Life After Starvation and Neglect
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Saturday, Feb. 1
I had a rather lazy Saturday planned, starting with a slow morning of coffee and reading the news. I was just beginning to appreciate the aroma of fresh brew when I opened my e-mail and saw a plea from Pam Sullivan: can you go take a picture of that Saint Bernard at the shelter today? She's emaciated at 46 lbs and full of lice; it will take a small miracle to get her rescued. Suddenly, I was off and running, my cup of coffee left to chill on the corner of the desk. I had to first run to Chapel Hill to pick up my digital camera, having lent it to my boss earlier in the week to take pictures of his new Basset Hound puppies. I made a quick call to Pam to let her know I'd take the pictures, and to warn her in advance that I'd become emotionally involved.
I had wanted to stop by Hill Creek veterinary hospital to see if Maqui Ortiz would join me, but I was now running late on my leisurely Saturday. I barely made it back to Pittsboro by noon to take my foster dog, Nutmeg, to meet a potential adoptive family. The sun was out, so we met at the Central Carolina Community College walking trail. The couple turned out to be an ideal match for Nutmeg, and she happily went to Raleigh for an overnight visit.
I hurried back home, threw some things together for the shelter and headed out, camera in tow. I hesitated at the front desk, making small talk with the Saturday volunteers and greeting one of the shelter dogs that had just been given a bath, when in walked Maqui. She had dropped by to bring some food and lice spray for the Saint Bernard, and she agreed to help me with the pictures. We walked back to have a look.
The second I laid eyes on the poor little girl, any resistance to the idea of taking her in dissolved. Even in her awful condition, she was happy to see us and obviously appreciated even the limited amount of contact we had with her.
Later that day, when my husband, Rex, returned from his week-long business trip to Atlanta, I told him that if Nutmeg were adopted, I wanted to help the Saint Bernard. We briefly discussed the wisdom of it all, then I showed him the pictures, and reason went by the wayside.
Sunday, Feb. 2
The call from Nutmeg's adoptive parents came in the early afternoon. She has found her forever home! At once, I miss her and become teary, but I know she will be very happy and very much loved.
I tell Rex, and we agree that we're getting the Saint Bernard out.
I then call Pam and give her the double counts of good news. I had to gain approval from the Welfare Committee at C.A.R.E. before Monday morning. The e-mails started going out pleading our case, but not-to-worry, the Welfare Committee enthusiastically agrees to help her, too.
Monday, Feb. 3
I got up early and started preparing the house for the arrival of our new foster. There was much to do before I got her out of the shelter, and with a full day of work ahead, I was hurrying as fast as the morning coffee would take me.
First, Rex lost his soon-to-be-remodeled office to the arrival of our new charge. "It's only for a few weeks," I sang out. Furniture was removed, floors were cleaned, and the dog door was relocated to our bedroom. Old blankets were gathered and a sofa mattress was converted to a make-shift large-breed doggie bed. Food bowls were cleaned and arranged.
All the while, phone calls were being made to Hill Creek veterinary clinic to see if they could dip her before we brought her into our home. Since they had grooming clients in that day, they weren't able to accept the Saint at the last minute. Now what?! I just couldn't bring home a dog infested with lice! It was around 10:30 a.m. when I threw an extra set of clothes and a few towels in the Miata and headed for the shelter, hoping that I'd figure something out on the way.
When I arrived at the shelter, Tina agreed to let me try to give the Saint a bath in their sink. I grabbed my towels and headed to get her. I did NOT want to pick her up. 46 pounds of dog I could handle, but the lice were jumping off the lice and she smelled just awful. She was so skinny and frail, I was also afraid that I'd break her. I looked into her big, trusting eyes, then held my breath, closed my eyes, and went for it. The sink sprayer trickled out lukewarm water, but the Saint was as tolerant as could be expected. I got some much welcomed help from a kind woman named Cindy who offered encouragement and some handling advice. After about 30 minutes of this pathetic attempt at a bath, I rinsed her as well as I could, and gave her a handful of kibble for being so patient with me. She was so hungry; I think she tried to eat the floor when the kibble was gone.
I put a leash on her and led her out to the car. Thankfully, she instinctively knew that this was a good thing, settled right into the passenger seat, and sat there waiting to go. I tried to ignore that little, white, nasty critters were beginning to jump off onto the seat of my car, despite the towels there for protection, and I headed home with my lice-infested girl.
9 pm: The Saint is so weak and unsteady on her feet that she has been falling on her big, sweet face all day. It reminds me of a bloopers show with the "Boink" sound effect, so I've been following her all day ridiculously saying, "Boink." It's starting to stick, so we've named her Boinka.
Tuesday, Feb. 4
What have I done? I've been asking myself how I'll ever get back to work, since yesterday was consumed by frantic phone calls to Hill Creek and NCSU veterinary school to ask about the lice and how to rehabilitate the Saint, small feedings of dry kibble every half hour, and a constant vigil to be sure that the new girl was getting along ok. I got up early again to get started on the day. Although I hated to stress her any more, I felt strongly about giving her another bath and another spray down with the SynerKyl spray. The lice were still abundant, and I was beginning to notice that she also had several ticks. So, into the shower we went, Boinka tentatively, and I fully clothed. Rex sat on a chair outside the shower door and held it shut so that we didn't have a breakout mid-bath. We took our time and really worked on the grime and the lice so that we wouldn't have to repeat for many days. Boinka settled after a bit and seemed to realize that I was there to help, not inflict water torture.
11 pm: Finally, I made it to work today! I packed up a ton of homework and came back home after just 5 hours. Boinka has been upgraded to Princess Boinka. It just fits.
Wednesday, Feb. 5
Up early again! Who is this person I've become? I'm a late morning riser, but no more! I don't even think to make coffee first thing. I go straight to check on Boinka. I make small talk with her while I clean her room. She doesn't have the hang of "going outside," but in her condition, I don't expect too much. I'm just happy that her body is working reasonably well. She is eating normally now, no frantic feeding. It's as if she knows the food will be there when she needs it now. I clean her face and pull some fat ticks off her ears.
Rex's dad, Hugh, and his wife, Cynthia, stop by this morning to chat and visit. Boinka is happy to see new faces. They are in Pittsboro to have their recently adopted C.A.R.E. dog, Henry, neutered. Spay and neuter your pets!!!
I get some work done from home, and then Maqui Ortiz stops by to visit with Boinka and drop off some ointment powder for her sores. Maqui also clips her nails and tends to some of her wounds. Maqui is awesome, but everyone that knows Maqui knows that about her. Maqui is one of the few who didn't seem afraid of the dog lice; if she were a missionary, she'd likely be caring for Ebola victims.
Later this evening, Jenny Lewis stops by and drops off carpet remnants, treats for Boinka, and some supplies. Boinka loves Jenny; that much was clear when Boinka walked over and gave Jenny a big leaner-hug. Rex and I are happy to have the company, the help, and another visitor for the Princess.
Boinka seems to be coughing today, has some white foam typical of kennel cough, and "the green snots." I'm a bit worried about this development. If she has kennel cough, it will be hard on her. I put a warm steam vaporizer in her room and have Rex call Hill Creek, but we will have to wait until tomorrow for advice as all are gone for the day.
We also drafted a press release and took some pictures that seemed appropriate to include.
The next four hours are going to be devoted to work. Good thing my boss is cruising in the Caribbean, otherwise I'd have a lot of explaining to do. I'm sure I'll make up for all this time before he gets back on Sunday afternoon!