And the winner is ...
Fiona's heart-warming tale takes the prize
Times Staff Report
Originally published 2012-04-26
With an inspiring message of survival and forgiveness, Fiona the one-eyed pit bull has been declared Gunnison Valley’s “Top Dog” for 2012.
In hotly contested voting, Fiona, who is owned by Drew Nelson, just edged out Terry Morrow’s chihuahua Pedro, 512 votes to 506, in the final round. Rounding out the “Royal Court” is Tondi, the African Boerboel owned by Molly Bolyard.
All told, 42 dogs were entered and more than 2,400 votes were cast in the first-ever fundraiser for the Gunnison Valley Animal Welfare League, raising a whopping $2,859 for the nonprofit rescue and adoption organization.
Fiona’s tale pulls at the heartstrings, and definitely pushed the calm, friendly and lovable 3-year-old into the winner’s spotlight.
In the fall of 2010, she was found abandoned and beat up several miles east of Gunnison by neighboring resident David Baumgarten. He brought her into GVAWL.
Nelson, a GVAWL volunteer who owns K-9 Training of the Western Slope and co-owns Waggin Tails pet boarding facility with Pam Christian, explained then that she was in terrible shape. She was missing an eye, her tail was broken, she had wounds on her rear end and hind legs and “huge chunks taken out of her back.”
Nelson said the injuries were consistent with what you’d see from a dog that was used as “bait” for training others in the horrendous act of dog fighting.
As Fiona began to be nursed back to health, a miraculous personality began to shine through. She was friendly with humans and other animals, not once showing an act of aggression toward either. Soon, a playfulness began to re-emerge as well.
Nelson was fostering Fiona at first, but couldn’t resist taking her in to her “forever home.”
“One day she just told me she was sticking around,” he said. “With her one good eye, she gave me that look, and it was irresistible.”
He said Fiona has been a true treasure ever since. “She’s very well mannered and an absolute sweetie pie. She’s a very happy girl.” Fiona has successfully completed the American Kennel Club’s “Canine Good Citizen” training and is on her way to being certified as a therapy dog.
Nelson maintains his belief that Fiona was used as a “living punching bag” and then basically left for dead, likely somewhere along Hwy. 114 between Gunnison and the San Luis Valley. Whatever the cause of her injuries, it was obvious when she was first rescued that she’d been through something horrible.
Fiona is being held up as an example of moving beyond one’s troubles, seeing the good in the present moment and realizing the peace of forgiveness.
“She brings joy to so many people,” Nelson said. “At first, they are like, ‘Ah, what happened?’ And you tell them the story. And then she smiles and shows that, despite everything, life can be great. And love, basically, is what does that.”