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In 2021, a small black puppy living on the streets of Cairo was attacked by a group of people. Some said they were children or teenagers. No one knows for sure how old they were, how many of them there were, or why they did what they did. All they know is that the group tortured the puppy. Neighbors heard wailing, and by the time they came outside, the dog had been mutilated. All four of his feet and half of his tail were cut off.
About a year later, Caroline Artiss heard about the puppy rescuers were calling Licorice (his name is Elliot now). Artiss is the CEO of Migos Dog, a fresh dog food company in Malibu, California. At a community event at the Annenberg PetSpace, she met Debbie Pearl, an animal trainer who rehabilitates disabled and abused dogs known as her Unstoppable Dogs. Pearl is also the founder of the Dream Fetchers Foundation. The women exchanged information, Artiss offered Pearl some Migos Dog food, and on a later phone call, Pearl told her about Elliot. Artiss was horrified. Pearl says she’d been trying to bring Elliot back to the United States for about a year, but she was having a hard time finding someone to fly to Cairo and pick him up.
Mission: Rescue Elliot
“I must have just had a glass of wine or something,” Artiss tells The Wildest. “But I said, ‘I’ll go.’” What followed was a complex feat of communication, paperwork, and logistics involving different individuals, rescue groups, and international animal transportation regulations. It took months to put everything in place. Artiss had originally planned a quick weekend trip: Fly out to Cairo on a Friday, pick up Elliot, be back in California in time for work on Monday. “This was much more of a complicated mission than I had anticipated,” she says.
Fortunately, Elliot had a strong support team in Cairo. Stray Dog Support, a nonprofit run by Helen Summerfield-Brown that is dedicated to providing financial support to foster and rescue groups that help vulnerable street dogs around the world, helped cover Elliot’s medical bills. This was no small feat; his recovery required four surgeries and extensive rehabilitation. Stray Dog also collaborated with Hanan Atef Zaki and Mira Gamal, who run the Furever Rescue and Mira Shelter in Cairo, respectively.
“When you think about it, it was actually a whole bunch of women from all over the world,” Artiss says. “Everyone I met had their own organization, and their own business, and it was all females.”
Artiss flew out to Cairo by herself on March 24. Between flight changes and making sure Elliot had all of his shots, paperwork, and CDC requirements in order, Artiss ended up staying three days longer than she had anticipated. “That was stressful, but I think it happened for a reason,” she says. “I’m glad, because it meant I could go out into Cairo for a day with Mira.”
The Reality of Animal Treatment in Egypt
It was an emotional day. Artiss says it was eye-opening to visit a country where animal abuse is often ignored. “It’s really sad to see that people feel they can go around and abuse and hurt animals and get away with it, because nobody’s going to do anything about it,” she adds.
The tide seems to be turning in Egypt, though. In January, a court sentenced a cart driver for brutally beating his horse. Video of the incident had gone viral and caused outrage in the country. And in 2015, four men were sentenced for torturing and killing a dog, another incident that outraged the public when it was caught on camera.
After more paperwork, a long flight back to Los Angeles, and a brief stay at Kennel Club LAX, Elliot met his new mom, Debbie Pearl. Even getting him through customs was a hurdle, but a seasoned customs international broker named Gisele helped Artiss get through the red tape, and he was finally home. “Meeting him was surreal, because it was such a long process to get him,” Pearl says. “It was amazing, just looking at his little face, seeing his little waggy tail.”
Elliot’s New Life
Now, Elliot lives in Huntington Beach, California, with Pearl and the other five Unstoppable Dogs, who are now his best friends. “Everybody came and sniffed, and he just wagged his tail the whole time,” Pearl remembers. When Elliot first arrived in the U.S., Dr. Lindsey Wendt, a holistic veterinarian and founder of Crystal Lotus Veterinary Care in Los Angeles, gave him a checkup. Artiss says Wendt recommended that Elliot eat a fresh-food diet to lose weight and the Migos Dog chicken entree for kidney and bone-health support.
The day after he got home, Elliot was fitted for four new prosthetic legs, courtesy of the California State University-Dominguez Hills Orthotics and Prosthetics program. He’s still learning how to use them and building up his strength after a year of crawling around. “We have to teach him to walk again,” Pearl says. “He has to have the confidence. Because he has these four things on his feet, and he doesn’t know what they are. He’s got to build up his core strength.”
Elliot is also doing swim therapy, going to events with Pearl, and is well on the path to recovery. Artiss says that despite all the hardships he faced, his spirit never wavered. “The remarkable thing about Elliot is that, despite all the stuff that happened to him, he is the sweetest dog. He loves everybody. If I was a dog, I would not like humans after that,” she says.
Once Elliot is more settled in his new home, gets more comfortable with his new legs, and officially becomes a therapy dog, Pearl plans to take him with her and the other Unstoppable Dogs to senior homes and children’s hospitals. He’s already been to a couple of events for Easterseals, a nonprofit aimed at helping Americans living with disabilities. “He just loves everybody,” Pearl says.
But before all of that, Pearl wants to take him to the beach. “We go to the beach with these dogs, and they love the beach,” she says. “They go running, and you see them come tearing down the beach in their wheelchairs. We’re a sight — let me tell you.”
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Madeleine Aggeler is a freelance journalist and copywriter in Washington, D.C. Previously, she was a writer at New York magazine’s The Cut. She lives with her dog, Cleo, who works primarily as a foot warmer.