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As John Gagnon walks down the row of kennels at Tipton County Animal Control, he comes upon Crystal.

She is a husky/lab mix with deep blue eyes who appears utterly terrified. Crystal growls at John as he starts to approach her and looks as if she may bite him. John expertly places a collar around her in a non-threatening manner and calmly escorts her out of the stressful shelter environment.

When Crystal walks outside, away from the hysterical barking and terrified cries, she visibly relaxes. Within minutes, she rolls over and kisses John’s hand. He makes the decision to take Crystal into rescue with PAWS New England and thus begins her journey.

The Beginning

Due to initial issues with fear aggression, John takes Crustal to the Pet Resort for a few weeks to train her and build her confidence.

He plays a lead role in choosing Crystal’s adoptive family and finally settles on Dr. Ericka Bueno. Dr. Bueno is on the face and hand transplant team at Brigham and Woman’s hospital in Boston, MA, and has significant experience working with trauma victims. Her description of Crystal’s first day is heartwarming:

Crystal seemed to know from the first minute she got out of John's car that she had finally come home. I don't know anything about the first few years of her life, and I almost wish she could tell me if someone loved her at some point, I really hope someone did.

I saw her, and I could not believe this was the same dog that, months ago had been so scared of people that some may have thought her aggressive and not adoptable. She was very affectionate with me right away - and she was head over heels for John. I kept thinking she was comfortable only because of John's calming presence, and braced myself for what would happen once he left.

But when the time came, and John said his goodbyes, Crystal just calmly came to lie by my side on the grass and see him off. She sighed.

The Transformation

Ericka worked closely with Crystal over the next year and describes the ups and downs of being a new adopter.

Obviously, we had our challenges those first couple weeks. She cried in her crate when I left for work. She refused to go out with her dog walker, growling at her. She also growled at other dogs on the street and got really spooked by loud noises.

But, she graduated from her crate within a couple of days and showed me that she was a very good girl and could be trusted in the house. We worked very hard together during the summer of 2011 and she became quite a social dog.

She is eager to please, to kiss, to play, to walk, to settle quietly when asked to.

Finding Her Purpose

Ericka goes on to explain:

I sensed our connection deepening and started to perceive a special quality in her - she was very selfless, in a way I had not seen before in a dog... she was also generous and noble with everyone around her.

There wasn't a sad soul she wasn't willing to stop and console, a toy or treat she wouldn't give up if asked to, or a little kid that she wouldn't treat with gentle paws. I thought about ways that we could use this special quality of her, and decided to give fostering a try. I was a little hesitant given her history of being reactive to dogs in the past.

But... we gave it a try, and she rocked!

She is a wonderful foster sister, a calming, encouraging and protective influence to her scared foster siblings. She shows them the way with patience, tolerance and lots of generosity. She has given up her bed, her mom, her toys and her food bowl numerous times without even a whine. It's almost like she looks at me and she knows that...she is home, and her job now is to ensure others like her are just as lucky.

She is loved and cherished by many. And she has found her purpose.

Crystal’s story shows the vital role adoptive families play in the success and happiness of these rescued dogs.

Become an adoptive family today...