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WAVERLY — Now warm, safe and loved, Elsa has let it go.

The dog found chained outside and nearly frozen to death on New Year’s Eve last year in Waterloo has made a remarkable recovery and is enjoying the good life with her new family.

“She is perfect,” said Luke Horton, who adopted Elsa with his fiance, Emily Graham. “She is smart and fun and exactly what I was looking for in a dog.”

Most importantly, Elsa holds no grudges against people.

“Everyone’s her buddy. She is loving and caring and loves to play. And she’s definitely spoiled,” Graham said, laughing. “She gets everything she wants. She deserves it.”

Anyone who knows Elsa’s story would agree.

On Dec. 31, 2017, Waterloo Animal Control officer Ryan Doland found the dog in a plastic pet carrier inside a tin shed. The air temperature was -4 F, with a wind chill of -23 F. The dog was near death, frozen and unable to move, Waterloo Animal Control officers said. It was the second time she’d been seized by Animal Control after being left outside in frigid temperatures.

In the late hours of New Year’s Eve, officer Doland dropped off Elsa in the indoor after-hours holding pen at Cedar Bend Humane Society. He called CBHS staff to make them aware of her condition, and medical staff were called in immediately.

“We see a lot of animals that come in here that haven’t been treated well, and I will say that very few animals come in that are quite that bad,” said Kristi Gardner, CBHS co-director. “She was one that we did have a discussion at one point with our staff and our vet that if she didn’t make a turnaround in 48 to 72 hours ... But we knew we at least had to try.”

The dog’s ears, tail and paws had frostbite, and she was grossly underweight. A dog’s normal body temperature is between 99 F and 102 F. It took 24 hours for her temperature to reach just 90 degrees, Gardner said.

Named Elsa by CBHS staff for a character in the Disney movie “Frozen,” the mixed-breed pup rallied and was adopted in March by Horton and Graham.

“The first night she jumped in our bed, and that’s where she sleeps every night,” Horton said.

The couple had no idea what Elsa had been through until they posted their first family photo, shot on adoption day by CBHS, on social media. A friend alerted them to Elsa’s previous ordeal.

“I didn’t realize the whole story,” Horton said. “I had no idea. We couldn’t believe that after what she’d been through how trusting she was.”

Horton and Graham kept Elsa’s name, and the near-2-year-old pup now has “Frozen”-themed toys, blankets and even a “Frozen” collar that reads “Let it go.” She also has a new friend, Atlas, a 12-week-old rescued kitten that joined the family a week ago. Elsa loves to cuddle with the kitten.

Horton, who works at Target Distribution Center in Cedar Falls and is a member of the Iowa National Guard, has taught Elsa a number of commands. She is now a healthy, 60-pound bundle of energy “who thinks she’s a lap dog,” said Graham, a medical lab technician at Waverly Health Center.

Recently the trio visited CBHS to drop off food and toy donations and to thank the staff who saved Elsa’s life.

“They’re 100 percent the reason she’s here,” Graham said. “We wanted them to see her, to see she’s OK. She has a vibrant spirit. She wasn’t ready to go. She had too much too give.”

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Lifestyles and Features Editor

Lifestyles Editor for The Courier

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