You may have noticed some long-overdue changes to our blog. Though we never intended to keep him, Phee has been a permanent member of our family for over 2 months now.
Our journey with Phee started as any other foster does – a bridge to his forever home. And though we kept trying to convince ourselves that he was not ours to keep, he made it quite clear that he wasn’t going anywhere. Eventually, he wore us down. ;)
At the end of March, Phee underwent cataract removal surgery, which was a great success. He was able to see again and we were preparing for his adoption.
In April and May, we met with two different families who were interested in adopting him, but neither ended up working out.
Unfortunately, with cataract surgery often comes complications – one of which can be damage to the cornea. Twice since his surgery, Phee developed an ulcer in his left eye, but each time it had healed. Then at the end of May, the eye developed a melting ulcer. Over 70% of his cornea had been dissolved in just 2 days, causing extreme pain and the potential for a rupture of the eye. It couldn’t have been worse timing, as we had to travel to see my brother get married the following week. Phee stayed with another SNORT volunteer while we were gone, who did everything she could to help save the eye, but it was not meant to be. He ended up having his eye removed while we were away.
During his time away from us, he was inconsolable and cried almost non-stop. When he came home, he flopped down on our bed, belly-up, and snored for hours. We finally understood that this was his HOME. We knew we could never put him through that type of transition again and so he officially became the third member of our Boston brigade.
Our journey with Phee has taken a very long, winding and bumpy road, but it led us to the right place in the end. Phee has come so far in the past 8 months. He has taught me that no matter how bad things look, there’s always hope for a brighter tomorrow. He’s taught me never to give up, even when someone tells you that all is lost. Despite all he’s been through, he is the happiest, sweetest boy. He’s a true testament of perseverance and optimism.
I will admit that during the hard times I wondered if we did the right thing for Phee by choosing to save him, in spite of the vet warning us that he was a lost cause… But every single day, I see Phee’s gratitude in the crazy wiggle of his bum when he greets me at the door or feel it in the gentle kisses he gives me when we cuddle. I saw a spark in him that December day and that spark has grown into a fire that warms my heart day in and day out.
My deepest wish is that Phee’s story will inspire people to look past the sick and injured shell that some shelter dogs have become and see the potential underneath. And I truly hope people will come to understand that a pet with differences – like diabetes, blindness, deafness, or paralysis – can lead a completely happy, fulfilling life.
I put together a video of Phee’s recovery photos. I hope you enjoy watching it as much as I have enjoyed being a part of it!
SNORT – Short Noses Only Rescue Team is an all-volunteer rescue based in the Northeast US. Our purpose is to rescue French Bulldogs, Boston Terriers, Pugs, and English Bulldogs, as well as mixes of those breeds, from shelters and owners who can no longer keep them, and place them into loving homes. We believe all dogs should be given a chance at life and a fair evaluation of their behavioral issues.
On December 1, 2012, SNORT was notified that an emaciated Boston Terrier named “Oreo” was on the list for euthanization at the NY Animal Care & Control facility in Manhattan. I immediately said I would foster him. SNORT made the call for him to be pulled from the shelter and a transport was arranged.
The following day, my husband and I drove an hour to meet another volunteer and take custody of “Oreo”. When I first laid eyes on this precious boy, I honestly could not believe that he was even alive. To say his condition was shocking is an understatement. He was not just emaciated – he had lost most of his fur, had a swollen, infected eye and he was unable to hold his bowels. We’ve all seen photos of animal neglect, but to see it in person – to touch it – to smell it – the feeling of his pain in my heart was almost unbearable. He was truly at death’s door.
We wrapped him in a clean blanket and took him into our car. I held him on my lap for the hour-long ride home.. and I cried. I sobbed for him and what he’d been through. And then I made him a promise that he would be loved and treated with kindness for as long as he was alive, no matter how long that was.
When we got him home, we bathed him and treated his eye with ointment. His skin was raw and inflamed. You could see and feel every bone on his tiny little body. His nails had obviously never been trimmed and were so long and gnarly that they curled under his toes. He was so frail that he could barely keep his legs beneath him as he stood. He reminded me of Bambi on ice – slipping and sliding on the vinyl of our kitchen floor.
It quickly became apparent that this was more than just a case of neglect. This dog was gravely ill. Feces was leaking out of him continuously. He refused food, but drank bowls full of water. He would stare off into space as if he were on another planet. I honestly wasn’t sure he would make it through the night and if he did, what was left of him that could be recovered?
I set up camp on the couch, with “Oreo’s” puppy-pad-covered bed on the floor next to me. He was restless, unable to get comfortable. He was very concerned at the fact that he was making a “mess” with his leaking bottom, so he attempted to clean up after himself. I scooped him up and wrapped his bottom in a puppy pad. I held him and rocked him through the night.. until he finally sighed, laid his head on my shoulder and gave in to the feeling that he was safe. It is a moment I will never forget as long as I live. I felt him release the weight of his world on my shoulders. And again I promised he would be loved and treated with kindness. Forever.
The next day, I brought him to the vet to determine what, if any, underlying issues he had that would be causing his condition. He was diagnosed with diabetes, which would require daily insulin shots for the remainder of his life. The vet said he was too far gone and was against treating him at all, stating “I don’t understand why anyone would want to save a dog like this! No one will ever want to adopt him, even if he does survive!” I felt a red-hot anger welling up inside me and exclaimed “THEN HE WILL JUST STAY WITH ME FOREVER!” I had promised him that – love and kindness – for the rest of his life.
From the exam room, I called the rescue coordinator for SNORT, but could not speak through the tears that were pouring from my eyes. I handed the phone to the veterinary assistant who explained the situation and the decision was made to do everything we could to give this boy a chance at recovery.
“Oreo” was renamed Phoenix, in reference to a mythical bird that obtains new life by rising from the ashes of its former self – and Phoenix was about to be reborn. December 2, 2012 was the first day of the rest of Phoenix’s life.
Without hesitation, I began giving him insulin shots that night. I diapered him and cleaned his wounds. I applied ointment and drops to his eyes many, many times daily. At first, he fought me and bit me, but slowly he began to heal, both physically and emotionally. A new dog was emerging from beneath the scared, broken shell he had been. He began not just to trust me, but to love me.. and the feeling was mutual.
We quickly found a new veterinarian who was more understanding of our situation and helped us to get his diabetes regulated. I spent hours upon hours reading about diabetes. I joined online support groups for caregivers of pets with diabetes. I spent every waking moment trying to understand this very confusing and often frustrating disease. Finally, after 2 months, his glucose levels were normal and we found our stride.
Phee (as he’s now affectionately known) suffered a setback with a UTI in January and a URI in February, but has made a recovery that has been nothing short of miraculous. He has gained back over 50% of his original body weight and has regrown most of his fur. His eye has mended, though he was diagnosed with KCS (dry eye) and will require daily eye drops for the rest of his life. But most importantly, he’s regained his spirit and has become a joyful, bubbly, affectionate little man that anyone would be very lucky to have as part of their family.
During the last 3 months, the first veterinarian’s words became stuck in my head and I came to believe that, due to his medical conditions, no one other than me would want him. So I allowed myself to fall in love with him. For many weeks, I considered keeping him as my own. But unbeknownst to me, a lovely couple with two Boston Terriers of their own had been following Phee’s story from the time he’d been listed as “URGENT” on the shelter’s facebook page. As soon as he was listed as available, they applied to adopt him. My heart skipped a beat and I felt the tears well up and pour down my face. As a foster mom, I knew this day could come, but I had never imagined it could come so soon. I cried for days, but when I think back to that time when Phee first came to me, I know how important it is that I let him go. Another dog will need me soon.
He will be leaving me in just a few days, but I will never forget him. I made a promise to him and I intend to keep it. My sweet boy, you will be loved and treated with kindness – FOREVER.
Update: June 2013 – Since this post, Phoenix developed diabetes-induced cataracts in both eyes and lost his sight. He remained with us as a foster and had surgery to remove the cataracts. His sight was restored, but as a complication of the surgery, he developed a deep corneal ulcer, which refused to heal. Two months after his cataract surgery, he had a second surgery to remove his left eye. We had met with two different couples who were interested in adopting him, but neither ended up working out. After his eye removal in May, we decided to make him a permanent member of our family. We officially adopted Phee on June 2. I guess, in the end, I came to realize that the only one who could keep my promise to love him and treat him with kindness FOREVER was ME.
See LuLu + Wally + Phee = Three! to view our adoption video!
To learn more about how you can help by volunteering, fostering, adopting or donating, please visit www.SNORTRescue.org.
And please remember:
If you can’t adopt, FOSTER.
If you can’t foster, SPONSOR.
If you can’t sponsor, VOLUNTEER.
If you can’t volunteer, DONATE.
If you can’t donate, EDUCATE – NETWORK – CROSSPOST.
Everyone can do something, large or small, to help save a life!
Hey, did we smell a treat?!
Phoenix is our new foster. He was pulled from a high-kill shelter in Manhattan on December 1.
He has significant health issues that he is recovering from at this time.
You can read more about Phee here: