By Jasmine Cabanaw
It’s true that when we rescue dogs, they often end up rescuing us. Such was the case with Marshall, the miracle dog. The abused and neglected Lab-mix was found in a hoarder’s house, with bite marks all over his body, among other injuries. Veterinarians had to amputate his leg to save him, and he died on the operating table three times before he finally pulled through. While that is a miracle in itself, the real miracle unfolded after he was adopted.
Cynthia Willenbrock’s life quickly turned upside down after she rescued Marshall. In the beginning, the love and care required to rehabilitate Marshall pulled Cynthia into a world of nurture and empathy. She says, “Marshall tapped in to my humanness.” At first, Marshall was afraid of anyone except Cynthia and her other dog, Mooshy. Feeding time was particularly difficult, since that was most likely when Marshall had been attacked at the hoarder’s house. Marshall was also put on an all organic food, made with no by-products and only wholesome ingredients, because the food he had previously eaten resulted in an odor that came from the inside out. With time, both the odor and the fear disappeared. That was when Cynthia had her “aha!” moment.
“I thought, giving back has been my greatest way to heal and build my own self esteem, I wonder if it will work for Marshall? And so I set out to to find a way for my little guy to give back.” Cynthia and Marshall began by volunteering at the Humane Society, teaching kids about animal rescue, kindness, and how to best care for our furry friends. Marshall LOVED it! Cynthia took it further, having him trained as a certified therapy dog. His trainer, Marie Harbers form Love on a Leash, treated him no different than every other dog that had all four legs. She knew Marshall could do everything they could do–and he passed with top honors–a year later earning his vest!
Marshall has excelled as a therapy dog. He wears his scars on the outside, while most humans keep their wounds hidden on the inside. But Marshall has this way of allowing people to be okay with their wounds, because we see how he wears his and is still so trusting and happy and has risen above his ugly, horrific past. His miracle is that he inspires people to overcome challenges they thought they would have to hold onto forever.
This miracle repeats itself again and again when Marshall does his therapy work. During one of his first sessions at a nursing home, his story inspired a woman to share her own story of the Shitzu she had growing up and how it washer best friend and the most important part of her childhood. Due to severe Alzheimer’s, this woman had not spoken in two years! But Marshall sparked something in her that helped her reconnect with one of her most precious memories. Another favorite miracle story is of a little girl with autism who had never intentionally connected with another human or animal in her life, but happily reached out to pet Marshall while she waited for her picture to be taken.
Would you like to be part of the miracle? Right now all funds raised for the Marshall Movement Foundation(501c3) go towards the Marshall Mentor Program, which trains female high school students to be peer mentors to middle school students and leads those middle school students through a six week program designed to teach the importance of having empathy, strength, courage, perseverance, kindness and forgiveness as part of one’s character. For more information, visit Marshall on Facebook.