By Janet McAfee

“In a time of ancient gods, warlords and kings, a land in turmoil cried out for a hero. She was Xena, a mighty princess forged in the heat of battle. The power…the passion…the danger. Her courage will change the world.” – (Introduction to the television series, “Xena: Warrior Princess”)

How does a dog have the courage to triumph over extreme adversity, including starvation and abuse?   How does a dog learn to trust and love humans again after her first family betrayed her?

The German Shepherd dog was a gaunt skeleton, her bones protruding through her dull coat.  Her eyes were vacant, devoid of hope, and her tail curled fearfully beneath her.  Her nipples sagged, and it was apparent she recently had a litter of puppies, perhaps numerous litters.  The kennel card on her cage at the San Bernardino City Shelter listed her as 7 years old, an age when most adopters would pass her by in favor of a younger pet. 

Foster mom extraordinaire, Debbie Karp, wanted to foster a large dog, a “project” dog that she could work with and prepare for adoption.  I rescued the German Shepherd for Loving All Animals once Debbie enthusiastically agreed to foster her. The dog walked calmly out of her kennel for the freedom ride to a better life. 

We named her Xena (pronounced Zena) after the warrior princess, knowing she overcame many struggles.  A visit to Desert Dunes Animal Hospital revealed Xena had gastro intestinal issues, anemia, a low red blood cell count, and she tested positive for canine ehrlichiosis due to a tick infestation.  A mammary tumor also had to be removed, which fortunately was benign.  The vet noted Xena was so emaciated that it would be dangerous to spay her until she could gain a significant amount of weight. 

Debbie reflects back on her experience with the dog she will never forget.  “I want to believe that all people are genuinely good, but who could imagine there are people out there who could inflict such cruelty on an animal?  These precious innocent beings depend on us for survival.  Dogs were put on this earth for many reasons, including teaching us about unconditional love.  I was so blessed to foster Xena after Loving All Animals rescued her from a high kill shelter. My goal with taking her into my home was to rehabilitate her and ensure she was adopted into a home where the rest of her life would be in a loving, safe environment.”

“If you pay attention, a dog will tell you their past.  Xena was initially terrified to get in or out of a car, and I suspect she may have been thrown out of one and abandoned.  She was covered with ticks and fleas.  It appeared she had never been inside a home before, nor was she walked on a leash.  She was Leary of sounds and new people.  She was in such poor health we had to take her to the vet numerous times.”

Debbie added, “Xena the Warrior Princess, a name she so deserves, transformed once she knew she was safe and loved.  She accepted affection and learned she could trust me.  She began to anticipate our morning walks, she relaxed and started to run around the yard.  Through fostering, we show the dogs that humans can be loving and kind, and we benefit from seeing them become the dogs they were meant to be.  I am thrilled that Xena is now adopted and has a wonderful new Mommy.”

Xena’s “furrever” mom, Paula Fortier, reports, “Things are going great with Xena!  When she first arrived here, she tried to hide, but she soon became my best friend.  She now plays with balls and other toys, and she enjoys playing with the other dogs at the dog park.  She loves to travel with me in the car.  Xena has four dog beds, including one in the car, and she sleeps on the one in my bedroom.  We went to the vet at Desert Dunes last Saturday for a checkup, and it was amazing how she happily greeted the staff.  A lot of people know Xena’s story, and remark on her gentleness.” 

How many years did this dog endure starvation, abuse, and neglect?  How many years did she suffer outdoors unprotected from the elements?   We can only promise her a brighter future.  Today there is light and happiness in the soft eyes that once had no hope.  Today Xena lives like a princess, in a wonderful home where there is lots of food and lots of love. 

For more information about fostering or adopting a rescue dog, contact Loving All Animals at or (760) 834-7000.