April 8th 2007 8:11 am
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As many of you already know, I'm going to my furever home on Monday! But Foster Mom feels like my story is so special, she wants to summarize it all over again.
A lot of people think they know what "skin and bones" means, but they really don't. People who saw me at adoption events (anywhere from 2-3 months after putting on 10 pounds) often remarked "He is skin and bones!" but they never saw me in the beginning.
On Wednesday January 3, 2007, an animal control officer spotted me wandering around, caught me, and put me in one of the compartments of his truck. A scarey ordeal, but at least that compartment was warm.
I went to the shelter and was put in a kennel with another dog that had been caught as a stray that day. We waited for our stray holding time to be up. We all wait a certain amount of days to see if someone will come and claim us. But judging from my condition, I think the shelter staff knew that I wasn't going to be claimed.
So that Saturday, my FM was volunteering at the shelter and someone mentioned me to her. They said, "There is a very skinny pointer in building 2 that needs fostering..." and FM said she'd go over to take a look at me. At first she didn't even notice me, and had to walk through the building twice! Then she finally spotted me: standing very forlornly in the doorway to my outside run, standing next to my equally depressed kennelmate. I had no meat on my neck, my ribs stuck out, my hips protruded and so did my spine, my stomach looked bloated, I had sores on my back, I wasn't neutered, and my legs looked odd. I didn't have any interest in this person standing in front of my kennel. I just stared.
FM left the shelter that day without asking for more info on me, but then e-mailed the shelter later to get the info. Then she said "We'll take him!" and picked me up that Friday.
The most critical part of all of this was the timing. Good thing the shelter knew that FM was available to foster again. I spent only a week and a half in the shelter.
So that Friday, FM walked back to building 2 with a shelter worker. This time I was in a different kennel with a beagle. Both of us were just sitting in our kennel, looking dejected. The door to our outside run was closed off because it was very cold outside and we all needed to stay inside where it was warm. When our kennel door opened, my beagle buddy backed up a couple of steps, but I remained sitting & staring. Neither of us made any move to escape from the kennel. The shelter worker slipped a kennel lead over my head, but still I didn't move. After several minutes of coaxing & tugging, she picked me up. While I didn't fight it, my whole body went stiff. It looked like I was bending myself in half, right in the middle of my spine, since I was thrusting my back legs forward. I was carried through a series of doors and plopped on the lobby floor, where I just stood there and tried not to look at anyone. It looked as if I didn't even have the muscles to hold my head up properly. My kennel ID tag was taken off. Finally, my new FM picked me up and carried me to the van and put me inside a crate. She tried to give me some treats but I didn't take them. The entire ride to my new foster home, I just stared at FM.
When we arrived at my foster home, I had to be lifted out of the crate and to the backyard. It was as if I didn't know how to walk. When FM took my leash off of me, I slowly walked around the yard and sniffed. When I moved, it was as if I was folded in half again. I didn't run. The most I could do was a very fast walk. I didn't want to come to FM, but she put the leash on me again and started to introduce me to my new foster siblings. Surprisingly, they loved me right away. I just stood there and took their sniffs and feebly sniffed them back.
The first couple of days, I was very nervous. I would peek around corners at FM. I didn't know how to go up or down steps, so at first FM had to carry me a lot. By the second day, I figured it out and was brave enough to go outside on my own. Having my foster siblings around really helped, because I would follow them outside. It also took about a week for me to start running, even though it was very slow at first.
I acted like I'd never been in a house before, or like I'd never been asked to be a civil member of a family. Whenever FM would get herself some food, I would literally climb on her wherever she sat, I was so obsessed with that food. In less than a week, I got over it, with the help of FM.
FM also found that I had fleas, so I had to get a bath. It was the worst thing ever -- I absolutely hated it. I also had tapeworms. FM thought it would be easiest to bring me to her own vet rather than all the way down to the shelter in order to get deworming meds. She also wanted to know if I had ear mites since my ears were soooo dirty. I was very well behaved at the vet and walked nicely on the leash. They told FM that I was healthy apart from being very skinny!! They gave me the dewormer for my tapeworms and said that I didn't have ear mites. Despite this, FM still had to clean my ears every other day with cotton swabs, and they didn't start staying clean until after 2.5 months.
But FM started bringing me to the shelter's vet. About two weeks after I first came to my foster home, the shelter vets diagnosed me with sarcoptic mange. This explained the bare patches of fur, the discoloration of my legs, and the leathery ears. They said it was highly contagious and that, if I was still at the shelter, they would have had to put me down because I could have spread it to the other dogs. This was a very stressful day for FM because it seemed like everyone considered this diagnosis very grave news, that would take a lot of diligence to overcome and would take around 6 weeks to treat. Someone even told FM that she might have to keep me in a crate for the entire six weeks so that I wouldn't infect anything else! They even offered to call up a vet tech and see if she would take me if FM did not feel like going through the treatment. But FM doesn't give up like that!
FM was worried about Jasmine, Max, and Socks, because she didn't want them to get sick. She talked to an ACO who was very reassuring that I would get over it just fine. FM took me home and did some more research. It seemed like it would be easy enough to get rid of, it would just take time. And when FM decided to foster me, she knew I would be one that would take a lot of time. She had to get some medicine through her own vet for my trio of foster siblings as a preventative measure. Over the course of my treatment, they all itched somewhat more than usual but it went away very quickly.
I, on the other paw, itched intensely for a long time, and there wasn't much of a noticable difference until halfway through the treatment. In some of my pictures, you can see how my legs look brown (and they were taken after a bath, too). That's from the mange. My infamous "paws covering face & peeking out" pictures were actually taken during a time when my face also itched intensely and I had to scrub my face with my paws for relief. I chewed on my paws. I itched my ears. Some of my pictures also show a stark difference in color on my ears in comparison to the color of my head. This is also because of the mange. For awhile I also had no fur along the edges & tips of my ears -- FM could literally scrape off the thick accumulation (mange) all the way around my ears, and this was the best way to get that stuff off apart from the ivermectin treatments. In other words, I was one very, very itchy dog. One silly shelter worker, who I always saw on my trips to the shelter to see the vet, nicknamed me "itchy and scratchy".
During all of this, I got an upper respiratory infection. I didn't cough, but I had a steady stream of green snot coming out of my nose and leaving green dots all over my blankets. And when I'd lick my itchy legs, I'd leave a sticky mucus trail on them. Actually, that was the original reason FM took me to the shelter vet the day I got my mange diagnosis. But with some pills, it cleared up immediately.
At first, FM tried to keep me isolated from the other dogs. I was allowed free roam of the whole lower level, but was seperated from everyone else by a gate. I hated it. I whined and whimpered, and tried to climb the gate. After several days, FM finally decided that it was fruitless to stress me out this way. My emotional health was just as important as my physical health, and it was tearing me apart to not feel like a member of the family anymore. FM rationalized that Jasmine, Max, and Socks had already been exposed to the mange and the URI. They were also on treatment. If we were all on treatment, why was it so critical to still keep me away? So FM took that gate down, and I had a joyful reunion with my foster siblings, and snuggled with them on the couch immediately for a peaceful nap. FM never regretted that decision!
So in those 6 weeks of treatment, I finally started to pack on some pounds as well. My coat finally started to look good, and finally I wasn't itching at all and my coloring was how it was supposed to be. FM was feeding me five small meals throughout the day at first, and supplementing it with periodic doses of alfalfa and a raw egg about once a week. Finally I got to eating 3 one-cup meals everyday. But I'm really supposed to eat only 1.5 cups each day. I started out at only 25 pounds. I should weigh at least 40 or 45 pounds. I put on about 6 pounds rather quickly, and then in took much longer to put on an additional four. So I've gained 10 pounds in 3 months. FM says, in this last month I have been very active. Constantly chasing birds outside and leaping around, so maybe I've just been burning off so much energy.
So I learned how to go on walks. I really liked it. I was a puller, but I was up for however long of a walk FM wanted to go on. We even walked to a nearby fenced-in playground for an off-leash run. It would have been more fun if Jasmine was there with me. FM was going to bring us both there, but then whaddya know... the playground gets torn down!
FM helped me become completely potty trained. I had some accidents, but only because FM wasn't paying attention to me when I said "Hey, let me out already! I gotta go!"
I also learned (or rediscovered) how much fun it is to play. I loved to chase & wrestle with Jasmine. And FM was so happy that Jasmine loved to play with me, too. FM says I really helped her. When it was too cold or too rainy, FM would throw the kongs in the house and I would go get them and bring them back to the couch as fast as I could. And I would really leap on and off that couch. It was a good way to wear me out. And when spring time came around and I could chase the birds, FM also started to help me learn how to catch frisbees. Although I only learned how to jump up to grab it out of FM's hand, it was still a lot of fun.
I also learned how to "sit" and "down". I knew nothing about training. But I quickly learned my name, and with the help of a clicker, I learned both behaviors very quickly, and loved to show them off to people.
I was also a big cuddle bug. I wasn't afraid anymore (hadn't been afraid at all after the third day at my foster home!) and loved sitting on anyone's lap or snuggling in behind one of my foster siblings. I loved to be wherever everyone was, and loved to lean in FM's lap whenever she sat down.
So when I was finally healthy, it was time for the last thing before going out to adoption events: I had to get neutered! FM took me to the shelter's vets so that I could get all the vaccinations I needed, and was intending to just work out a date for my surgery. But they said they could do it the next morning! So FM left me over night at the shelter! The vet had to drag me through the door. I said I didn't want to go. But when FM came to pick me up, I walked right through the door on my own. And even though I was groggy and my eyes weren't so bright, I went right up to FM and crawled halfway into her lap and said "Thankdog you're here, now let's go home!".
We waited one week for the incision line to heal, and then we hit the adoption events. Just to sum things up, they didn't go very well. The first one had a lot of people oooing and aaahing over me, but that wasn't so for the next 3 events. Everyone said "He's so skinny! Just skin and bones!"... they don't know what real skin and bones is. Most people were knocked speechless when FM said that I was up 10 pounds from my original weight of 25.
Real "skin and bones" is when you can feel all the vertebrae of a dog's neck without even trying hard. It's when you think your dog's legs are deformed, when truly you are just seeing parts of the bone that are normally smooth and covered by muscle or fat. It's when a collar looks like a joke around their neck. It's when the spine sticks up so far, you are actually amazed when a strip of muscle starts to form on either side. It's when you wonder how the ears are attached to the head, because it doesn't seem like they even fit anywhere. It's when you can put a finger between each rib, even the ones in the very front, so much that your finger is level with the other rib bones.
It was hard to be at the adoption events when maybe only 5 people out of 50 were actually seriously looking. Hard to constantly hear the same phrases over and over again. Hard to hear the stories ("My friend's dog was really skinny too, but he gained 20 pounds in a month.") and to hear "Oh, he's too good, I'm sure someone will come take him home. He'll go really fast."
But I didn't go fast. And when you're hearing that phrase at your 4th 6-hour adoption event, it gets tiring. You just want to tell people that no one will ever be adopted if everyone keeps saying that exact same thing. More needs to be done!
But lucky for me, at adoption event #5, I found furever. And I couldn't be happier. FM is so amazed at the changes I've made, and knows that I will be so happy. I will have a couple people to bond closely with and be their loyal companion through life. I'll be their cuddle bug and their side-kick. I'll have a backyard, with a gate that connects to a beagle named Elvis' yard, and we're sure to have a lot of fun.
I'm literally hours away from going to that furever. I can't wait! It's all been worth it.
FM knows that she may have skinny fosters in the future, and while we won't all be exactly the same, she knows that my happy ending will keep her going. Right now she's working on Wiggle's emotional issues. And previously she had helped out Cole. That's three lives saved, and many lives enriched -- whether they are immediately effected or just hearing our stories, we hope they can make a difference for other dogs out there.
I'm the "hopeless case" that never was.
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