Last July, in the middle of a hot Florida summer, a family moved away and left two dogs behind. They were “outside dogs” who were familiar with the lay of the land, and out in the country they bothered no one. No one bothered with them, either.
They were scruffy, filthy, and looked like they would eat just about anything when I found them under a horse trailer one day. Both were panting and had bugs buzzing around them. One was completely bald from his mid-section back and his skin was completely raw and red.
I was familiar with these dogs and had spoken with the family before they left. I was anxious to make sure that the dogs were properly cared for and offered to help pay for vet bills. In response, the family told me that the dogs were going to the shelter because they needed to be “put out of their misery.”
From where I stood that hot summer day, their misery was due to neglect.
They crawled out from under the horse trailer to get a belly rub and give some kisses, but they immediately returned to the cool spots they had made for themselves, scratching themselves until they bled.
The First Steps Toward a Better Life
I knew there was no way I could afford to get them completely fixed up and ready for adoption, but I had to try. I took them to a groomer who graciously volunteered her services and then they went to the vet for vaccinations and skin scrapings. Those two simple things turned out to be very involved tasks.
The dogs were absolutely terrified of going inside buildings. It took three people to forcibly pick up each dog and carry them into the groomer. They cried the entire way, as though they were sure we were dragging them to their death.
Once inside, after surveying the premises, they calmed down and spread out on the cool concrete floors. Their panting stopped and they just looked at me in utter confusion. They only ever had dirt and grass to lie on before. (Did I mention this all happened in July? In Florida?) The boys quickly learned that the thing called “air conditioning” was pretty nice. I left them there to get bathed, but I honestly wasn’t sure what I would return to later that day.
When I did go back, they were brought out to me with much scuffling, but I think that had more to do with the slick floors than any kind of fear. They greeted me with big smiles and kisses, looking and smelling much better.
The older of the two, Superhero, still looked like he was on fire, but what fur he did have was a beautiful shade of soft white. His offspring, Bisquick, was a handsome devil to begin with and now he just looked charming. Don’t ever let anyone downplay a good bath.
With leashes on and only one helper this time, I got them outside and into the van. The ride to the vet was short, and I was already trying to figure out how to get them in. As it turned out, all it took was for them to feel the cool blast of the air conditioning to be lured inside. What a wonderful surprise!
Poor old Superhero got everyone’s attention as he clamored in with his red, scabby skin. He really did look like he was on fire and the flames were burning him from the inside out. He panted constantly from the fever in his body; he projected heat. I dreaded the results of the skin scraping.
Bisquick, the handsome devil now clean and resplendent, was thin but didn’t look sick. I was quite surprised to learn he had heartworms and Superhero did not. Superhero, however, did have very severe flea dermatitis.
They boys were very good with the doctors and let them do their pricking and prodding. The only time they fussed was when they were separated. Each time one was taken to the back for something, the other would sit cry the most pitiful sound. It was the sound of a heart breaking and it nearly brought me to tears both times.
Finding a Forever Home
Superhero and Bisquick stayed with me only a short time because I was able to find a place for them in a no-kill shelter nearby. They have been at Pet Welfare since August and have had several medicated baths, taken many pills, and Bisquick completed his heartworm treatment. I have become good friends with a coordinator there and she happily gives me updates on these boys. She laughed and told me they were the only dogs who preferred to be inside their kennels when the other dogs were outside barking at passing traffic. Yes, they have learned the luxury of air conditioning, all right.
Most dogs can’t handle being in a shelter environment; however, these two have flourished there and the transformation is nothing short of miraculous. They have no bald spots, are no longer the thin bags of bones I once saw, and they have long, full beautiful coats of fur.
This father and son duo, now named Homer and Bart, are still at Pet Welfare and are awaiting their forever family. The shelter coordinator has promised to adopt them together.
Image source: Lorie Grefski