Thursday, July 22, 2010

Rescuing Gumbo

While driving to work yesterday morning, on a long country road that is not heavily traveled, but those who DO use it drive ~60 mph, I spotted a very small dog ambling slowly toward me in the middle of my lane.

This road is a notorious dog-dumping area, and the dogs usually form small packs and travel together, and always get off the road when cars are coming. And people feed them (volunteers stop several times a week and slice open large bags of dry dog food in a couple of places way off to the side of this road), so other than the fact that it is 100 degrees everyday right now, I don't worry too much about these doggies (there is a big creek and a lake right there, for water) - but this little dog was different. He was not showing any signs of getting off the road, so I stopped the car - the road was deserted; got out and crouched down, and he slowly walked straight to me. I scooped him up and plopped him in the passenger seat, and started driving on toward Augusta.

All this time I was thinking this was a puppy - he was SO small, and so friendly - but I was driving rather than paying much attention to him, and he had settled down with his back to me. Bailey was camped out in the back seat, but more than a little curious, and thousands of thoughts were running through my head - I figured that a stray (he had no collar, and was kind of bedraggled looking) whose tongue was hanging 3 inches out of his mouth and was probably sick - certainly dehydrated and malnourished, and probably infested with ticks and fleas and GI parasites, and possibly heartworm, and who knew what else. I just knew I couldn't take him to the store with me and Bailey.

So I pulled up to the store, and quickly shoved Bailey inside, and grabbed a cup of water, and returned to the car. The dog refused the water, which I knew couldn't be good, and I drove on to an Acute Care Animal Hospital that I had had to use once for Bailey.

I filled out all the paperwork, and they put me in an exam room with him to wait for the doctor. The doctor knew I had essentially no money, and when she came in, she actually looked at the dog (of course, she did a full exam) but after just a quick look she asked me what I wanted to do, as this dog was probably 15 years old, and had previously had his entire mandible (lower jaw) surgically removed, as well as all of his upper teeth removed surgically, and might possibly be quite ill.

I told her that I didn't rescue him just to bring him in for her to kill him, and we agreed that she would do some basic bloodwork - some simple chemistry and hematology panels, and also the blood test for heartworm, and they would check his stool for GI parasites (worms, basically). She could tell he was anemic because of the color of his tongue, and he was just covered with ticks and fleas, so they were going to give him a Capstar tablet to get rid of all the fleas, and then bathe him. He weighed 11 lbs, and I am certain 1 lb of this was fleas

I left him there, and the doctor told me she would call when she knew more - but we had agreed that if there was evidence of organ failure or other serious medical illnesses that it wouldn't make sense to do much more for him.

On the way back to the shop, I kept thinking, "What have I done?" Bailey is such a Mama's boy, and this was clearly an older, and sick dog. I stopped at Target and picked up flea spray (the kind you spray on the dog AND the kind you spray on carpets, upholstery, etc) and flea bombs, and when I got back to the shop I immediately sprayed down the car, and then went inside and sprayed down Bailey really well.

The vet called me late that afternoon to tell me that ALL of his bloodwork was normal except he was profoundly anemic, but that he had no heartworm, no GI worms - was actually very healthy other than being malnourished and dehydrated, and anemic. He was showing severe allergic and infectious reactions to the flea bites - so she was starting him on prednisone and antibiotics, and liquid iron for his anemia. She said he had a ferocious appetite, and had eaten 3 servings of a special gruel type of dogfood they had (he has to have pureed food, because he has no teeth, and even if he had upper teeth, he has no lower jaw, so he still wouldn't be able to chew. He had drunk a little bit, but she had also given him IV fluids. And he was 100% free of fleas and ticks, and I could come get him.

After the shop closed, I took Bailey and went to pick up the dog. The tech and the doctor spent a long time explaining to me how to feed him, and how to get him to drink water, and how to give him his meds. The vet felt very strongly that this poor dog had NOT been abandoned - the surgeries that he has undergone are very expensive, and take a lot of recovery time, and she felt that no one would invest that much time and energy into saving a pet (she suspects the surgery was done for cancer) would then abandon the animal. And she explained that he had been very well-cared for up until he went missing, because he had obviously been on heartworm medicine, and he couldn't have been gone too long because he hadn't picked up any GI parasites, and because of the fact that he can only eat pureed food, and certainly wasn't going to find this in the wild, so he could not have been out there for long.

And, it turns out, the vet had named him "Gumbo" while he followed her around all day. I really have mixed feelings about that, because if I can find his owners, I want him to return home, and giving him a name makes it that much harder to remain a little emotionally detached.

When I arrived home, I took him outside and he peed, and we went inside and I placed him in my bathtub while I went about digging Bailey's old crate (poor Bailey refused to house train, and I had to train him with a crate. Only took 2 days, but it was totally worth the price of the crate!) out of the attic and assembling it. It took about 45 minutes to get the thing out of the attic and get it put together, and since I wasn't entirely sure about the dog's house-training skills, I decided the bathtub was the safest place. And he promptly fell asleep in there. I figured he must be exhausted - I imagined that this poor old dog had been walking for several days, and not eating or drinking, and I knew he hadn't slept at the Animal Hospital, so I just assumed he was tired.

I found an old comforter to put in the crate, and put a water bowl in there, and put the dog in there, and he curled up and went to sleep.

I woke him up a few hours later to eat, and take meds, and go outside. Then I held him in my lap for several hours - thinking I was showing him he was safe, etc. Bailey was mightily peeved by this lap time stuff.

Took him out again around 11 PM, and he peed, and I put him back in the crate (which is huge!) and he slept through 'til 8:30 this morning. I carried him outside, he peed, we came in, he ate - and we went to work.

I had found a basket that fit him nicely, and put some towels in it, and he curled up and slept. Slept in that basket behind the register for most of the day.

He can hear pretty well, and he sees well, and is sweet as can be. He does NOT like to be picked up - I think it hurts his arthritis. He doesn't mind being held, but the picking up is a struggle. And I don't want to hurt him, but I carry him up and down stairs, and if we are walking long distances (like to the pee-spot at work) because he just can't seem to walk this far yet, and he was having some trouble with stairs.

At first, last night, he could only make it up my deck stairs if I lifted his butt - he would lift up the front of his body, and then I would carry the butt end up the step -and that's how we got up the 6 or 7 deck stairs. Then, this morning, he started trying to do the deck stairs on his own, but he had a little sideways hop method that scared me a bit, so I ended up helping him again. Then, after work tonight, he just bolted straight up the deck steps - so I am seeing little improvements all the time.

I realize that he was sick and tired and run down and anemic and malnourished yesterday, and we have him on all these medications to restore him back to his baseline. And I hope his baseline is fairly healthy. I recognize that he probably HAD cancer, and it can always come back.

So he slept about 22 out of the past 24 hours, and I don't know whether this is normal for him, or part of his recovery process.

I'm trying everything I know to do to find his owners (if they indeed want him) - but I have an appt in 10 days to see Bailey's vet, and become an official member of our family.

He gives every appearance of being house-trained; he woke up today at the shop and stood up and kind of looked at me, and I carried him outside, and he had a nice long pee - he has had no accidents inside. And he hasn't pooped yet at all, but the vet said that is due to him not having eaten for a number of days.

The fact that he has no lower jaw makes eating a very peculiar process, but he is clearly used to this. His tongue hangs out because there is no way for him to close his mouth. When he eats or drinks, he kind of twirls his tongue like a prop-plane propeller, and scoops some food or water onto it and flicks it to the back of his throat. This is much more efficient with food, because it sticks to his tongue, and he can get it back there and swallow it. With water, most of the water flies off before he can get it swallowed, and more ends up on his chest and the floor than in his throat, so the vet suggested today that I started serving him water through a syringe, directly into the back of his throat - and he doesn't mind at all.

So I may or may not have a new dog - Bailey walks 3 miles out of his way to avoid walking near the crate the dog is in. It's pretty funny - he goes behind chairs, over the bed, and under tables just to avoid walking by the crate. I am not sure if it is because he remembers being in it when he was 7 weeks old, or because the new dog is in there. When we are outside, he tries to get the new dog to play - I guess because it is so small that it looks like a puppy. Bailey goes down into a play bow, and then charges the dog, who just casually steps to the side and totters away. And Bailey definitely does not want me holding the new dog in my lap.

Just really not sure how this is gonna turn out. I know I spent $500 yesterday at the Animal Hospital, and that special food and a geriatric dog with health issues isn't really something I want to sign up for. But I know I couldn't have left him on that road.

Ideally, all the flyers, or newspaper ads, or Facebooking will help locate his owners, and they will welcome him home.

If you are reading this, and live in the Aiken/North Augusta/Augusta area, please Facebook it, or Tweet it, or e-mail it to anyone you know in this area - I really want to get the word out about this little guy!.


Kristina said...

aww poor thing =0( at least you guys found him and rescue him i don't know what to say only i hope he find his owners or in case finds a forever home and if is with you i'm sure he will be care as good as bailey is for sure

wishing good luck for him and hope all the best can be done

Anonymous said...

Wow! I hope you find his owners.. I know what you mean about NOT naming him.. when I foster I always call them "puppy" because I'm afraid if I name them.. I will get more attached.

Try craigslist, newpaper, bookoo all that in the lost & found sections.. if I lost my pups I'd be posting & checking everywhere.. & it sounds like he was loved - so hopefully it's just a matter of time & you'll find the owners.

Thank you for saving him & everything you've done.

& Bailey you are a good boy to let him stsay in YOUR doghouse:) tell your mom.... it smells like a pizza crust night.

retrothreads said...

I know that's exactly what I would do, even without the $$$ in the bank. I tweeted this, hope he finds his doggie parents soon !

Victoria said...

injured animals just about break my heart. I'm so glad he's feeling better. His owners must be at their wits end looking for their "baby". Hope all turns out well


Sonora Kay said...

"Gumbo" is so fortunate that you came along!!
I Tweeted and shared on Facebook.

Sweet Freedom said...

Thanks, SK!

PussDaddy said...

Oh that poor dog. Thank God you found him.


Sweet Freedom said...

PD - he is such a sweetie! I wouldn't call him a lover - he has bad arthritis, and doesn't want to be held, or picked up, but he likes to snuggle up next to me.

He'll have a good home, whatever happens!

Sarah said...

Bless you for giving your time and hard earned money to save a dog like Gumbo. I hope his owners find you, so they won't worry and so he can live out his days in his familiar home, but if not, he's still incredibly fortunate to have been taken in by such a caring person.

Sweet Freedom said...

Thanks, Sarah-I have a deep-down feeling he is my dog now, but that's fine. He's a sweetie.

Samantha said...

Can't believe I've missed all of this - so sorry we've been so out of touch. You are an ANGEL and it sounds like Bailey is being an angel as well - I think it's tough to bring a new doggie into the mix, but Sammie has adjusted to Avalon very well after three months... but she was happier after even two weeks. Will go to today's post.
Sammie and Mom