How an Abandoned Pit Bull Puppy Changed a College Student’s Life

Roxanne helped now-graduate Carly Draper refocus her life, becoming calmer and healthier.

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Two years ago, Carly Draper was an overworked and overwhelmed college student in serious need of some puppy therapy.

“I had just gone through a really bad breakup,” Carly remembers. “I was applying for grad school. I was just at a very, very stressful point in my life.”

Luckily for Carly, a furry stress-buster was about to enter her life and save her from student burnout. Roxanne — a tiny Pit Bull mix puppy — came to Carly through a friend who was working at a consignment shop. Carly was shocked when her friend explained how she’d found this puppy while at work.

“Some lady walked in in a big raincoat. She had Roxanne in her pocket and put her in a basket in the back.”

By the time the store’s staff heard Roxanne’s pitiful peeps, the raincoat woman was long gone. Carly’s friend couldn’t keep the abandoned pup, so Carly — a lifelong dog lover — offered a temporary refuge. She couldn’t have dogs at her own place, but her parents farm was just 20 minutes away.

“I was like, I’ll take her and see if I can find her a home or figure something out,” says Carly, who thinks Roxanne was about four weeks old when she was dumped at the consignment store.

“She could fit in the palm of my hand, and she had to have milk replacement. She was taken from her mom too early.”

She's a big girl now, but Roxy was just a baby when she changed Carly's life. (All photos courtesy and by Carly Draper)
She’s a big girl now, but Roxanne was just a baby when she changed Carly’s life. (Photo courtesy Carly Draper)

After spending two days with Roxanne out at her parents’ farm, Carly was smitten and knew she couldn’t give the puppy up. The little white and brown pup was the perfect stress reliever. When she looked at little Roxanne, Carly wasn’t thinking about her breakup or her grades, she was just thinking about Roxanne.

“She needed me,” Carly explains.

It didn’t take long for Carly to come to the conclusion that she’d just have to move to a dog-friendly place. Moving was just one of many life changes Carly made for the sake of her pup.

“I adjusted my whole life to her,” she says, adding that what was good for Roxanne was also good for her. Carly felt herself becoming calmer and healthier as her priorities shifted. The college student now preferred nights in with Roxanne to nights out on the town, and found herself spending more time outdoors now that she had a high-energy puppy. As she ran through farm fields and crystal streams with her growing dog, she felt herself growing up, too.

“I can’t imagine life without her,” Carly explains. “My plans revolve around her.”

Although she welcomed it, her deep and seemingly instantaneous bond with Roxanne did surprise Carly a little. After all, sweet Roxanne didn’t look anything like the dog she’d previously imagined when she thought about her future.

“I always thought I’d have German Shepherds — they’re great family dogs. Never did I think that I would own a Pit Bull.”

Roxy at dusk 800 x 600
Roxanne loves running through fields. (Photo by Carly Draper)

Carly’s affinity for German Shepherds was natural considering her family raised the dogs while she was growing up. When she was 13 years old, she bought a German Shepherd of her own and started breeding dogs.

“It was my first job,” she remembers, adding that her attitude toward dog breeding changed after a memorable trip to Petco. A rescue group was at the store that day, and while chatting with the group Carly identified herself as a teenage dog breeder. That’s when one of the rescuers asked her a life-changing question.

“The lady was like, ‘how can you breed dogs when so many dogs in this world need saving?’ And I had never thought about that before. It was just really eye-opening to me. All these dogs out there need to be saved, and here I am putting dogs into the world.”

By the time Roxanne came into her life, Carly was long retired from the dog breeding business. Her stress-busting puppy would never be a money-maker — in fact, Roxanne was basically the opposite.

“She was about 8 weeks old when she got parvo,” Carly remembers. “It was going to cost me like$600, which — as a broke college student — I did not have.”

Roxanne’s veterinarian told Carly she had two choices — she could put Roxanne down or continue with the costly treatment.

“So I opened a credit card for her, my first one,” Carly laughs. “I would pay anything for her.”

Roxanne also loves a good swim. (Photo by Carly Draper)

More recently, a bad bacterial infection sent Roxanne back to the vet where she was hospitalized for three nights. Again, the bills added up, but Carly knew Roxanne appreciated every penny.

“I feel like she realizes that I saved her, too. I can just feel her appreciation for me because she’s just so well behaved,” says Carly, who remains in awe of how Roxanne adjusts her mood to those around her.

“I can get home and she’ll be really hyper, but if I’ve had a bad day, she’ll just come and sit in my lap and not move. She’ll just kiss me all over.”

As if Roxanne’s adorable actions weren’t enough, this smart puppy can even vocalize her appreciation for Carly, who is now a speech therapist.

“I’ve worked with her a lot on saying ‘I love you,’” Carly jokes.

Now weighing in at 40 pounds, Roxanne no longer fits in Carly’s pocket or palm, but it’s clear this dog will always be in her human’s heart.

Top photo: Roxanne by Carly Draper.

Heather Marcoux

Heather is a wife, new mom, and former TV journalist in Alberta, Canada. Her beloved Ghost Cat was once her only animal, but the addition of a second cat, Specter, and the dog duo of GhostBuster and Marshmallow make her fur family complete. You can follow Heather on Twitter and Google+.


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