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Betsy goes from rescue dog to cover girl




New Year's Day most often is a time to look forward for progress, but one local was recognized for her past resolve this Christmas season.

Betsy, a blind albino St. Bernard, was the "cover girl" for the St. Bernard Rescue Foundation Inc.'s Christmas card. The greeting card, mailed to 2,000 people, features the fluffy pet against a backdrop of snow. But her journey from a skeletal, nearly dead dog is described inside the fold.

Betsy was rescued from an Arizona trailer in 2012. Suffering from eye infections and a deep puncture wound in her side, the starved dog was infested with fleas and covered in scabs. Responders who found her in the dire conditions reported she did not recognize affection.

The 90-pound dog was rehabilitated to 120-pounds with love and care. Nila Bieker and Roger Ewing of Hays read about Betsy's plight online and volunteered to adopt her. The two friends are no strangers to the bulky dogs because they ran a St. Bernard rescue shelter for five years.

The two hope Betsy's survival story inspires others to welcome rescued dogs into their life.

"We're just really proud of her, like a kid, you know," Bieker said. "And then people see how bad people treat animals and how good can come from those animals that are saved and are adopted."

Betsy learned to navigate her new home with her nose and a steady supply of treats. The breed's signature trait reflects their tender nature.

"They are just the best dogs, if you've never been around them," she said. "They're very affectionate. They lean against you, and you have to brace yourself."

Contrary to popular belief, St. Bernards are not excessive eaters. They also are family-friendly and protective.

The Christmas card retold Betsy's tale with an excerpt from a Lord Byron poem.

"Sores gone, wounds healed, hair restored, belly full and spirit awakened to human kindness, she thrives," the card reads. "Head held high in confidence, she moves without her sight, a powerful, yet gentle force, she walks in beauty, like the night."

Information about the cause can be found at www.saintrescue.org.