Molly-Dharma: Her Story

The Molly-Dharma (Molly) story begins at MaxFund Animal Shelter in Denver, Colorado, in 2003. She came in as a young, happy pup, approximately 3 or 4 months old. She was adopted out, and returned for various unknown reasons 3 or 4 times over 2-1/2 years. The last adoption changed her! She came back to the shelter with an aggressive attitude and a distrust of everyone!

Enter Ken Mann. I was a volunteer dog walker at MaxFund when I noticed her … this big dog who would lunge at anyone walking by her kennel. I began to throw treats into her kennel – the biggest one at the shelter. She began to respond to me and we developed a guarded relationship. Little by little, I was able to touch her and enter her kennel. Getting her out of her kennel … and walking her … was a different story. It took a lot of patience and a few “Out of my way, I’m bringing Molly out!” warnings, to clear the way and get from her kennel to the courtyard at MaxFund. That was just the beginning! I would try to hold her leash and tell her “Let’s go, Molly, time for your walk” … and she would lie down in the courtyard, alley, or wherever, and roll on her back and refuse to go!!! She was big, long and lanky, and weighed about 75 – 80 pounds. I would pull her 6 inches or so until she would get up, walk a short distance … and we would go through the same thing over and over again.

It got better but it took months. I began to notice that she was excited when I would walk by her kennel on my visits to MaxFund.  Because of that, I made sure that she was always the last dog I would walk that day. We grew closer and closer. I walked her for maybe a year or a year and a half, maybe more. The staff began to tell me that, Molly loved me, that she looked for me every day, that I was the only one (or at least one of very few volunteers that could walk her), and I should adopt Molly! That was not possible then. Over time, we developed an unbelievable bond! She would just go crazy with joy when I entered her kennel (and would pee on the floor in her excitement … one of her many issues for anyone considering adopting her)! But she still didn’t like strangers!!!

I want to mention an episode that happened at MaxFund. They had a program (the “Champs” training program) that was specially designed to help difficult dogs with issues get adopted, making them more presentable and appealing to people who would see them in person at the shelter. I believe it was an eight-week program. A group of volunteers would each select a special dog with issues that they would work with, in order to give them a better chance of being adopted. Lorraine May, a professional dog trainer (the Misha May Foundation), conducted the weekly class. One night, maybe 8 to 10 volunteers, each with their special dog, were standing around in a circle (15 to 20 feet across), with Lorraine in the middle of the circle conducting the class. I was there with Molly, when suddenly, she lunged at a dog directly across the circle, and pulled me down, trying to attack the other dog and dragging me as much as she could! I held on and was able to keep her from reaching the other dog! Everyone scattered.  After a few minutes, we reconvened in a circle to try again. Training continued. Within less than ten minutes, Molly did it again!  She lunged at the dog directly across from her and pulled me down again, dragging me, trying desperately to get to that other dog … she never reached the dog! Everyone scattered a second time … and Lorraine looked at me, told me to take Molly to her kennel, and canceled the class for that night! From that night on, Molly was always watched closely, trained off to the side of the class, and handled with kid gloves … keeping her away from other dogs and being cautious around new people.

I wrote up her bio in June of 2006 (Molly’s bio), warts and all, for any potential person who would show any interest in adopting her. She had many issues that would put people off from ever considering her.  I tried to be truthful, listing most of her issues … both the good and the bad. I didn’t want to minimize her issues, only to have the potential adopter find out later when he/she met her in person what a challenging dog she would be to adopt! I felt honesty was the best way to go.

Kirk Zimmerman was the only person I ever knew who was interested in adopting Molly. At least willing to try meeting her. Kirk read her bio and called me one day, and said he would like to meet me and discuss maybe adopting Molly … he wasn’t sure if that would be possible. I thought that’s great, but this probably is not going to work out! The meeting that we set up to do a ‘meet and greet’ with Molly was memorable. I told Kirk to go to her kennel and just say hi in a quiet way and see if he could give her any treats. I told him that I would be there in a minute or two. When Molly saw Kirk again (he had seen her a time or two on his own before), Molly did her thing which was to start at the back of her kennel, run and lunge at the chain link gate while throwing her full body against the gate, snapping, snarling, spinning around, and giving every indication that she would rip Kirk to pieces if she could get at him. Not a good welcome.

When I came into Molly’s view, she was transformed! For me, she was this big puppy who was jumping around with joy because I was there. I went into her kennel and she jumped up on me and put her paws on my shoulders (and I’m 6’2″), licked my face, and peed with excitement. One happy girl. Kirk was amazed and impressed and knew then that Molly did have a good heart … it would just take time to get through to her.

From that point on, I worked with Kirk and Molly, introducing them to each other and hoping to make a bond between them … coming to the shelter after it closed, several times a week, for several weeks, before Kirk thought he was ready to take on the challenge of adopting Molly. We met in her 8’ x 10’ crate with Kirk on one end, and Molly (on a strong leash) and I, on the other end of the crate. In the beginning, I always told Kirk to not look in her eyes, look at her feet or her tail or beyond her. Molly was very upset, pulling on the leash and, I believe, would have attacked Kirk if she had not been on leash! We met like this, in her crate, several times over a few weeks. I would tell Kirk to put some treats in the palm of his hand and hold out his hand to Molly … and NOT TO LOOK AT HER, DO NOT MAKE EYE CONTACT WITH HER! Kirk was nervous but did this over and over, to show Molly he was not a threat. Molly was interested in the treats, but not sure about Kirk. She would do a low growl and cautiously approach his outreached hand and take the treats. This was repeated many times – always on leash.

One day, Kirk brought an old baseball cap of his for Molly, to leave in the crate, so that she could get used to his scent. Once we got over this initial introduction, we would meet outside in one of the larger chain link fence enclosures in the courtyard area. Kirk was still not able to touch her or put her collar or leash on her … but it was getting better. We met for several more weeks after hours. Kirk was very patient and was waiting for Molly to approach him. At one point, he started lying on his back with treats on his nose or forehead, waiting for Molly to take them! She did so cautiously, and he would do this, over and over, putting more treats on his face for her to take! Our meetings went on for about six weeks, not more than eight. It was getting better but still a long way to go. At some point, Kirk started talking about maybe adopting Molly-Dharma, never sure if it would work out. Sometime in August 2006, Kirk suggested taking her home for a trial adoption on Labor Day weekend! This was major! I would have liked to have more time to work with them at MaxFund, but it was a three-day weekend and seemed like the best time to do this; at least a trial adoption.

I was happy to know someone wanted to adopt Molly. Great. Kirk was/is a great guy; my only concern was that he lived in a one- bedroom apartment! Other than that, Kirk was a perfect fit for Molly. I talked to people at MaxFund about the fact that this big dog would be living in a one bedroom apartment, not ideal but that was the situation … and they reminded me that Molly now lived in an 8’ x 10’ kennel at the shelter, so she would be getting a much larger living space! There also happened to be a very nice large park 15 feet away from the apartment building entrance where he could walk Molly daily. End of conversation.

It was not possible for Kirk to take Molly home himself. I had to do that, which I was happy to do. The day I delivered Molly to Kirk’s apartment, it took five of us to hold her down so that we could insert her microchip and give her sedatives to try to calm her down for the trip. There was a vet tech at MaxFund, at the time, and she said she would never go near Molly, because Molly ‘hated’ her and wanted to kill her (this was probably true), for whatever reason, so she was not going to help insert the microchip into Molly.  The five of us kept giving her more and more sedatives because she was such a big girl and she was not calming down. At one point, we put a muzzle on her with great difficulty. She finally was calm enough that we could head out to Kirk’s.

Getting her into the car was another issue because she did not like riding in cars. Because of all the sedatives, she was slow walking to the car about a block away … it was like she had had too much to drink. When we got to the car, I had to lift her front paws into the back seat, and then lift her back paws up and into the car. Once she was in the back seat, she crashed, and I drove to Kirk’s.

I delivered her to Kirk September 1, 2006. I stayed with Kirk and Molly for several hours, late into the night. I wanted to be sure that the sedatives had worn off and to be there to comfort Molly and let her know she was in a safe place and that everything would be OK. I would see Molly quite often, especially during the first six months to a year, helping Molly transition to her life with Kirk. (Footnote:  Within a few days of delivering Molly to him, Kirk handed me a key to his apartment! I was stunned! He told me I could come and see Molly anytime! Wow! He didn’t know me from Adam, only that Molly loved me and I was a volunteer at MaxFund. We had only met a few weeks before and he had no idea if I could be trusted or not. All he knew was that if Molly trusted me, then that was good enough for him  …  that was all he needed to know!)

I strongly recommend that any volunteer who has bonded with a difficult dog, stay involved with the dog, and the new owner … until all parties are satisfied that the transition is working.  Of course, this depends on the new owner being open to this idea.

She found her forever home with Kirk, for 10 years!  He can tell you what a job it was preparing his apartment for this ‘vicious’ dog, a dog he didn’t know if he’d be up for the challenge of living with.

Molly turned 12 in 2015 and crossed the Rainbow Bridge in 2016.

Ken Mann,

Co-Founder Molly-Dharma Run

Enter Kirk Zimmerman. Molly-Dharma is a dog that was at the MaxFund for 2-1/2 years. Her story is unusual because she spent so long at the shelter, and this ride was founded to help them continue to do what they do for so many animals who need it so much.

After two “difficult” adoptions, I can tell you with certainty that a dog that has been abandoned or rejected places a higher value on their new home and new relationships than your standard pet store puppy. You could call it gratitude if you are into humanizing your pet’s emotions as I am.

Whatever it is, I can tell you that I have experienced it twice, and I would not have missed the extra effort for anything. Molly came to me when I found her smiling face on the internet on the MaxFund’s adoption web page. Her list of issues was daunting, to say the least, but who should understand outrageous behavior better than a Biker?

Among other things, her main issue that would challenge a potential adopter was that her kennel presentation was vicious. In my experience, I have learned that antisocial behavior is often a shield; in Molly-Dharma’s case, she was protecting her heart. She was adopted and returned four times – who could blame her?

The MaxFund is a no-kill shelter. They did not out-source or give up on her, and I have been richly rewarded as a result. After two and a half years of consistent love and socialization, she has become the sweetheart that she always was under all of the acting out and difficult behaviors – and I can think of nothing that has ever been as fun, exciting, interesting and rewarding as building a bond with this dog. Our time is precious, and I am grateful that I was given the opportunity to use this time with Molly well. Gratitude is what this ride is about.

If any of this appeals to you, I would not hesitate to recommend that you consider adopting a shelter dog – the rewards are enormous and you get the added boost of knowing that you did something really worthwhile with the time you have been given. That is the best part.

In 2012, the decision was made to become our own 501(c)3 non-profit charity organization, in order to help other shelters that do not get the attention they so richly deserve. MaxFund will always be special to The Molly-Dharma Run for the six years we did this event there … and for the amazing, compassionate work they do for dogs and cats. Thank you for supporting the current shelter benefiting from this year’s Molly-Dharma Run, and we hope you have a great time on this ride for this very deserving organization.

Keep the rubber down and put a little extra in the kitty if you can.

Kirk Zimmerman,

Co-Founder Molly-Dharma Run