An Update on Old Lady

By: Mary Christine Kane

An update on a favorite Saint Bernard, Old Lady

Do you remember the story of Old Lady, the senior Saint Bernard? She became Internet-famous when lost in the woods for weeks during the frigid Minnesota January of 2019. We have an update for you and it’s a good one.

Old Lady had been living a tough life as a breeder in a puppy mill. She lived in a barn with little human contact where she produced litter upon litter until she was rescued by Ruff Start. But on her way to her new foster home, she got frightened by one of many unfamiliar noises and ran for her life. That’s how she ended up alone in the woods, for 17 days, cold lonely days. Because she had been shaved at the puppy mill, she had little fur to warm her.

“When I first saw that sad picture in the woods it broke my heart. She was so afraid. She didn’t know then her life was going to get better,” said Carolyn, Old Lady’s adoptive mom. “I knew right then I wanted to adopt her.”

Carolyn was part of the rescue group, The Retrievers, who worked for weeks with Ruff Start, tracking Old Lady, finally bringing her to safety. It was her second rescue, the first was from the puppy mill. Old Lady then came to Carolyn’s where she was fostered and later adopted.

Old Lady is now named Tesha and is part of a big, fun, loving family. She has a human family, a two-legged Chow sister named Rizzo, a pot-bellied pig brother named Hamilton and the latest addition, a Saint Bernard sister named Alice. She is loved, safe and happy. But it was, understandably, a rocky start.

“At first, she didn’t want anything to do with people,” said Carolyn. “She also didn’t know how to do simple dog things, like play.” But Carolyn is experienced with dogs having traumatic histories and had four other dogs in her home to help. Tesha’s progress was slow at first.

Physically Tesha was also in rough shape. She weighs a healthy 100 pounds now but at the time was closer to 80. In foster care with Ruff Start, she required multiple surgeries totaling more than $1,000, including removing a mammary tumor, pulling nine rotten teeth, eyelid surgery and finally, a spay.

For the first two weeks, Tesha hid in Carolyn’s dining room afraid to move, and then spent another two weeks in the entry way. “She finally started inching closer to where we were, then started peeking her head around the corner to see what we were up to,” said Carolyn. “Finally, one day she came into the room with us. Ever since she has been ‘all in.’” “All in” looks like Tesha following her mom around like a big furry shadow. Tesha wants to be with Carolyn constantly, even jumping the fence several times when hearing Carolyn’s voice nearby.

Tesha’s new dog friends taught her to be a dog. Carolyn reported that Tesha was confused at first but eventually got the hang of it. She also likes to play alone. She is obsessed with socks and shoes and is known for the occasionally zoomie.

Tesha has also never learned to give big sloppy dog kisses either. Instead, she mashes her nose against Carolyn’s face, a sign of her love. “She is an awesome dog. She loves people and she loves dogs,” said Carolyn. “And we love her.”

Tesha means “survivor” in Hindi. That she truly is.

Help Ruff Start continue our life-saving work by making a donation in honor of Tesha.