ABC Action News Reporter Meredyth Censullo was just doing her job when she pitched a story to the news department of an adorable dog who had suffered horrific abuse. One of Censullos’s Facebook Fans had posted the story of a female dog that had been dragged by a car and left for dead on the side of the road in the Florida panhandle. She was pregnant but the puppies were not able to be saved. The pictures of her raw, mangled legs are difficult to look at. She languished in an animal control pen for eight days, until the Tampa Bay-based S.A.F.E. Society came to her rescue.
Fellow Reporter John Thomas subsequently did two stories on the dog now known as Bria. Thomas, an animal lover focused on her injuries, how she was found, and how the public could assist with her medical bills. The second story was about the overwhelming response of ABC Action News viewers who raised almost four thousand dollars for her care, which included laser therapy treatments to help her skin regenerate and heal. Throughout everything, Bria’s tail never stopped wagging.
Censullo, an avid animal lover, admits she thought about deleting the pictures from her page. “Looking at them made my heart ache. I don’t understand how people can be so cruel to animals. I just don’t fathom that. It’s honestly hard for me to watch or listen to news stories about animal abuse because I get so depressed!” Instead of deleting them, she found herself sharing them with her co-workers and even tweeting them. She was taken with the dog that never stopped wagging her tail through the pain and fear. “ I remember thinking of the obvious trust Bria placed in humanity, despite what a human being had done to her. Her spirit really shined through and captured my heart.”
It was difficult for Censullo to believe what Bria had gone through. “The fact that Bria had been dragged behind a car and left for dead on the side of the road was horrible enough; I had a movie of that scene running through my head that I kept trying to block out. And to learn that following that trauma, she’d allegedly been left in an animal control shelter on a urine-soaked mattress with little medical care for eight days (the animal control facility says differently) was heartbreaking. I also remember thinking about the GOOD people – like Tara Rose at S.A.F.E. – who spend their lives rescuing animals like Bria.”
Somewhere along the line, the reporter fell in love with the dog with the heart-breaking story. She knew in her heart that Bria belonged in her family. Already having Mattie, a 60-lb labradoodle and two cats, she had to work on convincing her husband Paul that the time was right to add another family member. “Paul understood my connection to Bria, saying “you helped save her life.” He is now as devoted to giving her a great life as I am, and I love him even more for that!”
Life with Bria has its challenges but the family is up for it. She has some issues with separation anxiety that they are trying to cope with, several broken teeth and “happy tail”. “She wags her tail so furiously that she whacks it on things and it splits open, sending fountains of blood everywhere! I discovered the mess factor of this the day I came home to find Bria in her crate, clearly excited to see me. Her tail was wagging so fast…and blood was spraying everywhere! Our house looked like a crime scene!”
They are working on some strategies from an animal behaviorist (at Courteous Canine in Lutz) to try to curb accidents in the house and plan to enroll Bria in a class called “My Dog Has Issues”. The medical bills continue as her broken teeth must be fixed. Her front legs are healing faster than the rear. Even though she is still a little underweight, veterinarians are amazed at her progress.
Censullo says Bria’s mental scars are evident. “She’s quite timid, and will cower down in various circumstances, for example if you raise anything in your hand (like a remote control). She flinches easily at sounds. She gulps her food in three bites, glancing around after each mouthful as if someone will try to steal the food from her.” They are working to gain her trust. She is very sweet and gentle, and gets along well with the family’s labradoodle and their cat Dexter. Their other cat, Kiya, avoids everyone, including the newcomer. Bria is also very good with Kayla, Censullo’s stepdaughter, and Kayla is very good with Bria.
The family realizes that it is going to take a lot of work to get Bria to where she needs to be, physically and mentally. “In many ways she’s like a puppy — with her problems peeing in the house, her lack of any training and her trouble connecting with humans — but she has such a sweet, loving spirit we feel she’s going to get up-to-speed. I hope that ultimately we can give her a life that’s fulfilling and safe. I also hope that more people will step up and adopt rescue animals, especially those with special needs. Obviously they require extra time, extra money, extra attention…. but honestly it’s such a great feeling to have Bria give me doggy kisses!”
For more information or to follow Bria’s progress, please visit Meredyth’s Facebook page at http://www.facebook.com/tampabaytraffic.