In honor of Guard Dog, the faithful chained dog in MUTTS with a heart of gold, we're sharing happy stories about real-life "guard dogs." This freedom story about a very special dog named Tyler comes from our friend Marisol Thomas, who co-founded the nonprofit organization Sidewalk Angels Foundation with her husband, musician Rob Thomas.
By Marisol Thomas
One afternoon, many years ago, Rob and I took a drive to visit Pets Alive Animal Sanctuary. Our intent was to learn more about them and see how we might be able to help. Meeting one of the greatest loves of my life was never a part of the plan.
But there he was … my Tyler, who would not only change our lives forever, but would also be the catalyst for Sidewalk Angels Foundation. His eyes met mine the moment I walked into the room. Our connection was instant, as I got on my knees and touched his little neck. He raised his paw and pressed his face against mine. And we knew at that moment that we belonged to each other.
Tyler’s story is one of the hardest I’ve ever encountered. Before being rescued and coming to New York from West Virginia, he spent the first four years of his life tethered and severely abused daily, in ways that are unfathomable to most people.
Even after being rescued, the shelter was unsure if he would ever be adoptable due to the traumas he’d experienced. But that day we just knew. Rob and I put him into our SUV and told him we were going home. He sat like a gentleman in the back seat, smiling, letting us know he understood, and he agreed.
We saved each other that day. We helped him heal from years of abuse, and he helped me find the strength to not only fight my own chronic illness but also continue the work that meant so much to me. I had worked with animal rescue since I was a young girl, but it was adopting Tyler, and our love for him and our desire to help others like him that was the driving force behind Sidewalk Angels.
Tyler was our first “angel." This one little precious soul resulted in the salvation and the changing and saving of the lives of thousands of other animals.
He was taken from us way too soon, but for the rest of his short life, he was so loved. He traveled the world with us. He was a little rock star. He was in magazines and even onstage at Madison Square Garden. He had fans all over the country. Many wanted to meet him because it was his story that allowed them to open their hearts to an animal in need that everyone had given up on. An animal that went on to change their lives.
All because of our Tyler — our Teetsie (short for Tyler Thomas), which was the nickname he loved most. He was a special old soul that drew everyone in the moment they met him. I’ll never understand why he was taken from us so soon. Perhaps he was an angel sent here for a greater purpose, larger and farther reaching than we’ll ever know.
I will never understand. I will never not feel that loss. But his spirit lives on. It’s because of him that we went on to rescue his brothers Samy and Ollie, who continued to change our lives and make us better humans. Tyler was so otherworldly that I almost feel he might be somewhere reading this. If he is, I know he’s smiling. If he is, I want him to know how loved he still is.
To learn more about Guard Dog and how to help chained dogs, visit MUTTS.com/GuardDog. Interested in sharing your Guard Dog rescue story? We'd love to hear from you. Reach out at blog@MUTTS.com or post on Instagram using the hashtag #FreeGuardDog.