One of 64 abused and malnourished dogs that were seized from a Manitoba couple's home in 2010 has come a long way since it was rescued, according to the pet's current owner.
Sandi Noble adopted Buddy after it was seized in July 2010 from Peter and Judith Chernecki's property in the Gull Lake area, about 90 kilometres northeast of Winnipeg.
Buddy and the other dogs were found confined inside two buildings with no windows. At the time, many of the animals were wounded, covered in feces and severely malnourished.
Noble said Buddy was initially skinny and had head wounds from bites from other dogs and rodents.
"He just made your heart break, looking at him. It was sad, he was sad," she told CBC News.
"Now he's learning things that he should've done when he was a puppy, like playing."
Noble estimates that Buddy, who has put on weight since it was adopted, is between four and seven years old today.
Last week, the Cherneckis pleaded guilty to seven charges under Manitoba's Animal Care Act. Several other charges against the couple were stayed.
The couple is scheduled to be sentenced on Sept. 17. They face a maximum penalty of six months in jail and a $5,000 fine.
Some dogs had to be put down
At the time of the dog seizure, Peter Chernecki told CBC News he and his wife were just trying to help stray animals abandoned at the local landfill.
Of the 64 dogs that were seized, 34 had to be euthanized because they had severe health or behavioural problems.
"The telecasts from when they were coming out of the house, I sat here and I cried," said Noble.
"It was just so sad seeing them. They were just brutalized."
Seven dogs were sent to a dog sanctuary in the United States, and the others — including Buddy — were adopted out.
2 dogs remain in sanctuary
Tamara Dormer, a certified dog trainer with the Best Friends Animal Society, she said the dogs were timid when they arrived at the Utah-based sanctuary.
"They would stay back away from us. They weren't aggressive at all, but they were very fearful," she recalled.
Dormer said at least two of the dogs, named Catalina and Hammond, are still getting help at Dog Town, the dog-specific part of the sanctuary.
Dogs that aren’t socialized as puppies take a lot of patience to train, Dormer said.
"They're probably never going to be ‘normal dogs,’ but they can certainly develop relationships with people they get adopted by," she said.
Noble said her pet will always have health issues. For example, Buddy has missing teeth, so it has trouble chewing food and keeping food in its mouth.
As well, Buddy is afraid of being confined indoors, is extremely timid with strangers, and fights with her other dog over food, she said.
"It was very difficult to get him in the house in the first place, I guess because he wasn’t sure if he could ever get out again," said Noble.
However, Noble said she is happy that Buddy has learned to trust her and feel more at home.
"It just fills your heart to see him," she said.
"Even when he decides he's going to start barking, you know that he's happy … whereas before, you knew that he was in a really bad place."
Noble said despite the ongoing issues, Buddy is making slow progress. Until about six months ago, Buddy would not let strangers near him. Now, he will let them pat him.
Three weeks ago, Buddy rolled over for a belly rub for the first time.
"He feels safe and secure and that’s — that’s joyful," said Noble.