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Update- May 26th, 2008

Update-May 25th, 2008

Update-May 22nd, 2008

Update-May 21st, 2008

Update- May 18th, 2008

Update-May 17th, 2008

Update- May 16th, 2008

Update-May 15th, 2008

Update- May 14th, 2008

Update- May 11th, 2008

Update-May 10th, 2008

Update- May 9th, 2008

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Gunny came to us in early May.  It was out original intention to simply allow him to be humanely euthanized, but we quickly realized that this incredible spirit hadn't made it this far to have his life cut short.
I met One Of Those Dogs today. I'd tell you his name, but he doesn't have one. I can, however, tell you that he has one of the most amazing spirits I have ever had the good fortune to encounter. I can also tell you that his capacity for love and forgiveness warms my heart....and shatters it into a million pieces.
 
This guy came to my attention yesterday, when a good friend made me aware of his existence. She is a volunteer for Mid-Atlantic Great Dane Rescue, and gets lots of emails about dogs in need. This little fellow showed up on the "who we are going to put to sleep this week" list from a county pound in a neighboring state. She was appalled to see that even though he had an obviously severe injury that was both extremely painful and horribly infected, he would have to wait at least 5 days to be euthanized. They were certain that no one would adopt him, they knew they could not let any "owner" from his past regain custody. Yet due to their laws, they had to let him suffer---without any pain relief or basic medical treatment---for days on end. Unfortunately, this is not rare, this is how county pounds function. My friend was hoping that the all-breed rescue where I volunteer might be able to help. She offered to put in about 3 hours' worth of travel time to go pick him up, get him to the rescue's regular vet, and return to her home. This does not even factor in the time she spent at the vet's office with the dog. Nor the fact that she got up so early to do this that she still made it to her morning meetings.

The rescue at which I volunteer is, as always, jam-packed-full...due to, as always, people's irresponsibility. They are also barely making ends meet financially, as a result of a string of intense medical situations that have arisen with new dogs. The plan we came up with was: get him out of that pound, and even if he is too ill to treat, at least we can pay to have him put to sleep in a gentle and humane way. There was no way finances would allow any pricey treatments, like an amputation of the injured leg or treatment for a positive heartworm diagnosis.

The next thing I know, I get a call from my friend. She is at the vet. She tells me the dog is the sweetest, most loveable thing on four, well actually three, legs. She asks if she can get more information on the costs of surgery....the only way this guy will make it is if his leg is amputated. She offers to scrape together a little money to add to The Cause. I tell her to be reasonable (she always is). I tell her to find out if he is heartworm positive (amazingly, he isn't). I tell her I will talk to the founders of the rescue about what is going on. She tells me how much the staff at the vet loves him. She tells me how well he is getting around in spite of his injuries. She tells me that he is taking all of the day's events in stride (and we all know how insane and "invasive" a visit to the vet can be). I speak with the staff myself, and get the go-ahead that my vet is willing and able to do this surgery, instead of having to go to the specialty clinic where bills will be a great deal higher. So we are "only" looking at about $1,200.00 as are high end estimate. They tell me that this dog needs a few days rest to prepare his body for surgery and that he can come back first thing Monday morning for an amputation. Wait a minute...how did we get to this place? This was not our plan going in. This was a mission of mercy to end the suffering of a pound puppy who didn't stand a chance. What is going on here?? Next thing I know, I hear someone say that she will foster this dog before and after surgery to provide care so that the rescue will not be more overburdened than they already are. I also hear that person say that she will pitch in some money. I also hear my friend talk about ways to that the two of them can raise money for the rescue to cover this guy's expenses. This is when I have a bit of a light bulb moment. Turns out that it was *MY* voice that I heard volunteering *MY* time, effort and finances for a dog I never met. As I drove to the vet this afternoon to pick him up, I was praying that my friend's judgment was as sound today as it has always been in the past. What the heck was I doing?? How was I going to pull this off? Were we making the right decisions for this dog?

I had seen photos of this poor guy on the county pound's "who we will be putting to sleep this week" page. He looked thin, the leg looked bad, but that was all the experience I had with him. When I arrived at the vet clinic, I checked in, spoke with the vet who was doing the surgery for us, and figured I'd grab the meds he needed, grab the dog, and hit the road. When they brought the little guy out to me, I thought "Oh wow, they put a nice purple wrap on his wound with that thick white cotton lining...oh wait, it looks like a full-thickness cast...that's odd, why would they cast his leg until Monday?" But as he hopped closer (with a great deal of agility and a huge "smile" on his face I might add), I saw that there was no cast. That was his LEG. It was three to four times the size it was meant to be, the skin was so damaged and swollen that this chocolate-colored dog had a purple leg. His coat was atrocious, patchy and flaky, with odd colors and textures mixed throughout. I was sure he had some sort of skin disease and wanted to make sure he wasn't contagious to my dog at home. By the time he reached me, he leaned against me and licked my hands and my legs. He rubbed along my shins like he was a cat. He wagged his tail so hard it went in circles. It was then that it dawned on me how emaciated this guy was. I have seen photos in magazines and on websites, but I have never in my life seen such a thin, sick dog in person. And the tears came. Tears for what this dog had endured and was enduring, but also for the spirit and the love that he still, so obviously, had. While I waited to speak with the vet who had cared for him that morning, I got to look at him more closely. I got to see the love and hope in is eyes. I got to see the cuts and rips and scars mixed in with his awful-looking coat. I saw that his head was enormous, yet his body was miniscule. I saw every outline of every bone in his skeleton. I saw the puddles of drainage that had dripped from the 3 inch wide and 1 inch deep pit of a wound in his leg. I saw the fleas climbing in and out of his fur. And the tears came.

A little bit later, the vet came to go over the day's events and all that I needed to know. She realized that I was just there to pick up this fellow, and had never met him before. When she came through the door, she looked down at him and absolutely beamed with the most loving smile. She looked me in the eye and said, "Isn't he just beautiful?" And the tears came. "Don't worry," she said, "he has made all of us cry today." Then she handed me a tissue and continued, "I am certain that this dog is here to be an ambassador. Just look at him. He has scars that will never go away. He managed to escape true Hell, but not without losing a leg in the process. Yet, he smiles and he wags, and he loves us strangers without a second thought. All day he was poked and prodded and x-rayed and positioned. He was handled by the entire staff, just to see what baggage you folks would need to know about. No matter what we did to him, all he did to us was give us his belly for rubs, wag his tail, and lick any face that came close enough. This dog is an ambassador. He loves life, and is willing to fight for it." And the tears came.

It took me a minute to truly grasp what I was looking at. I asked the vet a lot of questions. I asked her if his skin condition was contagious to my dog, and she said no. I asked her what it was, and she said it was pure, unadulterated, filth and grime and crud, mixed in with the absence of nutrition. It took me a few minutes to take it all in. Like I said, I have never been in the presence of anything like this before...not in real life. I looked at his skin. I looked at his ears. I looked at his scars. I looked at that grotesquely disfigured leg. "Was he a bait dog?" I asked quietly. She nodded her head and said "I would bet everything I own on that...yes, he was a bait dog. I could not find one square inch on this dog that was not covered with either a scar from, or a current, puncture wound. He was bitten everywhere from his forehead to his tail." In case you are unfamiliar, this guy's life consisted of being used to "train" fighting dogs...he was most likely chained while other tortured and abused dogs were "taught" to rip him to shreds. Bait dogs usually come from the "failures" of fighting dogs...the dogs that are just too nice to fight themselves. I asked if his leg was the result of a kick or a car, and the vet told me that it was also the result of a dog bite. That the bite became so infected that the bones of his legs were being eaten away and were crumbling. That his joints had dislocated because of this massive infection. And that his leg had been that way for months and months. MONTHS AND MONTHS. He had puncture wounds (more bite marks) that were much more recent than the leg injury. She told me that, in other words, he continued to serve as bait, chained in place with only 3 good legs, while other dogs ripped him apart. And the tears came.

You'd think he'd be mean. You'd think he'd hate humans. You'd know he'd hate dogs. But you'd be more wrong than you can imagine. This dog had the staff in tears because of the love he showed to them. He watched the office cats walk by his kennel and he never even blinked. He saw other dogs, and the most notice he took was to wag his tail and smile at them.