Homeless, blind poodle finds Safe Harbor in Port Clinton

‘We’ll find her a home,’ Nancy Benevento, CEO of Island Safe Harbor Animal Sanctuary, said of a new resident, a 10-year-old miniature poodle named NaNa, who had been living on the streets. NaNa is blind and manages to eat with her two remaining teeth. ‘We’ve had many dogs like this. She’ll make it,’ Mrs. Benevento said.
‘We’ll find her a home,’ Nancy Benevento, CEO of Island Safe Harbor Animal Sanctuary, said of a new resident, a 10-year-old miniature poodle named NaNa, who had been living on the streets. NaNa is blind and manages to eat with her two remaining teeth. ‘We’ve had many dogs like this. She’ll make it,’ Mrs. Benevento said.

PORT CLINTON — With matted fur, with blind eyes, the poodle wandered the streets, shivering from the cold, from fear.

Day after day, nobody played fetch with her or took her for a leaf-scuffing walk in the park. At night, nobody stroked her wiry coat, offered an after-supper treat, or tucked her into a cozy doggie bed.

Somehow, for an unknown number of weeks or months, the dog survived. Sniffing out scraps of food. Avoiding screeching tires of motorists.

A few days ago, the stray poodle was rescued in Westlake, an affluent suburb of Cleveland, and a link was made to an animal sanctuary in Port Clinton, where the staff welcomed the pooch.

They call her NaNa. She has a bed, a pillow. She has food, she has medical attention, she has a home.

When rescued, her ears were filthy; nails curled into the pads of her feet. An apparent flea infestation caused much fur loss.

She was given a medicated bath. Ears were cleaned. Nails trimmed.

About 10-12 years old, the poodle needs to gain a few pounds before extensive dental work is done. NaNa’s rotten teeth have fallen out, creating holes in her gums that lead into the sinus cavity and mouth, definitely not a good thing, noted Nancy R. Benevento, founder and CEO of Island Safe Harbor Animal Sanctuary Inc. on East State Road in Port Clinton. Because of the severe dental problems, the dog developed a heart murmur.

Nursing the poodle back to good health is not an option, it’s a must. It’s the animal sanctuary’s mission, and its promise, to NaNa. The dog deserves nothing less, considering the neglect the animal endured, Mrs. Benevento said.

Did a family dump the poodle because of a lack of money for dog food or vet bills? Was she abandoned after its owner passed away? Whatever the circumstance, the reality is this: With blind faith, the poodle searched ... for a safe place, for a kind human hand that makes a tail wag.

Paul Rachow, founder and facilitator for FrogTown Low Vision Support Group in the Toledo area, applauds efforts to save and adopt out dogs with special needs such as NaNa. Dogs without sight have other abilities that shine through, like providing comfort and companionship to people, he pointed out.

It’s uncertain when, and if, NaNa would be considered for adoption. “It takes a special person for a special dog,” Mrs. Benevento said, adding it’s possible this sweetheart of a street survivor “will live here with us in our little nursing home.”

Ungroomed, the pooch looks like a ragamuffin. One step at a time, said Mrs. Benevento. Grooming will come, after NaNa’s health improves.

So far, so good. Her appetite? “She’s a chow hound,” said Mrs. Benevento. “With some good nutrition and good medical care, she’ll be fine.”

On Wednesday morning, the poodle tussled with a couple other dogs at the sanctuary, where many animals await forever homes.

So far, the 2-year-old Island Safe Harbor Animal Sanctuary has saved 341 cats and dogs. Of those rescued, 93 adult dogs came from puppy mills, Mrs. Benevento said.

Because of the economy, some pets are being abandoned, particularly those in need of veterinary care, she said, noting that sometimes it comes down to a decision of taking the pet to the vet or feeding the kids or feeding themselves. The sanctuary can take in unwanted pets, but it is costly for health care. It’s one of the sanctuary’s missions to help pet owners receive reduced-price veterinary care to make it affordable for the pet owners to keep their pets rather than surrendering them or dumping them along a road. Or worse.

“We try to do what we can for the community and for the animals,” she said, such as by encouraging low-cost spay/​neuter programs and recommending limits on litters of puppies and kittens.

She has been rescuing animals for years; she has 13 at her house. She has used her retirement funds and her savings to open and operate the sanctuary. Donations to offset costs for NaNa and other rescued animals can be sent to Island Safe Harbor Animal Sanctuary, 3620 E. State Rd., Port Clinton, Ohio 43452.

Nastassia Troyer, 22, has adopted two blind dogs from there. Her friends love Mitsi, a black-and-white cocker spaniel, and Bubbie, an 8-week-old beagle. Ms. Troyer, who will graduate from Bowling Green State University in December, said she had a black-and-white cocker spaniel for 13 years when she was growing up. She found Mitsi online, went to visit her a few months ago, and pretty much fell in love with her, and the dog’s blindness wasn’t any reason not to adopt her. “I pretty much wanted her instantly,” she said, noting Mitsi is a wonderful dog who has learned how to go up and down steps ... and now wags her tail.

Recently, Ms. Troyer’s roommate Scott Henley decided he wanted a dog. Again, Ms. Troyer picked out a dog online, and that dog too was at the animal sanctuary. Last week she adopted Bubbie, took him home, and introduced him to the laid-back, docile Mitsi, who wasn’t exactly thrilled with a jumping-all-over-the-place baby brother. They will be best buddies when they know one another. Unlike Mitsi, blind one or two of her estimated four years, Bubbie was born blind.

“The breeder didn’t want him. I wanted him,” said Ms. Troyer, who said Bubbie is slowly learning the ups and downs of stairs. “You wouldn’t know he was blind.”

Mrs. Benevento shows pride as she tells such success stories. It takes a village to raise a child, Mrs. Benevento said, and she thinks other students at the college likely are helping to raise those two dogs.

“That’s what you want to teach,” she said. Be responsible, pet owners; adopt, if you can, rescued dogs and cats, including those with special needs.

Contact Janet Romaker at: jromaker@theblade.com or 419-724-6006.