Friday, April 15, 2016

A-Z of #Dog Rescue: Medicating The Homeless — #AtoZChallenge


Late one morning, about a year ago, a (non-rescuer) friend called to say he and his girlfriend had found a dog in bad shape and they didn’t know what to do. “I think he’s dying,” he said. “He won’t move. He won’t eat.”

Shit

As I drove, I prepared myself for the worst. A quick shot at the vet’s, a merciful end surrounded by strangers—“but, at least, strangers who cared enough not to leave him to die in the street.” I squeezed that for every drop of comfort.

Not even a thimbleful.

The dog was nothing but skin and bones. Mangy, watery eyes, pale gums. He panted a little (good), but otherwise didn’t show interest in anything (bad). He didn’t even sniff at the liverwurst I brought.

But he was friendly. He let me approach and touch him with nary a flinch. I wrapped him in a big towel, picked him up and put him in the car. My friends wanted to come along to the vet, so before we drove off—and so they’d have time to process on the way, if they did decide to come—I gave them the speech. “You’ve done this dog a great, great service. You saved him from dying out here, alone, and probably in a lot of pain. You did good.”

Their smiles were wan, but they did follow me—us—all the way to the vet.

The vet’s diagnosis was grim: heartworms, tick fever, sarcoptic mange, anemia. (More on these here.) This dog was an elderly chap, 8 to 10 years old, which meant both heartworms and tick fever had probably been around for years. But—and I still get choked up about this—the vet didn’t think euthanasia was necessary. “He’s not that far gone,” she said. “He needs to gain some weight before we treat the heartworms, but he can get antibiotics for the tick fever now. That’ll give him a boost, and if he starts eating then I’d say he’s got a chance.”

Seriously. I need to add champagne, or at the very least cold beer, to the Rescuer's Kit.

Except… we had a problem. Because of his (highly contagious) sarcoptic mange, none of the fosters I know could take him in. No shelter would, either, or boarding facility. I don’t blame them—but the fact remained we needed to treat this dog, monitor his eating and drinking, give him medicine twice a day. How—where—were we going to do this? 

The vet suggested starting the mange treatment—weekly shots—right away. “Within a week or two he won’t be contagious anymore,” she said. “Maybe then you’ll find a foster willing to take him.”

Maybe. But… Until then, what?

You might have noted the switch from I to we. It happened at some point in that examining room. My friends weren’t rescuers, had never done this before. But they joined in like the best of ‘em: they asked questions, they fetched paper towels, learned how to hold a dog for the vet. They grimaced but didn’t turn away when the needles went in, when the skin scrapings began. (Respect for steel-stomached newbies, y’all.) They even volunteered to foot the bill. And, as their rescue baptism, they got to name the dog. They chose Carlito (of Carlito’s Way).

Most importantly, though, they rolled up their sleeves and helped. Because, you see, without a safe place for Carlito, we had to treat him in the street. This doesn’t work always, and not every treatment can be done like this; in order to recover fully, Carlito would need a home. But, until that particular miracle happened, we’d have to pick up the slack.

We established a twice-a-day feeding routine. It took a couple of days and a bit of “research” (asking the locals at which times they saw him), but eventually Carlito settled into it like a pro. He waited for us, he learned to recognize both our cars as soon as we turned into his street, and his greeting, as his health improved, went from walking up to the car tail a-wagging to running madly and jumping up, always gently, to the driver’s seat. Once a week he got a car ride to the vet for his mange shot, and he loved that. Within ninety days he went from the saddest sack of bones to a bouncing, healthy dog.

We never did find a foster for Carlito. We didn’t need to. After the summer, my novice-rescuer friends moved to a new place, and took him in. And so Carlito went home. 

This isn't Carlito... My friends, the ones who adopted him, are traveling in Holland, and I completely forgot to ask for photos before they left. My apologies for that.

It’s no secret that the real challenge of rescuing is space. Shelters are overcrowded (and underfunded); foster homes are about as rare as purple unicorns. Too often the unthinkable happens: you find a dog desperately in need of help and—for any number of reasons—there’s nowhere to take him/her.

Let me be clear. The best option is always—always—to take the dog off the street. They need a safe place to recover, to heal, to regain their trust in humans. Treating a dog while s/he’s still on the street can only be a last recourse.

But it is a recourse. One more in your arsenal of hope.

 ~ * ~ 

I'm sorry for posting this so late. I'm far, far behind... But I'll catch up. Thanks for hanging in there, and for all your comments, your questions, your stories, your encouragement. I'm glad you're enjoying this series :)

33 comments :

  1. This story was so sad at the beginning. How wonderful it had such a happy ending!
    (Don't feel bad about falling behind; you're not the only one.)

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    1. I'm glad you stuck with it, Debbie, even when you expected it to be a sad one. I probably should've included a note at the beginning: "Happy Ending, Don't Despair" :)

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  2. This could so easily have gone wrong. Kudos all round!

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    1. Too right, Keith... The hero here was the vet, who figured out how to stack-treat all Carlito's multiple issues—and who was willing to attempt it while the dog had no home (lots of vets balk; the risks are plenty).

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  3. I live in the country and there is dog dumping. I've got a neighbor who has about 30 dogs and they are well trained. The neighbor is a natural pack leader.
    The sad part about dumping is that many are killed by traffic. If they become carwise, the next concern is they lose their confidence. On a road less traveled than the country road I live on, a woman feeds them until someone drives by and takes them home.
    Being practical makes the difference. I'm glad Carlito found his home.

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    1. How horrible about the dog dumping, Ann... We see that a lot here in Curaçao, too—especially around the end of the year. I guess some people figure New Year is a good excuse for New Dog :( Your neighbor sounds like someone I'd love to meet; I have a friend who turned her house into a dog sanctuary; at last count, she had 37. They all live together, and have the run of the house—and, somehow, she manages to keep the house cleaner than mine, and I only have 7 :D

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  4. Your story genuinely brought tears to my eyes... so moving. Thank you.

    Susan A Eames from
    Travel, Fiction and Photos

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    1. I'm sorry about the tears, Susan... but I'm glad you liked it :)

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  5. Yes, I'm thrilled that Carlito found his home. How awful that sometimes the best that can be done is treating them in the streets. Here that couldn't happen, animals found on the road are taken in immediately. In my neighborhood you seldom see a stray, and I very seldom. Most that go to a shelter are give the chance for a new home. I know that some shelters still euthanize, but fewer and fewer, at least in PA. Still, I'm sure there are areas where no good laws exist to save these poor creatures, and yes, I'm still speaking of the US.

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    1. Yolanda, it warms my heart to know there's at least one place in the world where dogs won't be left homeless for long. You're right, they're not many—US or otherwise—but the fact they exist at all is a source of hope. Thanks for telling me this :)

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  6. So glad Carlito found his family. What an amazing story!!

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  7. I was prepared for this one to by a cryfest. I confess I did tear up, but they were HAPPY tears. Yay for your friends. Awesome story!

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    1. Okay... Whew. Glad you liked this one, Robin :)

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  8. What a great story. I'm so glad it has a happy ending.

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  9. This is a wonderful story and so glad Carlito found a home and that he responded well to the treatment. The dog in the blanket looks like Yoda:)

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    1. Haha... He does look like Yoda :D I was stumped for an image that might convey the idea of providing out-of-home care, but I didn't want to use an actual street dog... So when I saw this one I thought, a-ha! Glad you liked Carlito's story, Birgit :)

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  10. I am sure Carlito is healthy and very happy now. keep up the great work.
    Points To Ponder

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    1. He is, Natasha! Hardly recognizable as the dog we found last year. Which makes my heart sing :)

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  11. My daughter in the USA has had a number of rescue dogs. The latest one, which I have not seen yet, had mange when she took him from Detroit Dog Rescue Centre. He's healthy now and happy too as Carlito is I hope.

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    1. Your daughter sounds like a lovely person, Bob... Not many people would adopt, or even foster, a dog with mange (so many misconceptions and prejudices...), so she's to be commended. I'm sure he must be one happy, happy dog :)

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  12. I love that Carlito got his happy ending, I really didn't think he was going to at the start of the post.
    Debbie

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    1. I'm glad you stuck with the story, Debbie, even though you expected it to end in tragedy. I'll have to remember to add a note for the future: "Keep Reading; Happy Ending Ahead" :D

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  13. I love this story! So happy for your friends and Carlito. Now I need to wipe my tears away, they are getting all over the keyboard.

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    1. I'm so glad you liked it, Laura! I apologize for the tears... but I hope they were, like Robin's, happy ones :)

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  14. What a happy ending for that sweet little guy! Your friends were his angels...and so were you. Thanks for all you do!

    Michele at Angels Bark

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  15. What a happy ending for that sweet little guy! Your friends were his angels...and so were you. Thanks for all you do!

    Michele at Angels Bark

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  16. I just wrote a great reply and the gremlins ate it. Much like a dog eats out of the litter pan.

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  17. No worries abut posting late. As you can see, I'm getting to read it late. So glad to come back from vacation to read a success story.
    Cheers to your friends!

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No love like Dog Love--or Commenter Love!