Friday, December 10, 2010
A Tethering Story
From S. Platt, Veterinary Student at University of Pennsylvania:
I opened my door to my neighbor, who had knocked brusquely and looked a little strained. “We found a dog, around 51st St. I couldn’t catch her. Can you help us?”
There was something imperative to his request. I asked him to wait and gathered the necessary tools – dog treats, a leash (easily arranged in a noose), and my jacket and ID. In the car sat his 7 year-old daughter and 20 month-old twins. I was greeted with, “You have to save the momma dog!”
Okie dokie. Driving up Baltimore Avenue they saw a brown dog with pendulous teats, wandering haphazardly along Baltimore Avenue. My neighbor had tried to entice the dog to him to no success - hence reinforcements.
We found the dog on the east side of Baltimore Avenue. The pit mix had a loping walk, indicating that walking was causing her some pain. She was emaciated. I could see the processess of her vertebrae poking under her skin, it appeared that her skeleton was covered in a fine, brown moss. Her nose was cut and skin was cut from her back, a large tag of fur pointing at an absurd angle from her back. And her teats hung down drom her abdomen, missing the ground by inches. She was searching for food. Her posture indicated that she didn’t trust the people whose refuse kept her alive. Something was tied around her neck.
I jumped out of the car about half a block ahead of the dog. I approached to about 20 feet and crouched down onto my haunches. The dog stopped, looking at me with a palpable fear. Throwing a large dog treat, I said nothing. She sniffed the treat that landed a few inches from her. Then she turned and took her sloping walk in the opposite direction. I tried to make her pause, throwing another treat just ahead of her. She didn’t even stop to sniff it. I began to repeat in a low voice, “good pup, come by me pup.”
My fear for her grew, as I got closer and saw her condition up close. She moved out of fear, veering into traffic to get away from me. I followed, closing slowly on her. I never ran.
Finally, the dog veered back across traffic, with me following. My neighbor and I managed to get the dog onto a porch. Realizing, she was surrounded, she curled up in a ball, looking up fearfully. I slipped the leash around her neck and tried to cajole her to stand up. After a few minutes with no progress, my neighbor leaned over and picked up the dog in his arms. She was carried to the car and placed on my lap. The dog smelled like a rancid dumpster. I whispered to her, “what a good pup” as she shuddered.
Tied her neck was an electrical cord, her skin lapping around it. The cord was tight. Dog teeth marked the cord. The cord was gnawed at and finally bitten through about 8 inches from her neck. The electrical cord tied the dog, wherever she was bound. Apparently, she facilitated her own release. Wherever she was, it had been a long time since she had basic care.
At the hospital, I carried her into the Emergency Services. We took her back and laid her on the table. She just sat, shuddering as the doctors and nurses gathered around and spoke to her warmly. They placed an IV catheter and started fluids. The dog was massively dehydrated. She was placed in crate with some blankets, her fluids, and a bowl of food. She looked forlorned in her crate, and for the first time looked to me for reassurance. Confused by the availability of food in a bowl, but obviously hungry, she didn’t touch it. I sat by her crate, reached in, and moved the food in her bowl. She looked at me solemnly and ate.
After I left her, I spoke with her doctor. We aged her at approximately 14 months. She had a litter of puppies recently, but we couldn’t estimate how recently. Her teats were granular and dry. Her paws were bruised, cut, and raw. Her teeth were good, but she was emaciated. She exhausted, overwhelmingly fatigued and overwhelmed. When I went out to my neighbors I told them that the dog would be staying in the hospital at least all day to be rehydrated and have some basic bloodwork. I also wanted to her to be observed. The seven-year old asked about the puppies, but I told her they were long gone to “new homes.” Before we left, the pit mix needed one last thing – a name. Her 7 year-old benefactor named her Daisy.
Visiting her later in the day, these pictures were taken of Daisy. When I approached her crate, the dog appeared watchful, but comfortable – and very sleepy. Her tail thumped on the aluminum floor of the crate when she saw me. The sound was like music.
She sat up to greet me and I slipped the leash around her neck. She looked confused. I tried to lure her from her crate with gentle words. She was resolute, she had found someplace safe and would not abandon it. I wanted to get her comfortable walking on a leash, so I eventually carried her into the hallway, with a nice treat waiting for her. Whenever she was on a leash – outside, inside, familiar or unfamiliar surroundings, she would collapse instead of walking. She rolled on her back and looked pleadingly at the person at the other end of the leash. She had to be carried throughout that first week.
The pup needed a lot of work. She needed a bath (to which she strenuously objected). She needed a foster home where she would be nurtured and learn to be secure with people. She needed to learn to walk on a leash. She needed to learn not to urinate and defacate inside. She needed to learn that going outside was not dangerous for her. She needed to learn to wear a collar. She also needed a forever home.
The day after she started getting food regularly – which she wolfed down in two bites – she went into heat. This is typical of animals who have been starved. As soon as Daisy got enough food, her body restarted the biological functions which had been put on hold.
Due to the soft hearts of our surgeons, Daisy got spayed that week.
After a few weeks of living in a home, getting lots of good food, and walking on a leash Daisy showed some changes. She wasn’t smelly, she learned to love her leash, and showed a remarkable affection for children. She would gently lift a Cheerio from their soft hands, never using her teeth or biting down. Daisy Belle also knew her friends – recognizing me with a full-body wiggle.
Eight months later, she still greets me with a full-body wiggle – even from half a block away. She’s acquired tens and tens of friends at the veterinary hospital, where she frequently spend the day. Tons of children recognize her and love her.
(Note: First published in 2008, but a timeless story!)