Famous SH German Shepherd dies 11 years after her rescue

momphoto.jpgBy Nick Diamantides
Staff Writer

A German Shepherd mix known to thousands of people in Long Beach and Signal Hill passed away recently. The dog—a female—had touched the hearts of many of our readers and many of them have wondered what ever became of the lovable canine that was rescued 11 years ago.
The story began in mid-April 1997, when residents living near the Blue Line tracks discovered the abandoned dog lying in a clump of bushes. She was injured from a beating but had still managed to give birth to seven puppies.
Word of the dog’s plight spread throughout the area, and Dennis Bartlett, who lived in the neighborhood, brought food water and a blanket to the dog and her litter.
Bartlett’s wife Debbie called Long Beach Animal Control to find out that if the dog and her pups were brought there, they would be euthanized within five-and-one-half days, unless someone adopted them. Not willing to risk having the dogs “put to sleep,” Debbie began searching for some way to save the canine single mom and her brood.
“We wanted to keep her, but we already had a German Shepherd and didn’t have room for her,” she explained.
Two days later, one of the puppies died, and Al Evans, one of the neighbors, decided to allow the dogs to stay in his garage until permanent homes could be found.
He named the adult dog “Mom.” She and babies began thriving under his care, but he noticed that Mom had a severe limp. He brought her to a veterinarian, and x-rays revealed that whoever had beaten her had damaged her hip beyond repair. The only thing that could save her from extreme pain and a shortened life was hip replacement, which cost $2,000. The veterinarian also determined that Mom was only about 14 months old.
Not knowing where else to turn for help, Debbie wrote an article—published in the Signal—describing the dogs’ plight and pleading for cash donations for the surgery as well as adoptive homes for Mom and her six surviving puppies.
The day the paper hit the streets, people began phoning to promise donations or to inquire about adopting one of the dogs.
“The response was overwhelming,” Debbie said. “The genuine concern the readers had for this strayed, street-wise dog and her six pups gave me proof that faith, hope and good will do exist.”
She noted that, with special help from the Hughes Middle School Animal Lovers Society, students and staff at the school, and Nino’s Italian Restaurant, enough money was raised to have the hip replacement surgery done by Dr. J. K. Heit at Rossmoor Center Animal Clinic in Seal Beach. Heit performed that operation and provided other medical care to Mom and her pups at a reduced rate.
Within a few weeks, all the puppies had permanent homes, and Mom, who had recovered sufficiently from the surgery, was adoptable.
Signal Hill resident Julie Ann Sherman was one of several people who had applied to adopt Mom. “I was pregnant with my first daughter and looking for a dog who was all bark to watch over my growing family,” she said in a recent letter to the Signal. “I held my breath after the interview to see if I had been chosen as the lucky new owner.”
It turned out that she was indeed chosen. “Suerte (“lucky” in Spanish) was her new name and she was a blessing to us,” Julie said. “She challenged anyone who came into our home for the first time but greeted anyone who had been introduced to her as a friend with a wag and a big toothy grin.”
Julie noted that the dog became a cherished family member over the next six years but was closest to Sherman’s brother Richard. Julie’s second daughter was born in 2003 and Richard moved to Chino with Suerte.
“He called the other day to tearfully let me know that Suerte was gone,” Julie said. “Our family is grateful for the time, money and love that allowed this wonderful dog 11 more years of life.”
Debbie was also saddened by Suerte’s death. “She was a great dog,” she noted. “I am glad that she got to live a long life.”

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