Family Who Fled Abusive Home Just Wants Its Dog Back For Christmas
"She said as long as Cuddles could come home, that's all she wanted for Christmas. It kind of broke my heart."
UPDATE: Shortly after this story was published, someone from Florida paid the entire balance of this dog's kennel costs. Cuddles will be reunited with her family soon.
Nicole's boyfriend knew the best way to really hurt her was through her dog.
The woman had endured abuse for years at his hands. But it wasn't until Cuddles, a tiny Chihuahua mix, became a victim that she decided it was time to leave.
"He started hitting the dog. He would grab her when he wanted to get control of me," Nicole, who didn't want her real name used for this story, told The Dodo. "I didn't want my kid to see any more."
So she waited until her boyfriend left for work and quickly crammed clothes into a garbage bag. Nicole told her young daughter it was time to go. Time to leave school. Time to leave everything behind.
With the bag in one hand, and her dog tucked under her arm, Nicole led her daughter to the bus station. They boarded a Greyhound that took them hundreds of miles to a fresh start in a new city.
But when they reached St. Catharines, Ontario, more hard decisions awaited.
The shelter for battered woman would only accept the woman and her daughter. Not Cuddles, the dog who had been by their side for five years.
"I rescued her when she was a puppy," Nicole says. "She was thrown against the wall."
It had cost her an entire week's paycheck, but she had managed to convince the dog's owner to let her go.
"She goes in my purse. She goes everywhere with me," Nicole says. "I've had her by my side ever since."
That is, until November 21, when Nicole had to drop off Cuddles at a boarding facility.
They haven't seen the dog since, with kennel staff saying daily visits would only cause the dog more stress.
"She must be a mess in there," Nicole says.
This month, the family finally got a glimmer of good news. They found an apartment. They could move in on January 1. But even then, mother and daughter knew an apartment was not a home without Cuddles.
The problem is the boarding facility was charging $23 per day to keep the dog. By the end of this month, that would add up to close to $1,000.
After spending the last of her slim savings on the apartment, Nicole couldn't afford Cuddles' freedom.
The kennel was sympathetic, offering to cut the costs in half to $500. For Nicole, it was still out of reach.
Nicole decided to tell her daughter this would be a very difficult Christmas.
"I wanted to be honest with her," she says. "It was already going to be hard, getting out of this situation. But she said, as long as Cuddles could come home, that's all she wanted for Christmas. It kind of broke my heart."
While holidays can be hard on many of us - especially those brave enough to seek a fresh start for their family - the season can also be a time when people help each other heal.
The Lincoln County Humane Society has set up a donation line, hoping to raise enough funds to cover the dog's boarding - and reunite her with her family.
Think you might want to help? Call 905-682-0767. Dial extension 1 and then 2. Confirm that you are donating to the Cuddles Claim Fund.
You can also email the shelter here: firstname.lastname@example.org