Harbin, China, was home to nearly 2,000 dogs, but one dog stood out among them for all the wrong reasons. Amidst the lively activities of the other dogs, Harriet sat motionless in a corner, her appearance telling a heart-wrenching story of neglect.
These dogs had all come from challenging backgrounds, either strays or rescued from trucks en route to slaughterhouses. The owner of the compound offered them safety, and she worked closely with Harbin Slaughterhouse Survivors Animal Rescue (Harbin SHS), a rescue group that specializes in helping dogs in dire need.
It was immediately apparent to the rescuers that the dog in question was Harriet. Rachel Hinman, a volunteer for Harbin SHS, described the encounter: “We were visiting the property in May, and in the far back corner, I see this tiny little husky looking completely scared. I tried reaching out, and she just sat there. We had no idea where she came from, but she was not doing well.”
When Harriet was picked up, the full extent of her neglect became apparent. Her fur was caked with feces, hiding a painfully emaciated frame. She was so tiny that they initially thought she might be a miniature husky.
Once in the care of the rescue team, Harriet embraced her newfound safety and barely made a sound during the journey to the vet clinic. Harriet was the latest addition to a team of women who worked tirelessly for the rescue full-time: Hayley Hayes-Fitzgerald, Aimee Clarke, and Emily Parker, expatriates living in Harbin and working as teachers.
Hinman explained, “We thought she was a young puppy for sure, due to her size, but the vet checked her teeth and estimated she was probably 8 months old. She just must’ve been so malnourished that it affected her growth.”
Fortunately, aside from malnutrition and matted fur, Harriet didn’t have major medical problems. Her matted fur was carefully shaved off, and she received a bath before being settled into the rescue center, where she would stay for about two months to recover and regain her strength.
Despite her past, Harriet was gentle and patient, touching everyone with her resilience. Weeks passed, and with devoted care, she shed her fear and was ready for the next chapter of her life.
Rosee Vallee, a woman from Canada, saw Harriet’s picture online and knew she had to adopt her. At the end of July, Harriet flew with a volunteer into San Francisco, where she met her new mom for the first time.
Vallee expressed her immediate connection with Harriet: “I knew she was for me the second I saw her; she looked so sad and all I wanted to do was make her happy right away. Since I have had her, we have gone on road trips, we have flown together, she went to Lake Louise in Canada… She is my princess. She loves everyone she meets.”
Now, living in Canada with her new name, Bailey, Harriet has three dog sisters, one of whom is another rescue pup from Harbin SHS named Anezka.
In a matter of months, Harriet’s life was transformed from that of a neglected stray into a beloved family member, all thanks to the kindness of the people involved.
Hinman reflected, “I see her now and it just warms my heart. I think of all the people who came together to help her — they are the real heroes of this story. Every dog deserves a second chance, and Harriet is such a perfect example of that.”
Harriet’s journey from a frightened husky to a cherished family member serves as a testament to the power of patience, understanding, and unwavering love. It reminds us that, with these qualities, we can help heal past traumas and guide those in need toward a brighter future.
May Harriet’s story inspire us to extend compassion to animals and individuals who have experienced fear and trauma. Let us appreciate the remarkable capacity for healing and transformation and embrace the opportunity to offer solace and love to those who need it most.