At the suggestion of my neighbour who has had a couple of shelter pups over the years, she thought a pup might be good company for someone on their own. During my married life we always had purebred animals, and they had an abundantly good home and lived many years. Once on my own, and missing my dog terribly, I vowed not to have a dog again. I did have my purebred flat face Persian crème cat but she too, for several years, missed her dog. I could just tell. But I said no more dogs. It's just too hard when they go.
So, one day recently just on a whim I went by the shelter at Williams Parkway and Chrysler Drive. Just to investigate. Chances of finding something I would take home, I figured, were slim to none. I'd never been to the animal shelter before. It was about 3:30 in the afternoon, and I had finished my business for the afternoon, found myself nearby and popped in to check things out, wondering whether my neighbour's advice was so good or not. Much to my surprise the place was very clean and didn't even smell like a vet's office. No undesirable smells in the entrance or inside. There was a very large "cat room" near the front office, where the animals were free roaming and playing to their heart's content. Everything very clean there, too.
Staff was pleasant and accommodating. Another woman was waiting to view dogs, so we spoke briefly and I inquired if I could go wherever she was going, to view dogs, at the same time. She was waiting for an attendant guide. Off we go to the dog-area. Very large cages with cement floors, doors that opened into the building hallway, and on the other side, each tall, separate open-wire cage area was open-vented to the outside, so the dogs could see out but not get out; although they couldn't see each other, they could hear one another. There may have been a dozen cages side by side. There were few dogs to see, I was told. Nothing in particular to speak about, and the guide proceeded to direct me outside through a side door, through the laundry room, so I could view the dogs from the open-air side of the kennels.
Now I was at the outside side of the cages, where from a sidewalk one could view all the dogs being offered new homes, one by one. Pass by cage one. Rusty red-coloured playful young dog with happy-eyes, jumping up and down. Seemed to be some sort of spaniel mix. Nice happy face and seemed to be clean looking, but no bells went off in my head. But then again I wasn't expecting bells to go off. Next, a Shepherd mix large dog, and then another large mixed breed of some sort, a little aggressive in nature. Still no bells were going off, except I was impressed by how clean everything was. And then it happened. I suppose one could say love at first site. Perhaps it is always this way. One either connects or one does not, just like in real-life.
I had always had a latent desire to own a crème-colour Cocker Spaniel. I had even subconsciously visualized finding one at the shelter. I mean I really had pictured what was right before my eyes. Whoa! Was I in for a shock. A throwback to my childhood when a brother who was twenty-two years my senior (sort of like an uncle), had a purebred show dog Cocker. Then he got married. A few years later they had twins, and the dog had to go. The dog had become extremely possessive of the twins, and no one could come near because he would bite. So they found a good home for him where he could be the center of attention that he had always been.
There, right before my eyes, in the cage was what appeared to be a purebred Cocker. Crème-colour, no less, with those big droopy ears and sad, sad eyes. Looked about as perfect as a dog could be, I'm thinking to myself. Who, pray tell, could give up this special looking God's creature. Must be a story here someplace, I'm thinking almost out loud; the girl kept giving me funny looks that sort of said, what ARE you looking for; you are an odd candidate for an adoption; you seem to be so specific (due to the questions I was asking, ones that had no answers); we don't deal in specifics I could almost hear her say. The dog did not jump, just sort of sat there looking pathetic and seemed to be thinking, and relaying those thoughts to me - Me, too? I'm here. You do see me, don't you? How about Moi? Could anyone possibly love me? I've just been left here and no one cares. Just look at me. Aren't I special, and aren't I just a tired looking mess? I'm almost clean, but no one really cares about me, if I live or die. Such a depressed looking pair of eyes. I could swear she had be crying.
I asked the guide girl if she had a leash. She asked did I want to walk the dog. I told her no, I wanted "her" to walk the dog. I wanted to watch. I needed to see, by standing back, how the dog behaved outside the kennel cage. Off she went to fetch a lead and a collar, telling me this dog had never worn a collar. Hmmm. Now something really strange was going on here. She had no problem putting the collar on. No problem attaching the lead. No problem walking. The pup almost trotted along beside the girl as she walked the pup along the sidewalk located on the north side of the compound. She asked again if I wanted to walk the pup, and this time I indicated my surprise at how well behaved this animal was, and I took the lead. Again, no problem. Walks nicely, sits nicely. Listens to "sit," stay and such. Hmmmmm! Again. My love is growing and my heart is beating out of my body. Should I? Have I gone completely mad? How would mature "Cat" who "owns her house," appreciate a pal in the house, again?
Then the guide told me such a sad story. No, I couldn't adopt this dog, even if I wanted to. Certainly not today, and quite possibly not at all. The pup had been there for ten days, and they were still trying to assess her situation fully. I was to understand she suffered from a major situation called Separation Anxiety, and had another "situation" they weren't sure how to deal with: submissive urination, and I was told this often cannot be modified any which way. She pee'd "everywhere she went," leaving a puddle trail en route constantly, the girl told me. The staff was forever mopping up behind her no matter where she was. Then the girl said Cocker's often do this out of excitement, but there was something more than excitement going on with that pup. They didn't know exactly what. My first thought was that perhaps the pup had a bladder infection of some sort, and the girl confirmed that they had, that morning, decided to give her antibiotics to see if that would help. Thank heavens. I felt annoyed that this had not been considered in the previous ten days, if in fact the pee-ing routine had been going on that long. I was told that with all the excitement living in the shelter and not knowing exactly what was going on, it was to be expected of some dogs, and often happened. Others suffered from this situation permanently, and many could not be re-trained or trained out of that behaviour that had become part of their persona, and Cockers in particular seemed to suffer from anxiety disorder and the urinating factor, combined.
Another oddity. She didn't want to eat. They put out food but she was not having an appetite for it. Of course no one apparently had inquired as to what she previously had been fed, when her owner dropped her into the shelter, I discovered later. Guess the owner didn't think to tell the shelter, and the intake person had not recorded any information about food. Then another oddity. In the whole ten days she had not barked, not once. My question was had she perhaps been de-barked. Apparently not, according to the guide girl, who was filling in for another woman who had had to leave early that day. So, next I am informed that until some technician could evaluate all these situations, and an even worse "situation," this pup was staying put; going nowhere, except maybe to sleep, permanently.
By now I knew, I didn't know what exactly was wrong with this animal, but I was going to have her, and take care of all eventualities somehow. Next on the "list" of situations to be dealt with, the girl pointed out to me that the pup had something called "cherry eye" apparently common among Cocker Spaniels, and even if removed, could reappear and they would not know exactly to what extent the damage had been done and not repaired in the year this animal had lived with the malformation of the tissue. There was a rather substantial bulging growth in the inner corner of her eye, somehow associated with a tear duct malformation. Later I would learn that when this happens, a vet likes to push the tissue back, but with this pup, the tissue had to be removed since scar tissue had formed preventing any other relief. Again, she told me Cockers often have this.
Such a long list of "situations." Hmmm. Love or not, did I really want this dog? If I were to be able to adopt her, would I be the right person to give her the care she needed? Was this a smart decision on my part? No, I was told they could not promise not to give her to someone else, once a formal decision to proceed had been made. They don't "hold" dogs, overnight or otherwise, once a decision is made that the animal is "adoptable." But the girl thought there was a strong possibility they would put this dog to sleep, mostly due to so many things on the list of what-if's. Not the least of which was the would-be cost of her eye surgery. Make that surgeries. They had been quoted $1300-$1500 to remove the cherry eye growth, and the vet didn't know what he would find when he operated, exactly, and could not reassure the staff that he would not find more trouble during the surgery and/or that the pup would require permanent administration of antibiotics or other medications, and then there was the need for her to be spayed immediately. Feeling this was too big a financial burden to be dealt with, better they likely should just put her down, I was told.
I left, feeling a big hole in my heart, wondering if my decision to drop in to check things out had been a not-smart one, and not sure exactly how to proceed, or what I could personally do or say to influence the shelter decision-making process. The next day, early, I contacted the shelter again, and spoke to the decision-making woman who was missing from the office when I was there in person. She reassured me that the pup was still there, and set about trying to be helpful as to how the situation could be resolved for me to take ownership. It didn't look possible. And, no, if a decision was made that day to put the pup up for adoption, they could not guarantee that I could be the one to take her; not how the "system" operates.
We had a long conversation, and this wonderful woman spent even her own time, trying to sort out the situation as to how not to put down this pup. She was obviously a beautiful animal, but one full of a long list of needs and eventualities, it seemed. The situation did not look hopeful. In the interim, I engaged my own vet in a conversation as to costs and likelihood of having this animal, and getting her into a healthy state. I learned all sorts of things. Not the least of which was that both surgeries together could be done by my own vet for about $450. plus or minus, and the required blood work and follow-up costs. Medications if required, etc. But, all this was nothing like the figures the shelter noted. So back to the phones and the Shelter woman. She, too, had done some investigating. No. I could not be permitted to have my own vet do the surgeries. But, a miracle was in the works. She had discovered something in the Hope Fund. Not only would the Hope Fund cover the necessary surgeries, but it would cover the medications as well, but only if I became a foster care mother to the dog, until it was discovered if she had even further problems that needed discussion. They still would not agree to let me adopt her, permanently.
Ok. They would let me take her home to "test the water," and see from there how to further evaluate everything. I could have her for ten days. I could bring her back any time at all. I should not worry. Just bring her back. They would have her ready the next day. They would even give her a bath, but they didn't have much to work with, so that didn't amount to much more than a water bath, like a hose-ing down. She smelled awful. Doggy body odour. Not nice. Hmmm. What was I doing? What was I getting myself into?
So, off I went to buy a crate for car-travel. A leash, food bowl and water bowl, narrow deep ones, so her long floppy ears wouldn't be in them. At the suggestion of the Shelter woman, I also went to a local shop to pick up a variety of food she noted, to try, and she gave me a bag of assorted samples to take home, along with a couple of toys the pup seemed to like. Of course I couldn't resist a couple of stuffed animals to chew on, and small box of "training treats" to fill the people-need. Mine. I intended to train her. Immediately. Right from the get-go.
Knowing how important it is for any dog to know who is the boss (the order of things established by wolves), I needed this pup to know right from the get-go that I was the boss, regardless of how much loving was going on.
First things first. I brought her home and my neighbour's well-behaved Shitshu older dog who has never been on a lead, welcomed my pup in our mutual driveway. By now we had established that my dog would be called "Me-too." I asked the Shelter woman to register her that way, so a new name would come with all the new surroundings. So many changes, might as well have a new name, too. I chose that name based on the mental discussion that took place between me and the pup the first time I saw her.
And lo and behold, Me-too, immediately, FOUND HER VOICE! The biggest bark one could imagine, from a small dog. Big woof, woof, woof. And a major growl. Back off or I will show you all who is the boss and it isn't any of you, she seemed to announce. But a few minutes into this show, everyone calmed down and Me-too came into her new house. Territorial rights were being established. Next day, my neighbour's friend who owns a dog shampoo and beauty shop agreed to book Me-too in for a complete bath and beauty treatment, and to be clipped entirely. They did a great job (that must be career madness, knowing the best trim for each breed), and when I picked Me-too up, she almost appeared to be smiling from all the attention, and she was ready for a photography session if asked, complete with a flowered bandana tied around her neck and a big gift bow, and a report card that said she was a Paw-fect angel. What a beautiful dog! all the staff said, over and over again. And they asked: are you sure you got her from the pound? Just couldn't be so.
But later that night, howling began, in earnest. Howling such as no one had ever heard. Like a wolf howling at the moon. Happened in the house, outside in the yard, seemingly just out of the blue, and with no apparent pattern. I feared she might be in pain. But she didn't seem to be, and stopped when told to do so; seemed this was an attention-getting device; but one that no one could tolerate. Over and over, it started up again. Then there was the Separation Anxiety thing to deal with. I couldn't leave the room, or go to open the garage, or even to the bathroom. The howling was just mournful. It wasn't barking, it was just an awful disruptive tone. I thought for sure this might be the reason her owner had delivered her to the Shelter in the first place. It seemed uncontrollable. But love surely can cure all. You would never recognize this dog, in just the few weeks that have passed so far. No more howling, just occasional barking now when she hears unfamiliar sounds, or sees someone walking on the property. I wouldn't give her up for a million dollars.
The surgery was booked for the following week, through the Shelter. I had to return Me-too, in her crate by 8 a.m. and she, along with other candidates, would be driven thirty miles away to the vet who would be doing Shelter-surgeries that day. The shelter would then keep her for three days following surgery because she needed to wear the big white collar to prevent her from chewing at her stitches, and then I could take her home again.
When I went to collect her at the Shelter, it was pretty obvious that she was the cream of the crop. It seemed everyone could do anything with this dog. They all were in love with her. She was so well-behaved, and went in and out of her crate with her mattress-bed inside. Turned around, sat down with her big floppy paws over the edge of the mattress. What a changed animal. No one could believe it. She ate. She asked to go out when needed, and no one would have ever guessed she had had two major surgeries at once only a few days prior. She was a whole new dog. I had to look close to make sure this was the sad-eyes pup of less than a week before.
Me-too knows she lives in a house with RULES! Aside from getting the howling under control eventually, and the occasional bout of barking for no apparent reason (she must hear something I cannot hear, I think). She has nearly full run of the house, but not entirely. No bedroom visits. Have never had dogs on the beds. I don't believe in that, largely for sanitary reasons. She stops at the bathroom door and has never invited herself in there. She understands "go pee, hurry-up, sit, stay, come NOW, take the baby to bed, among other commands, and she walks right by the cat's full water dish to her own, on another level, four stairs down. She knows "that" dish is not hers.
She has had her "my vet" visits and her shots, her ears investigated and medication prescribed. I live in a multi-level home, and she has a bed on each level and knows she never goes near the furniture, but she did take over the cat's bed by the fireplace. A little small for her, and she discovered how comfy it is, but I couldn't fault her for that, because at least she never goes on the furniture. No inside "accidents," doesn't like the doorbell, or the tv phones that ring on programs or their doorbells, eats twice a day, sleeps entirely through the night in her own bed, midway down the upper hall to the bedroom area. She knows she cannot go past the half-way spot in the hall. She puts her head on her stuffed baby, and sleeps in that position until morning when I re-enter the hall. She has three babies, one of which she prefers when I say "take the baby to bed" at bedtime. In the morning she gets fed before she goes out for her morning business around eight a.m. She does her last business around 9 pm, and although she goes out one more time before bed, often around 11 pm, she seems to think that is play-time rather than pee time. Maybe cause there's nothing there to come out.
Me-too is such a success story, that she really deserves special treatment. I think she knows that she is one lucky dog, just for starters that she was allowed to live. I have stayed in touch with the Shelter woman who did the final adoption papers (finally they did let me officially adopt her), and she tells me this was meant to be. Me-too nearly shares my birthday as well; just two days apart. She has been trimmed twice, every 4-5 weeks when she goes to the groomer. They love her, and have volunteered to take her off my hands, permanently. Not on your life.
She is not crazy about riding in the car in her own seatbelt, but she suffers through it and relieves herself as soon as I take her out of the car. She has an amazing "holding capacity." Since she has adopted me, I think she will keep me, and I will definitely be keeping her. When I thought I might not be able to keep her due to the howling situation, I had several neighbours tell me not to worry about it, but that if I felt it necessary to part company with Me-too, everyone of them would fight over keeping her themselves. Several offered to babysit and walk her if I couldn't at some point in time.
Such a story. Just goes to show that the Shelter is a good place, and they try very hard to do the right thing. They work particularly hard to evaluate would-be adoptive parents so that animals will go to a good home that is a good match, not to just any new home. They tell me this was a match made in Heaven. By the way, I believe when animals die, they do go to Heaven. I have several there already.
Most important training book ever written: you MUST get a copy; called "The LOVED DOG." It is written by a trainer for dogs owned by Hollywood stars and ordinary people. Tamar Geller travels the world, and gets amazing results in just hours, totally pain free, with no fear involved. The author was an Israeli military person who didn't like the way she saw dogs being trained and felt that there just had to be a better way. So she opened her own business. By following her advice, I turned this pup into a major prizewinner within hours, quite literally. Truly so. I told the Shelter woman that no one should be allowed to adopt a pet without proof that they had read this book, and a promise that they would follow the guidelines in it. I was very very serious. Should be mandatory reading for all pet owners.
If you can, make a donation today, to your local Shelter. It really is a good thing. I had no idea, so I suspect there are others like me, who, if they knew, would participate in the goings on at their local Shelter, too. They need you. Because of the caring and help of the Shelter woman, and her intuitiveness as to whether or not I would be the right home for Me-too, Me-too is alive and well, today. Me-too says thank-you, and so do I. Along with the fees required, I made a generous donation to the Hope Fund. Maybe you can find it in your heart to do so, also. If only I had known then, what I know now.
Your local Brampton Shelter can be reached at 905-458-5200. If you have extra dog food, new dog or cat toys, or crates and such, they can always put these to good use. The people who work there are truly special. Special thanks to Cara for all her help. And, thank goodness, Me-too's prior owner had the good sense, when he realized he could not look after this pup, to take her to the shelter. Not all dogs have such a happy ending to their story, but if he happens to read this, I say thank you, and Me-too woofs her approval. She is one "LOVED DOG!" and a smart one too. Definitely a no-trouble dog, and worth every penny spent to save her life. It was just meant to be.
When I first adopted Me-too, I had to get her to a groomer pronto, for a bath. She had had her surgeries, and she still smelled like dead fish.
No wonder infections can run rampant if dogs at the pounds/shelters are not given a bath. Apparently there are no "hygiene funds," and the shelter gal had tried, by rinsing her down.
So for several months her grooming had kept the "smell" away. When at the regular vet visits (I had moved, so more than one Vet had reviewed this pup), I had inquired about her bum area and her lower belly area. You see Me-too is a cream color cocker, and she has particularly beautiful fur because she eats only really good (right) food with lots of vitamins (makes for really great fur).
What I had inquired about was "black skin" that showed through the thinner fur in those particular areas. The answer I got repeatedly was the same, each time I asked. Just like some people have skin that varies in color sometimes, according to pigment variations, animals have this also. Think of it like a birthmark area. Okay.
But one day last October, Me-too returned from the groomer all fresh and squeaky clean, about 4:30 pm. I noticed a little fishy fragrance on the way home in the car, but thought perhaps it was just my imagination. By 5:30 pm I couldn't get near her for the wicked smell. AWFUL! I called the groomer and they said bring her back, maybe her anal glands were dispersing fluid leftovers. Another bath. But the smell reappeared. Really awful.
She is such an amazing dog. She has never pee'd in the house. She still sleeps outside my bedroom door, in the hall. Early in the morning she vomited and had diarrhea, just running dark water. I cleaned her up and cleaned up the mess. She had not cried or showed any sign of discontent. She didn't seem to be in pain.
My vet was not open. Fortunately I had kept an ad in a city magazine from a housecall vet, in my new town. I called. He came right away. An older fellow, he squatted down on the floor in the foyer and gently rolled Me-too over on her back, poking here and there; he was grimacing and saying hmmmmm! several times. Took a look at the specific areas, and shook his head. I had tears in my eyes. His expression was grave. I sensed this was very serious.
He poked around her belly. She never whimpered or made any signs of discomfort known. She is beyond amazing. All I could do was watch. She doesn't like most men; it seems the fellow who had brought her to the shelter might have beaten her, they thought perhaps. When strange workman arrive at my house, she just sits and shakes violently. But with him she was very submissive. Animals know when you are trying to help them.
Back to the Vet. As he sat on the floor talking to Me-too, he said he had some very bad news as he reached into his medical bag and produced a syringe, telling me that "this" will either kill her or cure her, and she will likely, if she survives this, be on medication for the rest of her life. WHAT ??? He gave her a shot in the foreground area of her right hip. Still no adverse reaction, just this unbelieveable dead fish smell. So, then he began to explain what the problem was, telling me that lucky I called him because he was a farm vet, used to looking after horses and other farm animals. And, the what he knew to be the problem was not even taught today in veterinary medicine to any great degree, if at all. The young new vets would never have known how to diagnose this problem.
Me-too had FLESH-EATING disease. He said it would take several weeks to know if she was going to survive, and wrote an expensive prescription. And told me to give her children's diarrhea medicine to control that issue. So off to the pharmacy to get that prescription filled. About a week later, when I was patting her, just in front of her right hip I noticed a soft tissue growth just under the skin, about the size of large egg, but a little flatter. It was late evening and I cried myself to sleep that night. She had been through so much, and you could do ANYTHING with this dog. She never snarls or grabs or snaps or bites, and never chews anything (she has plenty of chew toys and when I go out, when I return she always brings me one of her babies).
So the next morning I called the farm vet again. As soon as I described the growth like protrusion, he knew immediately what it was. He described it back to me again. Yes. Exactly. Of course by now I was in tears again. This is where I gave her the injection. Yes. That made sense. Of course. What was it? The medication is designed to coagulate into this shape so as not to enter the system all at once. He said he gave her enough to kill the average HORSE. WHAT??? But that is what he had had to do to save her life. Like he had said it would either kill her or cure her. She would have to take her pills for eight weeks and then may require a repeat, and might have to be on medication for the rest of her life.
By the time the first batch of medicine was nearly finished, I got the repeat. She has shown no signs of further problems, but some of the black skin was there; not much, just a little bit. Perhaps my prayers were being answered. When her medicine was finished, the black skin was all gone. The Vet had explained that this black skin was ROTTING FLESH, just beneath the surface of the fur. By now I had had Me-too for a year and a half.
NO ONE had discovered the problem, even so I had repeatedly asked. THIS non-knowledge by more than one Vet could have cost Me-too's life. I was more than a little bit annoyed. Poor dog. SHE HAD HAD THIS FLESH-EATING DISEASE WHEN I FIRST ADOPTED HER, a year and a half earlier; lots of time for this bad stuff to grow and invade her little body, and she had smelled like dead fish then. WHY didn't anyone know what that dead fish smell was? I suppose we were both lucky they hadn't found it. If you read my first story, you would know I had a fight on my hands to get to take her home initially. They simply saw the FIX as putting her to sleep even then. For sure they would have completed that task, had they even suspected FLESH-EATING DISEASE.
She has been fine ever since, but the Vet gave specific instructions that no groomer was ever to use CLIPPERS on her fur EVERY AGAIN. She has to be trimmed ONLY using scissors. Just prior to that "attack" the groomer (a different one who promptly got FIRED) had cut her badly in her lower belly area. I had taken her to the vet who prescribed a gel like product to put on the cuts. It would seem that the surface healed alright, but perhaps reactivated the old flesh eating disease.
YOU JUST CANNOT BE TOO CAREFUL. If you love your animal and you ask questions, keep on asking. Do not take the first vet's opinion. We just can't take those kinds of chances. Not ever again. I love her so very much. I try hard to take good care of her. She is so lucky she came to live with me. And of course I am more lucky that Me-too came to live with me.
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