They weren’t littermates — or even the same breed — but when the pups now known as Sweet Rosalyn and Oh Marie were brought to a Missouri shelter two months ago, they looked identical. They wore the same pained expression on their bald and bleeding faces. Untreated demodectic mange had stolen their joy, but thanks to the folks at the Kennett Humane Department and Mac’s Mission, it didn’t take their lives. Now these two lucky dogs are looking for their forever homes.
“They’ve just evolved into beautiful girls,” says Rochelle Steffen, the director of Mac’s Mission. She pulled Rosalyn and Marie from the department after seeing photos of the dogs on Facebook.
“Rosalyn came into the shelter first. She couldn’t open her eyes, couldn’t hardly hold her head up. She couldn’t walk,” Rochelle recalls.
According to Rochelle, a second stray — 8-month-old Marie — was brought to the shelter a day or so after 5-month-old Rosalyn. The unfortunate pair looked more like stone gargoyles than puppies.
“You couldn’t even tell what they were,” says Rochelle. “The animal control officer had them both down as Pit Bulls, but Rosie is a Hound mix and Marie is a Shepherd mix.”
The disease obscuring Rosalyn and Marie’s true identities hid them behind a wall of offensive odor and oozing sores. An experienced rescuer, Rochelle has taken in plenty of dogs others deemed too gross by others — but even she was taken aback by their condition.
“The smell was pretty atrocious,” she recalls. “You couldn’t touch them without their skin cracking open, falling off, and bleeding.”
Both dogs were suffering not only from demodectic mange, but also from secondary infections. The infection in Rosalyn’s eyes basically sealed them shut, and Marie’s ears were so infected the vet had to flush them multiple times just to begin treatment. Even with appropriate medical care started, the girls were initially in too much pain to partake in usual dog activities.
“They had just pretty much given up on life. All they wanted was to just sit in your lap,” Rochelle remembers. “We just let them sit in our laps — and then we bleached our clothes and washed the blood out.”
When a human lap wasn’t available, the nearly naked pair turned to each other for warmth. As the days turned into weeks, their skin and their spirits healed.
“It’s really kind of remarkable how fast [they recovered]. Once their skin healed from the wounds and the blisters and the sores and infection, their hair came back dramatically,” Rochelle explains.
With the physical recovery underway, Mac’s Mission helped the girls learn how to be regular dogs. Rochelle says leash lessons were challenging at first, but eventually, both pups found their stride.
“Once they felt better — and it only took a few weeks — they became the most personable, happy, goofiest dogs you’ve ever met. They’re both treat motivated, they both like to dig in the yard. They’re just goofy girls.”
Rochelle hopes to see the pups (who were named after song titles by former Kennett, Missouri, resident Sheryl Crow) soaking up the sun in their own backyards soon. She says although bonded, the youngsters would do equally well if adopted together or separately.
“They’re really good dogs and just the perfect size — they’re both around 30 pounds. Whoever gets them is going to have some really good dogs.”
Marie and Rosalyn’s battle with mange has a happy ending, but many dogs with the same condition are not as lucky. Often, dogs with severe mange are euthanized in shelters, but it doesn’t have to be that way.
According to Rochelle, the medication to treat Marie and Rosalyn’s mange only costs around $50 each, plus an additional $20 or $30 for eye and ear drops. Rochelle says it’s not actually too expensive to help a dog with mange — you just have to commit and get over the smell.
“All these dogs needed was a kennel, some time, and some love, and they’re going to [be for] somebody the best pet they’ve ever had.”