For the last couple of years our family has been living in rental properties. We had one cat, but we've really really wanted to get a dog. Unfortunately, most rental properties don't like dogs.
We recently moved into a nice large house, with a big fenced back yard. We acquired a second cat from the pound, and decided it was a good time to get a puppy.
After weeks of contacting breeders and finding out they were too high priced, and scouring websites, we stumbled upon a group called Saving Paws of Washington. They are a local rescue group that specializes in finding homes for dogs from disaster areas. They were planning on bringing up 90-120 dogs from the recent Oklahoma tornado disaster. They have volunteers go down, and video tape the dogs for prospective adopters. We fell in love with a little puppy they called Elisa. She is a lab-hound mix, reddish brown fur and friendly waggy attitude. She is 8-weeks old at the time of the video. We immediately contacted them, and put a deposit down for her. We went out and got various doggie accoutrement, excited and impatient for this new addition to our family. Best of all, she only cost $250 so that was much cheaper than a breeder, and we're giving a needy dog a home!
They told us they were bringing all the dogs up yesterday, they should arrive around 9am. We arranged to pick her up at 5pm. It took us less time to get there than anticipated, so we arrived around 4:30pm. As we walked into the little boarding kennel, the smell hit us. It was rank.. a combination of wet dog, dog urine, and dog feces. The place was rather run down, and dirty, and I was very glad we weren't letting our new puppy stay here a second longer than it took to get her unloaded and into our van. Well... we waited. and waited. They told us that the first of two vans had recently arrived, but that the van with OUR puppy on it was still running behind. We went to hang out at the mall and get a bite to eat for dinner, and then came back around 6:30. Finally at around 7:20 the van shows up. By this time there was a crowd of people all waiting to either adopt or foster, some that had reserved dogs like us, others that had just come to see what was available. We are told that they brought 25-30 dogs in each van. PER VAN.
As we waited a stream of workers started down the path from the van on the other side of the main office to the kennel. Each one was carrying a dog crate that reeked. As we watched, we could see that every single crate had two or even three dogs or puppies in it. Surely, we thought, that was just to bring them from the van to the kennel, right? Wrong. As they started to open up the crates to retrieve the animals, we could see feces and urine matting the shredded newspapers in the bottom of the crates. The animals were FILTHY, and stank so badly it was literally stomach turning. We continued to wait as they slowly processed each dog, bringing some out to the waiting families. They put water bowls down outside for these dogs, who proceeded to drink them dry. We were told that our puppy, whom we renamed Belle, was "in pretty bad shape" along with her brother, who was in worse shape. Wait, what?
In talking to one of the drivers, she tells us they drove 3 straight days from Oklahoma, with only one stop halfway to let the dogs out briefly. No food or water was given to the dogs during the trip. Let me repeat that. NO FOOD OR WATER WAS GIVE TO THE DOGS DURING THE TRIP. We are stunned. The older dogs and older puppies seemed to make the trip in better shape, though some of them are clearly traumatized, they won't allow anyone near them. The little puppies fared the worst. We wait as they get a can of dog food into the puppies, and then bring Belle out to meet us. She is a mess. Her fur stinks, and is coarse. Her eyes are so filled with gunk it's surprising she can see. Her nose is dripping yellow gunk every time she breathes out. She is lethargic and seems numb. Her belly is distended, probably from parasites, and her sides are gaunt. She is shocky.
The volunteer coordinator tells us we can take her to a 24-hr veterinary clinic close by, that they have an account with, and they will pay for treatment for her. We jump on the offer, and hurry her out of there. Her breathing is labored, she is wheezing with each breath, coughing from phlegm in her lungs. We head over to the clinic, finding it in a bad area of town. It's dirty inside, and hot, and they are short-staffed so we wait and wait to see the one vet. While we wait we use their little water cooler and get little cups of water to give Belle water. She drinks 3 little cups rapidly, then subsides back into lethargic suffering. As we're waiting, two more of the rescue puppies get brought in by their families, including Belle's little sister Ava. She is smaller than Belle, and black. She is so listless that she won't even drink the water they offer her.
Belle's sister Ava
Waiting to be called back to the vet / Waiting for the vet
The vet finally comes in to check over Belle. He confirms she is severely dehydrated. There is noise in her lungs when she breathes. She has a fever. She probably has "an upper respiratory infection." He says she can either stay with an IV for fluids, or he can give her a shot of fluids under the skin and send us home with antibiotics and a cough suppressant. We'd rather she stay, but when they check with Saving Paws (the rescue people who caused this trauma to her in the first place), they say they don't want to pay for that, to send us home with meds. They give her an antibiotic shot, a shot of fluids, and we're sent home with two pill form antibiotics and a liquid cough suppressant.
We get her home, upon setting her down on the floor she immediately wobbles over to a corner in the foyer and pees on the floor. Well, at least she's eliminating. We feed her some wet food and give her water. She inhales both of them voraciously, then seems to run out of energy and flops onto the floor. We put her into her big doggie bed (she's supposed to grow into it), and she falls into a restless, cough-filled sleep. The pile of doggie toys that we had gleefully picked out lays to the side, she has no energy to even show interest in them. This pattern repeats all night. Lem stayed up with her through the night monitoring her breathing, taking her out to go potty and trying to get as much food and water into her as she can hold.
Sebastian: What the hell IS that thing??
I got up at 6:30am to take over for Lem, he went to bed, and again it was feed/water, wait about 20 min, try to take her potty, then let her collapse in wheezing sleep for a couple of hours at a time.
Briefly on her feet to go potty
No, really.. what the heck IS that?!
I give her a super-quick bath to try to get rid of the stench of her, she wasn't thrilled by it.
Can I go back to sleep now?
Sebastion: You still stink.
By the time Lem got up later this morning, it was obvious she wasn't doing much better. Her breathing was more labored, she was still completely lethargic. We decide to take her in to see our vet, who has Saturday hours. Her temp is up to 103.9 (normal is 100-102). After a vet check, she recommends we do x-rays of her lungs. They look filled with fluid, and the vet fears pneumonia. She also finds parasites in Belle's stool that she's taken an internal sample of, since Belle has still only urinated since we got her. The vet sends us over to a 24-hour emergency vet hospital so they can get her on IV Fluids, and shot antibiotics.
While we're waiting the 40 minutes to see the vet there, Belle starts going into periodic respiratory distress. Her lungs are so full of fluid she is finding it too difficult to fight to breath, so stops breathing for several seconds interspersed with her rapid, frantic gasping wheezing breathes. I run out the lobby and grab the vet that is debriefing the previous patient's owners. He runs back with me, and immediately rushes her back and starts her on oxygen. That was scary as hell. We finally see him, and he lets us know it's pneumonia. He's going to send the x-rays to the guy that reads them to verify. He says she has to stay minimum 24-48 hours, maybe even up to 5-7 days. She'll be on oxygen, they'll do IV fluids and antibiotics, and she may or may not live. They also need to run an array of tests to make sure it's not distemper (since Saving Paws has yet to give us any shot records, though they claimed to have given her 2 sets of shots already), or heart worms, or lung worms, or anything else gross and fatal. The estimated cost of the stay, depending on if she's out in 2 days, or has to stay up to 5 days, is anywhere from $1400-$3200. Our $250 dog has now surpassed the cost of any of the dogs we had coveted at the breeders. We've had her less than 24 hours.
We now wait to see if she makes it, and how long she'll have to be there. Not sure how we'll pay for it, but she's part of the family now. If we had tried to take her back, even if we wanted to, she would have died in that place for sure.
This is Belle, sleeping in exhaustion and trying to breathe, right before she started having serious breathing issues and had to be taken back and put on oxygen.
Here's hoping she pulls through this and becomes a permanent part of our family.
ps. And yes, we're reporting Saving Paws for animal cruelty.
UPDATED 6/26: As of this morning, Belle is still alive. She's slightly improved, eating, done a bowel movement. They hope to have her off oxygen by the end of today. No idea when she'll get to come home.
UPDATED 6/27: Belle is still on oxygen. She has ring worms and they have to test for distemper since we still have yet to get the shot records (if any) from Saving Paws. She has a good appetite, but gets winded easily and is coughing a lot. No ETA on when she'll come home.