I’m waiting for a word of love from Sylvia.

You think she’d never heard of love my Sylvia,

But when I’m with her Lord, I forgive her

‘Cause she’s more than the whole world to me

There’s nothing like a word of love from Sylvia

The only one I’m thinking of is Sylvia

Feeling so sad now, I’ll be so glad now

If I just had my Sylvia with me

~Elvis Presley, Sylvia


When Sylvia was found dumped in the forest of a national park in Puerto Rico, her chance for survival seemed slim. Though her siblings found with her were perfectly fine, Sylvia’s back legs clearly did not work and she was severely underweight, fighting to live. She had an infection on her belly from dragging herself along the road in the heat. She was dehydrated. She was exhausted. How she had been able to keep up with her siblings as they scampered about we will never know. Thankfully, a Good Samaritan saw hope for Sylvia and her siblings and brought them to his home, where he later got in touch with Sue Bell, Executive Director of Homeward Trails Animal Rescue. He was directed to get the pups to the vet immediately and once there, reported back. Upon examination, the vet was unclear why Sylvia could not walk but felt certain that no one in Puerto Rico would adopt her and suggested she be euthanized.

Thankfully, the Good Samaritan was relaying the information in real time and Sue was able to push back, asking for them to do an x-ray and old off on any decisions that would end Sylvia’s life. The x-ray showed that her back was not broken thus giving the vet enough information to consider that she may heal with cage rest and pain meds. Sylvia was sent home. But she could not stay. So Sue arranged for her to be transferred with her siblings to a foster home in Puerto Rico while the family stabilized.  

It took several weeks to get her siblings in better shape, as all were malnourished and suffering from severe intestinal parasites.  But eventually they began to put on weight and heal from their neglect. Sylvia was also getting stronger and her skin was starting to heal. She saw two different veterinarians who were still unclear about her paralyzation but assisted us with getting her stronger and healthier to prepare her to come the US mainland for further care. Her siblings were sent to the United States after several weeks in foster care, while Sylvia had to wait until she could travel with a person in the cabin as it was too risky to send her in crate as cargo due to her injury.

After she had been in foster for almost two months, a team of staff and volunteers from Homeward Trails went to Puerto Rico for a weeklong Trap/Neuter/Return trip. Sylvia was even more charming in person than her videos and photos showed. Upon meeting Sylvia, one of Homeward Trails’ volunteers said “She has the most enthusiastic spirit of any puppy we have ever met. She enthusiastically drags herself across any surface to get to you, to carry her bone, & to play with the other dogs.”

Sylvia’s trip home with Sue was eventful. After a canceled flight, 9 hours in the airport, a second hotel stay and an extra flight home she finally got to the DC area. She was the perfect travel companion throughout the ordeal, charming everyone she met with her sweet, calm demeanor. “It was as if she knew her hardest days were about to be over and just she was just patiently riding it out,” explained Sue of her and Sylvia’s journey home.

Upon her arrival in the DMV area, it was blatant that she would need some TLC, but her spirit was strong and she was so happy to be surrounded by kindhearted people. Sylvia immediately went into a foster home and a special fund was created to cover her medical costs and help her get a wheelchair. When she went to a veterinary specialist to get an MRI and determine the cause of her partial paralysis, it was unfortunately vastly inconclusive and determined that she would likely be paralyzed for life. She is able to move her back limbs slightly and does not seem to be in pain at all, but she is entirely incontinent and cannot stand or walk. It is possible that as she grows other options for therapy may be possible. We remain hopeful but simply adore her as she is.

One of her fosters stated “First and foremost, Sylvia is the sweetest pup you will ever meet.  She loves all people and dogs. Anyone can take care of her, make sure her needs are met, feed, diaper, and crate her – but she really thrives and is happiest when she gets lots of love, is around people as much as possible, has freedom to move about, has plenty of play/exercise and has time walking and running in her cart. She deserves all of that.”

Sylvia in so many ways is like any other dog. She loves to play with toys and romp in the yard with her new wheelchair. She loves cuddles, her bed and good treats. She just needs a little extra care around her incontinence, which is easily managed with diaper changes, and she’ll need to have a few new wheelchairs to accommodate her growth as she gets bigger.

This girl is a true survivor. From the day she was born, through the day she was coldly abandoned in the forest, to her life now in the DC area as a foster dog, she has endured. And her spirit and outlook is unmatched. We believe this girl deserves to hit the jackpot of homes. Can it be you?

At Home with Sylvia

Provided by HT Foster, Kimberly Sellers

Sylvia has recently acquired a cart. We have been taking her on walks at least once per day with our dogs around the block and she can really fly! She LOVES being in it and keeping up with the dogs. She hasn’t quite figured out how to apply the brakes and she will run over your feet if coming up behind you! But she is learning how to slow down. We also have to guide her in the cart so she doesn’t jump curbs or go in to the street. She’s pretty good about staying where we are but if she sees another dog walking, she wants to go say “hi” because she’s so friendly. It’s important she gets practice every day in the cart so she gets better at using it. We carry a bag of little treats with us that we give her along the way to show her she is doing a good job.  

Sylvia gets a bath every night to help clean her off from the day of dragging herself on the grass and from messy diapers. She is a little scared of the bath and will put her front paws up on the side of the tub to try to get out. I usually only fill it up a few inches at most with lukewarm water and some dog oatmeal bath to help soothe her skin. The bath cleans her underside, her paws and tail and prevents sores and irritation. When done, I lift her out of the tub with a big towel, wrap her up and lay her down on the couch in the towel on top of a pee pad. I leave her diaper-less for a little bit to air out her skin. She usually doesn’t pee at this point since she likely went in the tub, but I do express her outside right before she gets in the bath.  

Sylvia LOVES to play outside and she will fetch balls and frisbees and play tug of war. She LOVES animals and will play/roughhouse with our dogs like she is one of them. She is so happy with them, even my lab who wants no part of her and occasionally snaps at her because she got too close to his toy or food bowl! Our other rescue plays with her a lot though. When she is outside we take her diaper off.  It is important that Sylvia receives plenty of exercise throughout the day. She currently plays out in the yard with our dogs for 2-3 hours every night in addition to her nightly cart walk. There are also specific exercises that are good for her condition – you can look up videos on YouTube on how to stand her up and move her legs around, etc.

She is a hungry girl and we feed her twice a day – once in the morning when we get up and once in the evening between 5 and 6. We’ve been giving her about 3/4 cup each time based on the food bag guidelines. I think the previous foster was giving her less but I believe she is a lot more active here playing with our dogs outside and running in her cart. We just switched to serving her food in a slow feeder because she was gulping it down too fast. She also loves treats and chew toys. Long lasting chews are a big help if you want to place her somewhere because you need to get something done and don’t want her to follow you. Sometimes you have to lead her to her water bowl to remind her to drink. Hydration is very important. 

Sylvia loves people and she will whine when you leave the room and try to follow you. We let her move freely about the house, but as I said you have to watch for the diaper leaks or you will have a streak of pee across your floor. I clean up a few of these a day. We put her in her crate if we leave the house on top of her bed and a pee pad underneath and with her stuffed babies and a Nylabone. She hasn’t been in there for longer than 4-5 hours in our care, and she always has a wet diaper when we come home. At night, Sylvia sleeps in our room with us in her bed.  We express her outside right before bed and put on her diaper, diaper cover and lay her on top of a pee pad covering her bed. She will sleep all night and rarely makes a peep until you get up. Her diaper is soaked in the mornings so I take her outside right away to get her cleaned up, express her some more and put on a clean diaper. We always have diapers, wipes, and pee pads at our fingertips and we wash her diaper covers every night.

Interested Adopters

If this story pulls at your heartstrings, if you are overcome with love for sweet Sylvia, and if you think she would thrive under your care, please consider adopting her and providing her with the fur-ever home that she deserves. You can reach out directly to her Adoption Coordinator at

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