WEST CALDWELL, NJ — A West Caldwell residence is currently housing two pit bulls whose owner, a James Caldwell High School alumna, passed away earlier this year from a cancer that she wasn’t aware she had. Unexpectedly left behind by their mother, Spring and Ernie are looking for a new forever home.
Assuming she would only be hospitalized for one week, Elise Linden, 55, hired a friend to care for the dogs in her absence. After doctors discovered she had Stage 4 colon cancer, Linden spent nine weeks in the hospital and died only four days after being placed in hospice care.
Currently, Spring and Ernie have each other but are otherwise living alone in a home that eventually needs to be sold. Since January, friends and family have been stopping in daily to tend to Linden’s dogs, but her sister, Rene Paparian, said it is not enough—they need a permanent home.
“They are just really lovey dogs,” said Paparian. “[Ernie] is the biggest mush and [Spring] is more of an independent sort. They’re the sweetest little things—these dogs had a horrible life before Elise got them and they would be an addition to a beautiful family.”
In addition to being a social worker and a licensed massage therapist, Linden was known as a dedicated rescuer, shelter volunteer and pit bull advocate.
Ernie, a 9-year-old brindle pit bull with a white chest, was at Liberty Humane Society with an ear infection while Linden was volunteering. She took him home because she didn’t feel he wouldn’t receive the necessary attention at the shelter and eventually adopted Ernie as her own.
Spring, a 7-year-old white pit bull with light brown spots who is social with other dogs, came home with Linden after Ernie. The two are not siblings, are not the same gender, and did not come from the same shelter, but are now inseparable and have been for nearly six years.
“Her world was about her work and her dogs,” said Paparian. “When I say they were her babies, I mean that if you were at a family event, people would say what their kids were doing, [Elise] would report on what Spring and Ernie were doing.”
By supporting and loving these two pit bulls, Paparian said a lucky family would be honoring her sister’s legacy.
According to Paparian, her sister put a lot of time and love into caring for her dogs and was extremely meticulous about how to care for them. Linden’s friend Karen, who she hired to tend to them while she was sick, adores both dogs but has her own family dogs in Clifton and is unable to take both dogs.
The ideal situation would be to place Spring and Ernie in a home together, but the family is willing to place them separately if a forever home is found for each of them.
“They’re quite a bonded pair,” said Paparian. “I think that if it was a choice of separating them for new forever homes or no home at all, we’d have to give them a chance to be put in a loving home, but the preference would be to keep them together.”
Living in their late mother’s home while a caregiver visits a few times per day is not a sustainable situation for any dog. In Spring and Ernie’s case, their time is limited, as the house will soon need to be sold.