Maddie, Heaven-Sent

The other night, I received an email from one of my friends, Vanessa Ryan. She needed my help.

Vanessa was driving down an old, Alabama highway... when she saw one of the most heartbreaking, neglected dogs she’d ever seen.

In days prior, many others had driven down that same highway… and seen the same dog…

Yet... no one stopped. Instead... the others turned their heads, shielded their children’s eyes, and ignored the obvious suffering in front of them. Not one person cared enough to help… until Vanessa came along.

She immediately stopped her car, opened the door, and got out to do something about it. When Vanessa reached out her hand, the dog was so afraid… and in so much physical agony… that this dog cowered, on the scorching pavement... and began to cry. Her tiny whimpers said, “Please help me. I’ve been waiting for months... for someone to help me.”

The whimpering of this wounded soul broke Vanessa’s heart, so she picked-up the sick little girl, put her in the car, and drove home.

Her email said, “Ash, I need your help. I know you’re already overloaded, and I promise I’m not asking you to take this dog. I’m just hoping... maybe you can help me find someone who can.”

Then, I scrolled down and viewed the attached photo.

Sometimes, a photo... can make my heart stop beating for a second. While I’m rarely shocked anymore, I can still feel the pain of the tortured souls in my own body… and I'm incapable of looking away. For this particular dog, the obvious neglect was heartbreaking. The photo conveyed one of the worst cases of demodectic mange (demodex) I’ve ever seen.

But it also conveyed one other thing… hope. This dog has been given no reason to “hope” anymore. So, it’s amazing, despite the abuse and neglect she has suffered, that she has any shred of hope left.

Demodex thrives on time and neglect... and this girl has clearly been suffering for most of her short life. Demodectic mange is a non-contagious form of mange caused by the Demodex canis mite. These mites occur naturally in the hair follicles of most dogs, and usually, the mites don’t cause any problems. However, the mites can rapidly reproduce... when a dog is under immense stress, has an impaired immune system, or is suffering from malnutrition.

In those cases, the dogs suffer from severe skin inflammation, which leads to intense scratching, discomfort, pain, hair loss, and secondary infection. Hair loss usually begins around the face, limbs, and paws... but when left untreated.. can extend to the entire body. Dogs with demodex live in sheer agony.

Yet, people rarely stop to help them... fearing that they may “catch” the dog’s mange. However, demodectic mange is not contagious to humans... so there’s no excuse to turn your head when you see an animal in this condition. Demodex may cause them to look like monsters, but trust me: their hearts are more wounded than their bodies... and they need you.

I responded to Vanessa’s email, and simply said, “Can you get her to Meridian?”

So, on Monday, Maddie made the trip to me. When I met her, Maddie was utterly terrified --and in obvious pain. She trembled when I introduced myself, and she whimpered... as I lifted her and gently placed her in my car. She cried all the way home…

I carried her into the house, but she just cowered by the door in fear. So, I decided to sit on the floor, by the door too. I gave her medication for the pain, started treatment for the mange, and then rubbed her and said, “Please don’t cry. It’s okay now, I promise.”

She started to whimper, then crawled into my lap... and cried herself to sleep. I cried myself to sleep that night, too.

After her vet visit the next day, Maddie started to open up a little more. She began to follow me around the house, as she became increasingly curious about this whole “being inside” thing. Then… she started to smile…

That day...  just so happened to be the day that my IRS 501(c)(3) letter arrived, and I was able to share one of the biggest moments of my life with Maddie. I was so excited when I saw the letter, and Maddie was, too. In that moment, I picked up her front paws and we did our special Maddie-Moo-Happy-Dance. As we danced... her smile was so big... and when I put her paws down, she jumped right back up to do it again. So, we danced around the living room and the kitchen… and then... I stopped for a minute... to acknowledge the weight that moment.

I sat down and cried… for everything that this particular day meant to me… and also... for having Maddie to share it with.

But this time, Maddie didn’t cry. This time, Maddie smiled and comforted me… the very act I’d done for her... just the day before.

I looked at my letter… and I looked at Maddie… and in that moment, I felt Rudy’s love so strongly in my heart. I don’t always feel him here with me anymore… he’s been gone for almost a year… but at that moment, I knew that he was there.

And finally... I understood... why he had to leave me. He had to go, so this moment could be possible. I felt him saying, “Since I couldn’t be there today... I sent Maddie there... to share this with you instead. I’m so proud of you, Mom.”

In the photos I took with my letter... you can’t see her, but Maddie is lying on the floor just below me.

 But… there’s one other thing you may not have noticed. There are 2 orbs of light, to the right of me in the picture. I truly believe in my heart, that the larger orb --the one closest to me-- is my Rudy. He was right next to me on my big day. And the smaller orb, is Rudy’s best friend in Heaven, my Annie.

Thank you, Rudy and Annie, for guiding me through this life. And thank you, from the bottom of my heart, for sending Maddie to me. Today, I know.... that she’s truly a gift from Heaven.

*Maddie’s has a long road of recovery ahead, due to the severity of her condition.


  1. This is a truly wonderful story. I lost my dog Roscoe not quite a year ago to cancer, and I can still feel him with me very often. I also found a new dog who is so different from Roscoe but turned out to be so perfect for our home. Thanks for sharing this story, and I will have Maddie in my thoughts often, I'm sure.

  2. OMG!!!! She is the cutest lil dog, bless her heart and urs :)

  3. Ashley-I will be sending a donation this weekend to help with some of Maddie's care..you are a gift from God...I truly believe that.

  4. It's so sad how this dog has suffered but now that is all over. I too rescued a dog. Milo is his name. He's brought me so much joy. He plays with my other dog Rita. I adopted her back in 02. I keep praying for a home that has a lot of acres of land. I pray that I can someday open a shelter for these unwanted, ignored, and abused dogs. Thank you for sharing this story with us. May God bless you for being there for the dog. <3

  5. SEE! Ashley! I TOLD YOU! It is your LOVE and comfort that these little beings feel almost right away that makes them smile there happy tongue out smiles that I ALWAYS ALWAYS ALWAYS see them looking at you with (adoration) when they are gazing up at you with your camera for their "star" shots, their photos for us to see on the page AFTER you have custody of them. I am SO teary and choked up because you and your heart are a radiant lighthouse of love in the darkness of the pain, cruelty and needless suffering in this life. As I told you before... My gratitude to you from my soul to yours is ETERNAL.Cinnamon

  6. You are an angel. Thank you for sharing your world with others. And thank you for loving Maddie!

  7. You can see happiness in her eyes now!
    And Ashley, you are also a gift from Heaven! To all those dogs that you help and for being so inspiring to us!
    Kisses, from Brazil.

  8. wow... thank you for introducing us to beautiful Miss Maddie. I know she is now in good hands. Thank you for helping her and rescuing her. Thank you to your friend Vanessa for stopping when nobody else did. You two are truly angels. Thank you thank you thank you.

  9. What a beautiful smile Maddie has. Thank you for helping her. Lovely, lovely story.

  10. You are an angel. Thank you for sharing yourself with others. I hope for a long and happy life for you and Maddie. Your work inspires me more than you will ever know. Bless your heart.

  11. cant tell you how moved i am by Maddie and Rudy's stories...and you, like a kindred spirit... bless you Ashley. You inspire me and others to change the world one homeless heartstarved pup at a time.

  12. You are truly an angel Ashley!! You are hear to take care of those poor souls that no one wants anymore. It just breaks my heart that these things are done to these animals. It also warms my heart that you take them in and bring back their spirit and make them smile!!!!

  13. Your story brought tears today, as your stories often do. Please continue what you are doing - your work is so important, and you are so special. Though most of my time and extra money(ha! I make extra from not enough) goes to my local rescues, I will help out with little donations as I'm able. Love to you and Maddie!!!

  14. I myself stop for animals in need (I have two found on the street) and get I don't understand how people can just drive by and not do a damn thing..... Thank you Ashley... Every thime I read a positive story it makes me feel a little better than there are many others out there who care.....Marianna... Congrats on your tax exempt status. Great accomplishment

  15. I love this story!

  16. All of your blog posts bring me to tears. But in a good way. This story is another one of God's miracles, and I couldn't help but to smile when reading it.

    Thank you for all that you do for these dogs, thank you for being their voice, thank you for giving them hope.

  17. awe this story made me cry how wonderful of you to care for Maddie.So hard to believe humans just kept driving by so sad.Hope she makes a full recovery.

  18. I love seeing the smile on Maddie's face!!! I know she is much happier now that she is getting the treatment she needs and the love she deserves!

  19. You and Maddie both were Heaven sent!!!!!

  20. She has to be one of the prettiest furbaby that I have ever seen!!!! The smile on her face says it all!!!!

  21. God Bless you and Maddie!!! So proud for you both!!!! My Lazarus has been gone for 4 years (lymphoma), but he opened my eyes the plight of neglect/abused animals, and I adopt from shelters instead of buying from breeders. I crosspost and share like crazy and hope I am having an effect. Would love to get 501(c) 3 status as well!!! I have the land for lots of dogs, but due to my job, not the time to spend with them....or the money...but I have 5 that I love and fully intend to have more one day!

  22. Just wanted to give you a big CONGRATS! on your nonprofit status!! I love reading all about your experiences on your blog.

  23. Rudy & Annie are truly there with you to help you through with Maddie. What a great story. Bless you Ashley

  24. Truly one of the most touching stories I've ever read. Your picture radiates love and kindness! I believe in the orb's too, and I think they are you think they are! Bless you!!

  25. What a wonderful story! Thank you for sharing. I wish there were more people like you out there who cared about our 4 legged friends! I'm inspired to start my own non-profit to help save abused and neglected animals. They deserve to have a loving family too! I have a doggie of my own and he's the light of my life. I love him so much!

  26. Ashley your a true ANGEL and I can see the img in the picture. Your Baby with be with you forever!!!!!!!!!

  27. so glad to see and read the post. rescued a puppy a couple of weeks ago with mange like yours and it is heart breaking. so awful. she lost every hair she had !! follicles infected, etc. i am so glad that there are those of us who will save and love them. good luck !!

  28. love with all my heart...people like u...just got finished feeding some stray kitties tryin to get them to trust me so i can take them to a shelter to be fixed and taken care of....have 4 of my own otherwise they would be mine!!!

  29. You are the BEST Ashley...you have such a huge heart!!! Someday I would love to open my own rescue and help all those babies....just looking at Maddie's smile proves that all the work, tears and sleepless nights are SO worth it!!! Thank you for being such an angel and a voice for those who don't have one....love, hugs and paws to you

  30. Amazing, you never cease to amaazing me.


  31. that is a touching story, im glad you were able to help maddie and give a good home. we need more people like you, myself and the people who commented here. god bless you !

  32. I almost cried when I saw the initial pictures of Maddie on Facebook. But I did cry when I saw the shot of her smiling! Congrats on the nonprofit thing as well!

  33. wow there's something about that sweet girl that touches my heart. If you need a foster, I'm happy to oblige. ...I'm in Oregon, I know it's far away, but would still open my home to her. We've got three dogs and do fosters for Dogs Deserve Better. Bless your heart for all you do! Also, here's a wonderful blog about Benny, who was found much like Maddie.http://bennyspath.blogspot.com/ It's a wonderful story about his healing. -Sarah
    sass.guenther at gmail dot com

  34. thank you for all you have done to help her,

  35. I am so glad that there is hope in this world for these dogs, I just wish more people would realize what amazing, loving, loyal animals they are and want to take care of them as you do. I too would love to be able to foster dogs and hoping someday I can afford it, even if I have to eat dog food myself! I wish you the best of luck with everything you do, you are amazin :)

  36. This story both made me cry and suffer for Maddie, but also smile and be so grateful for people like you... You are truly an inspiration, and hope that the world is not "all bad"... and a blessing for the animals you help.
    I hope Maddie makes a full recovery, and that you have many more years of smiles with her. <3

  37. How is Maddie doing?

  38. what a good news. you are so kind...may God bless you more.


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