It was absolutely frigid the day we found them. Coming from Colorado, I had high hopes of it being just a little warmer in the New Mexico sun. Clearly, after years out of the game of spay and neuter clinics, I had forgotten that just crossing a state border wouldn’t do much good. In fact, it was even colder. Desert nights were even more unbearable for the animals that spent their time outside on the Reservation. So, you can imagine that when Shelby, the fearless leader of Soul Dog Rescue, found the litter of lethargic, mud covered puppies outside an old house on the side of the road with no food or water, it was no question in her mind that she had to do something.
With limited space, she swooped up the male of the group and two of the females. Frightened and shivering, they huddled close in the already small crate in the back of the van. By the time they got to me at the shelter we were running the clinic out of, the dried mud on their little bodies from days on end spent outside was freshly coated with vomit from the car ride over. It was the end of the day the day, and they arrived as we were wrapping up. We fixed them up a kennel and gave them all the food and water their sweet hearts could desire. As the two females ravenously inhaled the fresh kibble in the apparently not so bottomless bowl, I took note of the male of the group in the corner. His weak body was not strong enough to make it to the food with his siblings. My gut assumed the worst, but we would have to wait until morning to do anything further.
I laid in bed that night, and I was physically unable to get the sad pup out of my mind. The look in his eyes was one that I see far too often working at the shelter. It’s the look of utter helplessness. I have looked into countless dogs eyes, and they stare back at me as if they have tried their best, but they know that you are the only one that can save them now. When that pup looked back at me that night as I offered him water, I had the same gut wrenching feeling that I get far too often. It’s a moment many in the field know of. It’s a moment when you immediately know that you are their last shot. No pressure, right?
When we arrived back at the shelter the next morning for another full day of spays and neuters, I immediately walked back to the room where we had the puppies. When I saw a puddle of hemorrhagic diarrhea in the kennel next to my sad boy, my suspicions from the night before had proven to be correct. I quickly ran to grab a Parvo test, and the positive result made my wheels start spinning on what should happen next. His two sisters were asymptomatic, but only time would tell if they, too, had this fatal virus. We continued on to separate the three of them from general population, and I started his fluid therapy. The failing pup laid trustingly in my arms, as I gave him his subcutaneous fluids, while we both sat positioned on the cold, cement floor.
Parvo is a brutal virus that attacks the GI tract. It is painfully fatal, and many can not afford the cost of what it takes to treat it in a normal clinic or hospital. Unfortunately, in rural communities where many animals are not vaccinated, the virus runs rampant, killing many puppies that go untreated. This would have 100% been the fate of this shepherd babe that was now safe in my arms. As a Veterinary Technician, I essentially have a trade that I can offer to those in need. With the cost of care for this gruesome illness in mind, and knowing that I can provide care for him myself, I offered up my skills, my trade if you will, and said that I would treat him in my home. If the little conscious people that lived on your shoulder were real, I surely would have had one smacking me upside the head as she mocked me saying, “I don’t foster puppies, blah, blah, blah”.
The day flew by, and before I knew it, I was loading up this exhausted pup into the back of my car. On the eight hour drive through the mountains and back up to Denver, he laid peacefully without making a sound. By the time we reached home, I felt equally as exhausted as my new guest bathroom patient. The bathroom was filled with towels, blankets, and puppy pads, thanks to my mother. After a second round of fluids, and a complimentary “tuck-in” service for my new friend, I was off to bed myself in attempt to get a few hours of sleep. I worked the entire next week, but was determined to help this little man survive.
As the first day progressed, he began to rapidly fail. Knowing that I didn’t have nearly enough supplies and treatments to ensure his recovery, I rushed him to the animal hospital. I spent the next few days speaking with the doctor on his progression, and I tried everything in my power not to be too annoying with my medical questions on their Parvo protocol. Only two days later, and he was stable enough for me to continue care at my home. The little man rapidly became part of my family as he made his recovery equally as fast. It wasn’t until he was sleeping soundly underneath our tree on Christmas Eve, that it hit me of what his fate could have been without the help of an amazing rescue.
Throughout the time I spent treating this little pup, his four sisters, too, broke with Parvo. Shelby feverishly spent every waking second in attempt to not only get treatment for the two sisters that made it up to Denver, but to get the remaining two up to safety as well. This is the part of rescue we hate- well, one of many parts. The part where you do everything in your power to save them all, to help the helpless, but you will always have the ones you had to leave behind. You’ll always have the ones that twist your core and make you physically ill as soon as you make that non verbal promise to be their person once you get that helpless look from them.
The weeks went on, and the little parvo pup stole the heart of everyone he came into contact with. One of those being his new foster mom, Krislyn, that took him when I had to leave. I may have gotten him through his medical needs, but she would be the one to provide the socialization and love he so desperately deserved.
The news kept coming, as we found out that three of his sisters didn’t survive. The only two that remained from the litter were him and his last sister. Although this may seem like a great loss, and boy is it ever, all five wouldn’t have stood a chance without the intervention of the rescue, and the ever growing list of bad ass people that moved mountains to save them. We see these stories every day. Hundreds of dogs are left for dead and it is an absolutely brutal process to try and keep up with humanity’s mistakes, but that is the reason we keep trying. These two pups put into perspective for me, once again, that sometimes we have to move those mountains for even just a candle to be lit in this darkness. This time, that candle came in the form of the foster mom to our little boys sister. After the news of most of the litter not surviving, she knew what the next move should be. With the greatest of hearts, she said, “Once I knew that they were the only ones to make it, I knew they should spend their lives together”. Now, the two will spend the rest of their days in their own loving home, together. It may not be the ending we hoped for, but damn is it a good one.