On a freezing, snowy day in late December, several Karma Rescue volunteers joined other Los Angeles-based rescuers in an effort to assist nearly 100 dogs who were abandoned on the property of an animal-hoarder out in the Mojave Desert. These dogs lived in poorly-constructed pens, had no shelter from the freezing cold of desert nights, no shade from the oppressive desert sun, little food or water, and almost no human contact. Arwen was one of these dogs.

After a few weekends spent trying to cobble together shelters for these animals, Karma and the other rescues started transporting them out of the desert. Arwen and eleven other Mojave dogs then joined the Karma Rescue family.

When Arwen arrived at her foster home, she was nearly feral. She paced in circles, was not housebroken, didn’t know how to walk on a leash, and cowered when approached by humans. Her eyes were bright red, and the vet had to perform surgery to remove the cherry-sized chunks of scar tissue which he said had been caused by long periods of exposure to sand and wind.

After four months, she wagged her tail for the first time. She began occasionally to lick the face of her foster brother, a Karma alum named Keiko. Finally, she learned how to walk on a leash. She didn’t yet know how to play with toys, and she was still scared of strangers, but she would spend hours at a time staring intensely at her foster mother.

Arwen was already an old dog, and looked even older because of what she had endured, so she was not a big hit at adoptions. But as time went by, her foster mother found it hard to imagine life without her. Arwen slowly transformed into a perfect dog. She never barked, she was perfectly behaved, and she even enjoyed going to Karma’s educational visits in schools. One day her foster mother called the volunteer coordinator and announced, “Arwen will no longer be attending adoptions.”

A few years later, Arwen plays, chews bones, runs happily in the yard, and sleeps in bed next to her mother. Her total transformation into a highly social and loving dog stands as a reminder of their utter resiliency.