved them all, of course. But Nicky in particular won my heart. She has a beautiful long coat, and she was especially affected by being housed in a kennel for 24 hours a day. She barked for attention, spun repeatedly, jumped, and bounced against the walls. Her frustration was palpable, as was my sadness at her condition.

So I took her home.

Nicky flourished in a loving home setting. She enjoyed snuggling on the couch with my cats, my husband and me. She followed me in the shower in the evening and slept with us at night. She loved when we cooked and looked forward to snacks falling from the counter. While we ate dinner, she savored her daily chewy. Turns out, Nicky was a happy dog inside and loved going to swim sessions at the Woof Meow pool in Dover and playing with her favorite red Jolly Ball.

Then our world was crushed. On April 11, 2019, Nicky and seven other shepherds were ordered by the court to be returned to the breeder: Oso, Skyler, Maizy, Bindy, Jack, Jill and Junior. It was the most difficult and emotional day of my life. We had lovingly cared for these eight dogs for 15 months. I fostered some of them. My heart was broken.

Now I’m left to wonder about their care and their mental and physical well being. Not a day goes by that I don’t think of Nicky and the other seven dogs. I worry that Nicky feels abandoned, I worry she is back living in a kennel, declining, I worry that she’s anxious, bored and lonely.

My prayer for these eight is the same as for the other shepherds, whose custody we secured: that they get the chance to live the life they deserve as family dogs in dedicated forever homes.

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