I knew the second Heather sent me the following photo and text message that our plan to de-doggify our household after Jackson dies had been terminated.
I’ll admit, I have a huge place in my heart for animals. Especially abandoned, neglected, or abused animals. This particular dog was found chained in 95+ degree heat by my wife when she and her father were loading hay in a barn he was renting.
Apparently, this poor thing had been tethered to a 10-foot chain for more than four years after being abandoned by the property owner’s daughter. He managed to put food and water within reach but this was the limit of provided care. My wife marched over to the man’s house and asked if he would please allow her to adopt the dog.
After some pause and resistance he finally relented under one condition…that she not report him to the authorities. He must have known just how deplorable the conditions were to make such a demand.
From my wife’s observations alone:
- Months, probably years-worth of old fur was caught in various links of the metal chain that tethered the dog to an old tire.
- Unconcerned rats were repeatedly seen drinking from its water dish.
- The dog was almost listless and unable or unwilling to lift its head higher than its shoulders.
- Its tail was fused to its left hind leg by caked-on manure, mud, and thistles. As a result, the dog was unable to walk unless it limped, shuffled its feet, or curled its rear.
- Ungroomed and uncombed, it had a massive amount of fur and matted hair all about its body.
- The dog had been chained to the barn for years, through both harsh winters and harsh summers.
- The area that was reachable by the 10-foot chain comprised its entire world.
- It had, and has, a huge tumor protruding from the side of its head with no known medical treatment.
- Its collar had worn away fur to the point where it was far too sensitive to be touched. It also had to be cut off using scissors due to the rusted fasteners.
I could go on and on, but to us, it appeared that they were just waiting for this thing to die. As though they weren’t so cold-hearted to where they wanted to put it down, but also not humane enough to see that it didn’t live the balance of its life in misery. As my wife said when I asked how old the dog was, “I don’t care if it only has another month to live. At least it will know what it’s like to feel loved.”
Before my wife even started home I called our pet groomer and the local animal shelter to ask about rescue-friendly veterinarians. I needed someone to take mercy on us considering all the work that needed to be done. I’m rather disenchanted with our current vet because every visit feels like a late-night infomercial. I sit down with a dog or cat and then they start pimping all kinds of new products with guilt-laden “if you really love your pet” pitches.
I’m so tired of $35 “office exams” that consist entirely of lifting the dogs lips and then giving its midsection a few quick squeezes. Apparently, that’s all that’s needed to determine that the dog is in dire need of $300 worth of specialty food, canine vitamins, and denta-bones.
The shelter was wonderful and provided us with a local vet known for slashing rates for rescue animals. It was refreshing to find a veterinarian who would take mercy on our wallets because while we truly wanted to do the right thing, we knew rescuing this animal wouldn’t be cheap.
Here’s how the call to the vet went down:
Me: Hello, I need to make an appointment for a rescue dog. Well, a dog we rescued. Not a real rescue dog like a Saint Bernard that brings you a barrel of whiskey when you’re stranded.
Vet: Do you know the breed?
Me: Not a clue. Unless fuzzy is a breed.
Vet: Do you know its gender?
Me: No. My sick wife said, and I quote, “I felt around down there and didn’t feel a johnson,” so it’s either a female or a rather unlucky male.
Vet (finally laughing): Ok, so do you know how old it is?
Me: No idea. I’d say between 1 and 12 if I had to guess.
Vet: Do you know if it’s had any boosters or if it’s been vaccinated for rabies?
Me: I highly doubt it. All it’s been vaccinated from is human interaction.
Vet: And…do you have a name for it?
Me: A name? Heck no. We don’t even know what we have here.
By the time we finished the pre-visit interview, I believe I provided all the information necessary for the vet to know that we had a dog. Beyond that, this furry little thing was one big mystery.
When Heather rolled up with the dog we all went out to greet it like the Brady kids greeted Oliver when he arrived to destroy the show. The dog practically fell out of the car and we slowly walked it to the back porch where Heather planned on cutting away the bulk of the excess matted hair to try and help the groomer.
When finished, the tail was freed from the hind leg and we had enough fur to manufacture yet another animal.
Our other dog, Jackson, who is a 150-pound Greater Swiss Mountain Dog, seemed to really take to the new addition. He’d sidle up next to the dog and then start dry-humping the air, curling his rear like a frightened lobster. I’m not sure if he was establishing dominance or showing his new guest what kind of goodness he’s capable of delivering, but either way, it was disturbing.
One would think that Jackson’s behavior would be an indication that we had a female on our hands, but Jackson’s never really shown any discrimination when it comes to loving on males, females, human legs, or furniture. He’s neutered so I can only imagine how our house would look if he was still intact.
It took the groomer over two hours to clean this dog up and she informed us that we did indeed have a female. I knew Jackson would be thrilled. We’re not too worried about any late-night malfeasance though. First, he’s fixed. Second, he hasn’t a clue what he’s doing. And third, he has bilateral hip dysplasia so he isn’t even physically capable of mounting a squirrel.
The groomer did such a wonderful job with her. She cut away all of the remaining mats, bathed her with a medicated shampoo, treated her skin, and combed her out. Even just hours after rescue, she was looking so pretty. And, to be honest, it looked like she knew it. While still unable to walk with any degree of strength, she already seemed happier.
Our groomer, who also moonlights with the SPCA, suggested that she may be exhibiting signs of senility or dementia. I figured that just came with the territory of being a dog. If someone ever asked me how to determine if a dog was senile, I’d tell them to answer the following series of questions:
1. Is the dog breathing?
If yes, your dog is senile.
If no, your dog was senile.
Referring to the checklist for senility symptoms I just see an accurate description of every dog I’ve ever owned or encountered, so her pre-diagnosis didn’t really concern me. I figured the dog was just so dehydrated, so hungry, and so starved for attention that she needed some time to recover. As the groomer said, she may just need time to get healthy before she can act normal.
It was kinda weird though. She would just sit there and stare blankly at various things. She wouldn’t react to us calling her and seemed to have a hard time seeing. She’d walk around the house and yard in circles just kind of oblivious to anyone or any thing’s presence. Every time she saw Jackson or the same ottoman for the hundredth time it was like a brand new experience. Her behavior reminded me of Dory from Finding Nemo. Thus, her given name.
Before her noted improvement over the following couple of days, we started to ponder what we’d do if she was indeed senile. We were already in the throes of housebreaking her, which seems weird with her being so old, but we weren’t sure what else we’d need to do. While sitting together petting her, my wife uttered what I feel is the quote of the year.
“I just wish she could realize how much happier she is now.”
Is that not precious? Even if Dory is certifiable, I’d have to imagine she knows she’s in a far better place. But even if she doesn’t, at least we know, and that’s enough for us.
Dory’s visit to the veterinarian went great. While we’re closing in on over $400 in expense so far, she’s been worth every penny. We had to test for parasites, test for heartworm, do full immunizations, get a rabies shot, do a physical exam that included more than a quick glance of the teeth, full bloodwork, and obtain some eye medication for her ulcerated cornea.
The tumor seems benign but we won’t know for sure until the biopsy. Either way, it has to be removed, which is ballparked at around $600. Left untreated, it will get infected and cause far more problems. Not to mention, she has to hate it.
The vet suggested that she’s around 10 years old, is 95% certain she’s been spayed, has damaged eyesight that should improve with the eye drops, and may be hard of hearing…but certainly not deaf. We’re awaiting the results on all of her tests but we’re hoping that her biggest need is TLC, because we have an endless supply of that here.
Dory is so well-mannered. I have yet to hear her bark, she’s always wagging her tail, she’s gentle, and she’s really starting to come into her own. She no longer wallows around the yard or saunters about the home. Instead, she’s starting to gallop, starting to explore, starting to trust, and starting to interact.
I have no idea what the test results will be, but just like Heather said, I don’t care if she only has a month left. Dory is going to be loved and tended to properly until her final day.
Dory is ours now. And you want to know the best part?
I think she knows it.
——- UPDATE! ——-
We need your help! To help provide Dory with as many lost experiences as possible, I’ve started Dory’s Bucket List Adventure. Do you have ideas on activities and experiences we can give her?