In the world of rescue, most of the time the “once upon a time” follows with a happy ending. But that is not always the case. Sometimes the story twists and turns, and ends in tragedy instead of a loving home. Such was Shorty’s story, one that I hope will instruct, enlighten, and have that necessary impact that keeps another pup from ending up with the same fate.
December 2006 | TheDogPress.com
David J Arthur, Aircastle Standard Poodles
I can’t say where Shorty’s story began. We just don’t know, nor will we ever at this point. Even his name was given him by the vet techs at the hospital, since the one who surrendered him did so without even giving over such a basic piece of personal information. But we can surmise some things based on a pattern so often played out at the beginnings of such journeys.
Shorty was a little apricot Toy Poodle, probably not more than a year or two old, who was abandoned at the Montgomery Animal Shelter. Whoever dropped him off didn’t leave much of a story with him. They said he was a stray, but with his physical issues and total lack of socialization, there’s no way this could be even remotely true. You see Shorty was completely blind, most likely deaf as well, and would only walk in small circles, what little bit of walking he was able to do. Dogs with such problems don’t stray, so it’s a sure bet he was simply abandoned.
Shorty weighed around three pounds when he entered the shelter. He still had his baby teeth, along with his adult teeth behind them. With two rows of tarter encrusted enamel, he likely couldn’t chew well, if at all, and that is probably part of the reason he stopped eating. Someone sometime may have force fed him, but there obviously was no veterinary care given to resolve the real issue, which was his horrible dentition. By the time I received him, he was unable to eat at all, and his little body had begun to shut down. He was only two pounds, and I could feel no meat on the boy whatsoever when I brought him to the doctor at the veterinary hospital. He was matted to the skin, and at first we thought he simply couldn’t open his mouth to take in food or water. The horrible truth was that his body was no longer able to process either, and that accounted for his continued decline. After a week of heroic effort and a few bags of glucose laden fluids, he remained at no more than two pounds, and still completely unable to eat or drink on his own.
And there was the continuous turning. Shorty must have lived his whole life in a crate or small cage because he had no concept of walking in a straight line. I once knew a dog that was born blind. Sauma was his name, and he would play and run with the rest of his family. He was a Miniature Poodle, and he was loved with all of his human mamma’s heart. He showed me that sight is only one part of being a Poodle, and having a puppy’s heart is more than needed to live quite well. But what of Shorty’s people? I can’t say what they did or didn’t do, but it seems odd this little boy could only walk in circles and showed no interest in even exploring the small world around him. My suspicion is that this little one had never been outside of a crate or cage, and that was all he knew of the world. His heart had died long ago, and all he had left was the endless torture of spinning around a dark and silent world devoid of affection.
The silence can be attributed to being deaf as well as blind. We’re not sure if he was able to hear at all, and while I did see some signs of auditory response, there wasn’t much. It could have been that he no longer cared to hear the world outside, I can’t say. But in his little body were the scars of either congenital defect or the ravages of disease. There’s really no way to tell. Someone apparently felt his maladies were too much to handle, and if, by chance, he ever did leave his breeder, it was not to the loving hands of a good home. He was mono-orchid, which also meant he was unable to reproduce, making him unusable as a puppy mill sire. He was useless in someone’s eyes, and so he was neglected and eventually dumped in the manner of so many of these precious souls.
As for his journey with me, it all began with a phone call. I had just sent off another apricot Toy to a friend in New York. She was an older girl, somewhere between eleven and fourteen, had dental issues, was thin, couldn’t see well from cataracts, and smelled horribly from her shelter experience. But a good bath, a little grooming, and one very loving home later, Matilda, as she is now known, has the remaining life of a princess. I was taking her to the airport when my friend Kathleen told me about Shorty. The next day, we met and I collected him from her. I was horrified when I first felt his complete lack of mass. She said he wasn’t eating, and so I tried to boost him up a bit that night. But he couldn’t keep food down, and so I drove him to the vet where my fiancé works. He was immediately placed on an IV, and after a series of x-rays, an attempt at a special diet, and plenty of other additions to my overburdened medical bill, a week later, we were still nowhere with him. His little body could no longer support life, and with a very heavy heart, we made the decision to release him to the bridge, where all are loved and healthy again. And so, sometime after noon today, he left us to romp with those we look to one day meet again.
My hope is that his life will not be in vain. I wish with every breath that at least some of you will take heed of his story. It begins with a puppy mill or backyard breeder, and ends in the hands of those who cared deeply but just couldn’t save this poor boy. What hurts is that there are so many more Shortys out there. With every Petland purchase or newspaper ad answered for a “doodle”, hundreds of Shortys live out their sad existence in crates and cages, never knowing the warmth of a loving hand or home. I hope that my message will come clearly to those who produce a dozen litters a year for the sake of show champion titles, or those who “just want the children to experience the miracle of birth”. If you’re considering bringing a new puppy into your home, please give thought as from where this special being will come. If you’re planning a litter, please ask yourself why. For those who are reputable, who carefully plan and produce for the sake of their breed, may God bless you. For that’s the sort of “once upon a time” from where such stories should begin. And for all who hear this tale, I pray you’ll honor Shorty’s memory with your actions, making rescue a part of your commitment to these beloved beings who give so very much, and ask for so very little in return. Rest gently sweet boy, and know that your memory may well be the salvation of so very many others.
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