Johnny’s Story: A New Life of Healing, Friendship, and Love

by Julie Stankiewicz


In August of 2013, a black Labrador retriever was abandoned and found laying in the road adjacent to the property of Our Companions Ashford Sanctuary. Neighbors raced to the Sanctuary in a panic, fearing that the dog may have been suffering from heatstroke. Our Companions staff immediately came to the dog's rescue, and saw that he was in very poor condition. After a mandatory seven-day advertising period at animal control, he was brought back to Our Companions Sanctuary to heal and was given the name Johnny. Following years of brutal neglect, he had no idea that his life was about to take a magnificent turn.

Based on Johnny's presentation, Our Companions Director of Canine Operations, Marie Joyner, surmised that he was probably used as a breeding dog for many years and had never received veterinary care. As a result of such neglect, Johnny suffered from numerous health problems and behavioral challenges. As a guest at Our Companions Sanctuary, Johnny finally received the medical attention, love, and devotion that he always deserved. To ease the pain of elephantized, swollen skin, Johnny received baths and treatment with lotion every other day, and was given a humidifier to prevent his skin from becoming dry. For cracked skin on the bottom of Johnny's feet that made it painful for him to walk, his paws were bandaged, and he wore socks and boots in the winter. He was given treatment for ear, eye, and urinary track infections, a special diet to alleviate food allergies, has been monitored for anemia, and even had a lump surgically removed. Although Johnny continues to receive treatment for a few medical issues, thankfully he is feeling much better these days.

In his early days with us, Johnny didn’t understand that the people around him were there to give him love and support. As is common among dogs who have been handled roughly, Johnny challenged people when they gave him directions. For example, Johnny refused to share the couch or leave the couch when requested. After much training, patience, and love, Johnny is now willing to share the couch with anyone and gets on and off willingly when asked. He now understands that people are his friends.

Having observed Johnny for the past year and a half, Marie Joyner notes, "He was very sad and sick when he first arrived. There was no joy. Now he's very joyful, very happy. He's gotten younger since he's been with us, and has a whole lot of life and energy in him." She says that Johnny has developed close relationships with several volunteers “who love him as much as he loves them.” Johnny knows when to expect his favorite volunteers, and stares out the window in eager anticipation each week waiting for them to arrive. During public visiting hours, Johnny has become a Sanctuary mascot who enjoys being in the spotlight and entertaining guests. In addition, Johnny travels to the Manchester Training Center each week to participate in the Buddy Project, a program in which at-risk youth train homeless dogs to increase their adoptability. Johnny is helping them to learn not only dog-training skills, but also life skills and self-esteem. Having been neglected for years, Johnny is now fulfilled and full of love to give. He loves other dogs and is an excellent walking companion. If you think you would like to adopt Johnny, please call Ann Marie at (860) 242-9999 ext. 302, or contact us here.

Not ready to adopt but still want to help Johnny? Please consider sending a gift from his wish list.