07 July 2009

Sophie's choice

We confirmed cat people seem to have adopted a dog. She found us last Thursday, just before the holiday weekend. She came running up to us on the homebound leg of our standard morning walk, which that day took us through the Woodstock neighborhood -- a ridiculously shaggy small tan dog with a slight limp and a sweet demeanor. She followed us doggedly (ha ha) for several blocks. Finally I picked her up and discovered that her coat was thoroughly matted and she was filthy, with bits of paper and foil attached to her dreadlocked hair. No collar or tags, of course.

She was perfectly happy being held, so I carried her across relatively-busy 39th Ave. and then down our block. I borrowed a leash from our next-door neighbor, and headed to Woodstock Vet to see if the dog was micro-chipped. She wasn’t, unsurprisingly. The tech suggested taking her to County Animal Control, saying that small dogs are adopted almost immediately -- even in this economy, she maintained. Given this baby's physical condition and the holiday weekend coming up, I thought “no way”; three days and they’d euthanize her. So I pondered a while and finally opted to pay to have her de-matted, cleaned up, examined, and then boarded overnight while we figured out what to do next.

The vet called later in the day; the dog's basically in good health, 3-6 years old [later, the chief tech there insisted that she was no older than 2], probably a Lhasa Apso but maybe a Shih Tzu or even Maltese mix. But she had numerous bite wounds on her legs (that explained the limp) as well as on her face, neck and back, plus dermatitis, a huge hematoma in her right ear that's causing a swelling on the earflap – and, oh yes, she apparently hasn't been spayed. Oddly enough, her nails appeared to've been trimmed not all that long ago, and she was free of fleas.

They still had some work to do on one eye, which turned out to be irritated but not infected. (Be grateful for small favors, huh?) The doc also reported that nobody there had ever before seen a dog with a coat in such bad shape; the clippings filled a garbage can. Also: the entire staff was in love with her (the dog, not the vet). They emailed us these Before (above) and After (below) photos; thanks, Kasey and Dr. H.

Meanwhile, back at the cathouse, I'd been checking CraigsList and the lost dog listings at Animal Control, Dove Lewis (regional pet hospital/support agency), and several other sites. Nada. I filled out and posted online Found Dog reports, and used one of the “before” photos to make a Found Dog poster. On our walk the following morning, Jer and I plastered the neighborhood where the pup had run up to us. We got one response from a woman on Craigslist whose elderly neighbor had lost a dog of this type. She lived more than 100 blocks from us; unlikely, though not out of the question if the dog had been wandering for a while. But her dog was chipped; this one isn't. Her email came in while the pup was still at the vet, so I called and they offered to rescan her, which they did -- definitely no chip.

Jer and I picked up the dog Friday afternoon, stopping first to buy a collar and some kibbles. Three technicians came out of the back room at various points, along with the vet, to tell us how sweet and tolerant she'd been during their procedures, and how much they loved her. They adjusted the billing so that we didn't have to pay more than I already had, even though they did a lot more work than anticipated. They sent us home with a spiffy green leash to match her collar, plus Clavamox (amoxicillin) and drops for her problematic ear.

The challenge now is getting her and the cats to tolerate each other. We set up camp for her in the garage, just off the kitchen, with a bed, toys, food and water. When we got back on Friday, I walked her through the house on leash, just to calibrate the situation. When she saw the cats, she barked and lunged, Stella growled and split, and China Rose freaked and hid in the closet. I made a bad mistake on Saturday by bringing her into the living room, where she sniffed around and finally settled by me, quite comfortably, on the sofa. About 20 minutes later, China Rose came around the corner, caught sight of the dog -- and vice versa -- and ran at lightning speed, hissing, to hide in the closet again. The dog went crazy lunging and barking at both her and Stella Luna, who'd been sleeping, oblivious, behind the recliner. Sigh. Back to the garage apartment.

Saturday night was a low point; I had a total meltdown. Poor Jer. The puppy had really wormed (no pun intended) her way into my heart, but I figured a cat-aggressive pooch would be a non-starter in this household. I posted an adoption notice to our neighborhood email list, telling the story to date, and said, on Facebook, that it wasn't going to work out, and how sad I was about it. Several dog-savvy friends and neighbors piped up, all saying basically the same thing: Give it time, try limited exposures, take it slow, maybe crate the dog while introducing the cats, and so on. So we decided to try it. A neighbor loaned us a crate, and we've been putting the dog in there and bringing the cats to "visit," rewarding them for their tolerance and the puppy for not barking and lunging at them. We're making progress, slowly.

Aside from the feline issue, she seems beautifully socialized. She's terrific with kids (the little girls next door have been over several times; this morning they brought a couple of their friends and played with the dog for about 20 minutes) and with other dogs of all sizes. We walked her to the neighborhood parade on the 4th -- despite its small-town size, it was preceded by a fire engine, siren going, and concluded with a patrol car, dome lights flashing, plus a brace of police motorcycles -- and she showed no aggression or startle reaction at all. I walked her before bedtime and, even with fireworks going off throughout the neighborhood, she was perky yet calm. (Yes, I'm sure she's not deaf.) She's also fine riding in the car.

We didn't put any energy into naming her at first because, given the long weekend, it's possible her owner(s) were out of town and hadn’t had a chance to see any of our notices. Of course I'd be conflicted about returning her to someone who’d neglected her so badly. On the other hand, she doesn't show any signs of having been emotionally or physically abused in any other way.

It's funny; Jer and I have occasionally speculated about eventually getting a dog, ideally one we knew was fine with cats, and certainly a big dog, or at least a medium-sized one, not one of these li'l 13-pound critters. But she wandered into our life and... here she is.

She's scheduled for surgery Thursday AM on the hematoma in her ear. More $$$ She'll have to wear one of those Elizabethan collars for a while, which will make her even more alien in the eyes of the cats.

Now I understand how dogs end up with insipid names like Sweetie Pie, Baby, Precious and Honey, because that's what we'd been defaulting to calling her. As of this week, though, she's Sophie. The name was Jerry's idea. It's not all that original, but it's homey, and it seems to fit.


Donna said...

It sounds like this little guy has found a new home. Blessings on you for caring for this little creature. Jackie is so excited to have a Blog.....She and Tom are being cared for by the "Food Brigade of sea ranch....to help them over the next few days.

Libbi said...

She is such a sweet puppy, Reev. I'm so glad you've decided to work on integrating her into your family (and I love the name Sophie).

Sharon said...

Wow, what a story! She's, no doubt, turned you into a dog person!