Pet Education

A Promise to My Foster Dog

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.

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A walking skeleton.

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.

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Emaciated and exhausted.

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.

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Phee’s first bath in his foster home.

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.

Finally letting go of the weight of his world.

Finally letting go of the weight of his world.

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.

Phee's little diapered hiney.

Phee’s little diapered hiney.

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.

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Finding comfort in the arms of The Man.

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!

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From the ashes of his former self, a new life is born.

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Wally, The Woman, Phee and LuLu


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!

191/365: Important Words

Hey friends, Lu here.  I know the Woman usually writes this stuff, but I have something really important to say.  Yesterday, the Woman learned the importance of teaching us people words. I accidentally backed out of my harness when we were walking, then I heard the Woman say the word “Stay”. Because she’s practiced that word with me over and over again, I knew not to move a muscle. She put my harness back on me and gave me lots of kisses and we got to finish our walk. I’m SO lucky I knew what that word meant! What if I didn’t know and thought it was ok for me to run away?! I might have gotten lost or hurt! Make sure your people teach you the important words, like STAY, COME and LEAVE IT.  And always remember to be a good student and tilt your head so they know you’re listening!  xoxo ~ LuLu

If your people don’t know how to teach you words yet, here are some great videos on a few of the most important words you should know:

Oh what a night!

Sunday was a lovely day.  The weather was perfect – not too hot – a nice breeze blowing – just right for an evening walk with the dogs.  It was 7:45pm and we took the dogs around the block for our normal walk, which is about 1/4 mile.  Both dogs happily trotted along, leaving their pee-mail in the usual areas.

When we got home, I removed the dogs’ harnesses and we went outside to the deck to take down our pop-up canopy for the night.  As my husband fiddled with something, I caught sight of Lu jumping off the deck into the yard.  She was rushing to Wally, who was laying on the grass.  At first, I thought she was playing, but then I noticed she was licking Wally’s face and seemed concerned.  I called Wally and noticed he was completely out of it, so I ran over to him.  I tried to get him to stand, but he couldn’t.

I carried him onto the deck and did a once-over.  I was concerned that maybe he’d injured his back, since he wasn’t able to stand, but then I noticed that his tongue and gums were stark white and he was drooling.  I yelled to my husband to call the emergency vet and tell them we were coming.   We ran inside and Wally vomited once in the kitchen.  His gums and tongue were still white and he was heaving and panting.

We got in the car and started driving to the emergency clinic.  Wally was panting and listless.  He vomited twice in the car and appeared to be trying to poop, but nothing was coming out.  This made me wonder if he had an obstruction.  He does get into things, so it would not have surprised me in the least.

By the time we arrived at the emergency clinic half an hour later, Wally’s tongue and gums had pinked up again and he became alert and aware of his surroundings.  Since he was stable, we were no longer an “emergency” case and we waited over an hour and a half to be seen.  It was 10pm by the time we were escorted to an exam room.

Once we were in the exam room, the vet suggested that it sounded like an episode of vasovagal syncope (a loss of consciousness caused by a sudden drop in heart rate and blood pressure, which reduces blood flow to the brain) or possibly even a seizure, but she would do x-rays to rule out an obstruction.  She also did an ECG to rule out heart problems and bloodwork to test for infection or inflammation.

The results of the x-rays came back normal, but Wally’s liver enzymes were extremely elevated.  His ALT was 1680 u/l (normal is less than 100) and his AST was 1720 u/l (normal is less than 50).   She said it could be indicative of any number of things – liver failure, pancreatitis, leptosporosis, Cushings disease and a whole list of other problems.

She felt he should stay overnight and said she was “very concerned” about him.   By the time we received the results, it was already 1:00 am and we felt it was better to take him home and have him see our regular vet a few hours later.  They gave him subcutaneous fluids and told us that for the next couple of days we should feed Wally a bland diet of boiled rice with boiled chicken or boiled ground beef.  She also sent us home with two antibiotics and a liver protectant medication.  We finally made it home at 2:30 am, exhausted and worried that our boy was still in serious trouble.

That morning, I called our vet and made an appointment for 11:10.  Wally was already behaving fairly normally – he was understandably tired, but not acting ill.

Our vet went over the results of the emergency clinic tests and was able to rule out 99% of the possibilities that the  emergency vet suggested.  He seemed to think vasovagal syncope made the most sense and said it may never happen again.  He said that since only those two particular enzymes were elevated, it may not be anything to worry about and that we should retest in 3 weeks to see if they’ve come down.  He said the enzyme elevation may be completely unrelated to the “episode” and it may have just been a coincidence that it showed up in the bloodwork.  He did want him to stay on the antibiotics just to calm any sort of infection/inflammation.

I’m happy to say that Wally seems to be feeling and acting completely normally now, which is to say he’s back to being a little monster… but wish I had some actual concrete answers.  To be honest, I’m not sure I feel entirely comfortable with either vet’s diagnosis, but we will continue keep a close eye on him and hope that this was just a one-time occurrence!

I have a few more gray hairs and a few more hours taken off of my life after that night!   This boy will be the death of me, I swear!

Here is some great information on what to do if your dog collapses and 21 Symptoms You Should Never Ignore in Your Dog.

Hey, what’s the big deal?  I’m okay!

Is It Too Hot For Your Dog?

It amazes me that people STILL need to be reminded not to leave their pets in a hot car.  We need to continue to educate people on the fact that dogs can not cool their bodies the same way that we can, so being left for just a few minutes in a hot car can cause permanent organ damage or death.  In the past two weeks alone, I’ve seen two local stories of dogs dying needlessly because their owners thought cracking a window would be sufficient to keep the car cool.

If you see a dog in a hot car:

  • Record the information about the vehicle (license plate, make and model)
  • Alert the owner of the business
  • Call the police or animal control
  • If the dog seems in imminent danger, find a witness who can confirm the facts, then take the necessary steps to remove the dog from the vehicle.
  • Move the dog to the shade and try to give him water.  Place a cool towel over the head, neck and abdomen of the dog to try to lower their body temperature.
  • Stay put until help arrives!

Want to help get the word out?  MyDogIsCool.com has some great printable flyers, as does DogsTodayMagazine.uk.

Here’s another great flyer for you to share.  Click on the image below to view it full size. Then print out some copies.  Keep plenty of them in your glove box and spread the word!

Even on a 75 degree day, it only takes 10 minutes for your car to reach 100 degrees inside.  Those are some scary statistics!

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