Pound and Found. Pet Rescue Stories. Ninja and Chicken – They Healed My Broken Heart

Chicken & Ninja
Chicken & Ninja

Story shared by Danielle Marquez

In my past, a broken heart never led me anywhere profound. Typically, they were paired with boxes of kleenex, being locked in my room, listening to every Morrissey song ever written; while eating cartons of ice-cream until the sadness faded. In 2012, my broken heart lead me to the animal shelter (Western Riverside County Animal Shelter).

I adopted my two family members, Ninja and Chicken. While I do fear that I may sound rather cheesy in my next few words,…they changed my life. For dog lovers that may sound like a reasonable statement. I mean, dogs rock! But those of you who aren’t the biggest dog lovers, stay with me here, I’ll explain.

In 2011, my dog Buddy was hit by a car after he escaped from the backyard while we were away. My husband and I searched tirelessly for him for hours. Our search came to an end later that evening; finding Buddy on a busy street. I purchased Buddy from a breeder. He suffered from a severe case of separation anxiety that we couldn’t fix. At that time, it never crossed my mind to adopt a dog from a shelter. The idea was foreign, as my family had always purchased Dachshunds from a local breeder.

To say that my heart was broken would be the understatement of a lifetime. I went through a very difficult period of extreme guilt and every other emotion that the human mind can conjure up when you feel like you’ve hit the rock bottom of sadness. In my eyes, I lost a family member.

We were very close to Buddy. So close, that I didn’t believe I could ever welcome another dog into my home and love them the same. It wouldn’t be fair to the dog, I thought. They could never be Buddy. In the midst of our never fading sadness, in 2012, a year after Buddy passed away, we purchased our first house. We lived in our new beautiful dream house, in our favorite neighborhood, and after a month, it still wasn’t home. I knew what was missing. A DOG.

It was no question. I knew I would adopt a dog from a shelter this time around. I didn’t search long before I saw my dog, Ninja. He was a handsome little dude with a beard, that had been picked up as a stray. I didn’t hesitate, I fumbled for a piece of paper, wrote down his identification number, waited the holding period, and headed to get him. They brought him out. He was fabulous, endearing, and adorable. I couldn’t help to think of Buddy. Was I not ready for a dog? I drove past thoughts of doubt in my mind and said I would take him. I left empty-handed that day, as Ninja stayed at the shelter to be fixed.


As I left the shelter, a small room caught my eye. There was a dog on sale for a discounted price like an old pair of shoes at a store.

How much is that puppy in the window?
How much is that puppy in the window?

It broke my heart. I squinted into the window. There sat a dog on a tiny pink couch; undeniably terrified. The staff opened the room. I was greeted by a lovable puppy. She wept as if begging me to get her out of there. I asked her for her paw . She gave it to me. I left without her that day. I thought about her all night. The next morning, I knew I had to go back for her. We adopted Chicken.

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I will spare the happily ever after story for now and be blatantly honest. When we brought Ninja and Chicken home it wasn’t simple. They both were fully potty trained. Chicken was the ideal, most well-behaved house guest, as if auditioning for the role of her life. There was trouble with Ninja who was an escape artist. The name Ninja couldn’t have been more fitting. We struggled through months of his escaping. I didn’t think I could do it . This wasn’t the same as having Buddy. My heart was broken. I was afraid I was right all along; I couldn’t love dogs like I had loved Buddy.

One day after work, I arrived home to a note on my door. Ninja AGAIN had dug out of our yard ; into a neighbors yard, dug hole into every neighboring home he could burrow into like a gopher. I sat with him and Chicken. I broke down crying. I told Ninja I was sorry but I couldn’t do this anymore. I wanted to return him to the shelter.

I cried it out that day. It may have been the only time Ninja wanted to be remotely near me. ( He wasn’t too fond of me either.) I couldn’t return him. I had to push through. We built dog runs.Exercised Ninja and Chicken like they were training to be in the 2012 dog Olympics. Paid to have them trained. We sent them to doggy day care. In a nutshell, we didn’t give up on him. We tried EVERYTHING.

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When things calmed down, months later, I realized we had gone a significant amount of time without an incident with Ninja. He was happy and healthy. He was having fun just being a dog. He joined Chicken, who learned early on how to enjoy the luxuries of home living. In those moments, I realized Ninja had been suffering the same way I had; from a broken heart. I don’t know his history as he was picked up as a stray, however, I realized he did what many of us do. He built a wall around himself to see who cared enough to climb over. He was guarding his heart.

The labor of love was worth every second. In the midst of rescuing dogs who needed a home, healing Ninja’s broken heart, …I realized I had healed my own. The payment I received for not giving up on my rescues was a full heart. When I believed there was no repairing it. I was granted the unconditional love from my rescues that as many of you know, is worth more than gold. I have the two most well-behaved dogs in the world. They are the best dogs in the world. They are the healers of broken hearts.

I know I said I would explain how all of this changed my life. Not only did my connection with my rescues concrete my quest into veganism, but they saved me from becoming a victim of my circumstances. We go through life toting each horrible experience like a badge of honor; that job we lost, the death in the family we couldn’t recover from, built up debt, or like many of our rescues, the people who gave up on us. I was on the brink of giving up on love, when in reality, love was the only way out. Love is the grand healer of all of the life struggles we endure. When you feel like you are at rock bottom, love anyway. The love I gave myself permission to reclaim; came from my rescues. There is no single lesson I’ve learned that’s transcended into so many different aspects of my life. I have my rescues to thank for that . When I thought I wasn’t giving up on them, they were really the ones not giving up on me. Thanks for loving me, Ninja and Chicken.

They have an awesome vet! They are Sunnymead Animal Hospital in Moreno Valley!

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