A rescued dog, once emaciated, now can call a tiny home on a 5-acre piece of Florida land his own.
Richard, a 5 or 6-year-old American bulldog, was adopted in 2021 by Paige Graham, who set up her own rescue, after getting a call that he was scheduled to be euthanized in Miami-Dade County, Graham told McClatchy News in a phone interview.
“I was able to pull him from animal services and take him back to my farm,” Graham said. “At that point I just had the farm and hadn’t built the tiny house village.”
Richard, a dog who “should be over 100 pounds,” was rescued at 44 pounds, and Graham believes he was once a bait dog involved in dog fighting.
“I knew he had been starved by his previous owners. A lot of times with dog fight rings when they find a dog that’s too docile, too sweet, they’ll use the dog as a bait dog and starve it first so it’s too weak to hurt the bigger dogs,” she said. “It’s like a practice dog.”
She took the “big boy” back home to the Tampa Bay area and took him to a routine vet visit, where they found that he “had a bunch of rocks and pieces of metal” in his system because he was “starving and eating anything he could get his hands on,” Graham said.
That’s when Richard got his first surgery to “cut out a portion of his intestines that had died off” because they were clogged, Graham said.
Two weeks later, Richard needed another surgery after his bowels were clogged again.
“That’s when the vet told me you either have to get him euthanized or you have to put him somewhere where he can’t get to anything,” Graham said.
Graham learned Richard was suffering from pica, a condition that results in swallowing non-food items.
Richard’s pica, which Graham believes is a psychological response to having been starved, was so severe that he “ate through the drywall” when she was showering because “he has such severe separation anxiety.”
But Graham said she wasn’t going to “give up on him” as he “still had so much life in him.”
Richard, described as “happy” and a dog who “just wanted to be loved”, eventually was given his own tiny house, a way for him to not have access to chewable non-food items, Graham said.
“I have 30 animals on my farm and I thought ‘If I make Richard a tiny house, I can do it for all my animals,” Graham said.
With the help of Graham’s boyfriend, three storage units were transformed into tiny houses for Graham’s “village,” she said. There’s a chihuahua house, a cat house and a “palace” for Graham’s chickens, she said.
Richard lives in his “man cave,” she said.
“Richard spends the night in his house or in my bed but if I’m outside, which I am most of the time because I work from home, he’ll be running around,” Graham said.
Graham prides herself in her slogan, “adopt the weird ones,” she said.
“I just want people to consider adopting the less adoptable animals. There’s perfectly good animals sitting in shelters for years that get euthanized because they don’t look a certain way,” Graham said. “They shouldn’t get overlooked.”