I am a country music singer and although I love animals, I didn’t have a pet for several years due to all of the traveling that comes with performing. 2020 was going to be my biggest year of touring yet: five months straight in 14 countries. When everything fell apart due to COVID-19, I was devastated, but I knew there had to be a reason and a bigger plan for me.
Along came Audrey.
In a state of extreme sadness from all my hopes and dreams being ripped away, I was sitting in my living room scrolling Instagram when this beautiful little face popped up on my feed. A friend who I’d just met a week prior had re-posted an “Urgent Foster Needed” notice from a local rescue, SNARR Northeast.
Audrey had been found in an abandoned house in Texas with a spinal injury and both of her back feet severed. She was bleeding, had no food or water, and was riddled with infection. She urgently needed fostering due to the extreme care she required to heal her wounds. Her story broke my heart.
Audrey’s face stopped me dead in my tracks, and I knew that my husband and I had to take her. I called Steve into the room and said, “We are taking this dog.” He thought I was crazy — how could we care for her with our grueling schedules? — but agreed to a “play date.”
The next day Audrey was dropped off at our house with a box full of diapers, gauze and wound tape, and the rest is history.
It was love at first sight.
We immediately gave her everything she needed and anything she wanted, and we were determined to provide her with the life she deserved.
Still, it wasn’t easy — far from it. Healing her physical and mental wounds has been one of the most difficult things I have ever done in my life.
No matter what we did, Audrey’s stumps remained covered with wounds and infections for close to two and a half years. And until her legs were ready enough for real prosthetics, we were making them by hand. We became inventors and engineers, trying every Dr. Scholl’s insert on the shelf for padding, as well as bra inserts, before finally settling on anti-fatigue kitchen mats that we cut into discs and wrapped around Audrey’s legs. After six harrowing surgeries, five different sets of prosthetic legs, years in a wheelchair, and so much heartache, she was finally ready to try to walk.
Adjusting to her new legs was tough for Audrey, and it was difficult to care for all the wounds and challenges that came with breaking in her devices, but she prevailed. Finally, after three years and nine surgeries on each leg, an experimental fish skin graft by Dr. Tomas Infernuso of Animal Surgical Center healed her legs for good.
Unfortunately, Audrey’s spinal injury left her incontinent, and she requires diapers, so I’ve gone from carrying guitars to carrying a diaper bag and crib for our dog, but I’m happy to do it for her. Before each show, when I’m decked out in high heels, rhinestones and all the rest of my performance glam, I can usually be seen changing her backstage. We have really dedicated our lives to her care.
Still, as much as I’ve given her, Audrey has given me so much more. She became a beacon of light for me during a very dark time in my life. She showed me that terrible things can happen to you, and you can be resilient and move on stronger than you were before. If she can overcome what she went through, I feel like I can overcome anything that comes my way. She inspires me every single day to live life to the fullest, and helps me to remember that your whole world can change in wonderful ways in an instant.
As happy as we were to have Audrey in our lives, there was also a looming feeling of distress and dread thinking about what would happen if someone wanted to adopt her and become her permanent guardian. We had no idea how we would ever be able to offer her the loving, stable home she deserves because we’re on the road so much, but she had truly become our baby. We had many sleepless nights and serious talks about a game plan, and we ultimately decided that we would do absolutely anything to keep her.
I cannot express in words the outpouring of love and support from friends and fans across the world who opened up their hearts and homes to her (with a special thank you to the Pellettiere and Albala families for being angels on earth for us). They say “it takes a village,” and we certainly had ours rally around us and this amazing pup. Audrey now sits shotgun in the tour bus with her Daisy Duke jean diaper. She’s essentially our stage manager — she calls all the shots and adds beef to every rider.
We could say we saved Audrey’s life, but I don’t think that would be the truth because she really saved our lives. She has brought a joy into our world that we didn’t know could exist. She’s also renewed my faith in humanity: Working closely with the amazing rescue groups and animal organizations that saved her and so many other animals in need has been a beautiful, transformative experience. It’s reminded me that, though there’s a lot wrong with our world, there are so many wonderful people doing incredible things.
And not only did Audrey bring us closer to so many other people, but she brought Steve and I closer to one another. We had been married for several years and were often so caught up in the daily grind of the very hectic music business that we did not make as much time for the two of us as we needed to. Audrey made us more in love than we had ever been. The teamwork required to heal her and care for her was immense, and we found ourselves totally submersed in every minute of every day trying to figure it out. We were truly present — not in the past, not in the future, but in the here and now, together — working toward something incredibly difficult, yet incredibly special.
Caring for Audrey truly changed my life. She taught me to enjoy the little things in each and every day. She taught me patience and unconditional love, and that you give your time, energy and resources to others because it makes you feel good, not because you deserve or wish for something in return. I am a better person because of Audrey, and I look at the world in a very different light.
Audrey and I have become ambassadors for my favourite charity, Joey’s P.A.W., which provides dogs with prosthetic limbs and wheelchairs. We have raised thousands for the organisation and recently put 59 dogs in wheelchairs from a single livestream concert alone. For more info, visit the Joey’s P.A.W website.