Hope is being able to see that there is light despite all of the darkness. – Desmond Tutu
The day that we met Long Shot Lucy, we actually came to the shelter to pull a different dog. My husband and I by that point had successfully fostered and adopted out about six dogs, and we were ready for a challenge. Lucy was not on our radar because she was considered a lost cause. The shelter did not think she would survive the stray hold at the shelter, and our vet would later agree that she was likely a matter of hours to days away from her organs shutting down from starvation.
The is the scene we saw as we walked by her run:
It was hard to resist her sweet little face, and looking at her broke your heart. She was the most emaciated dog I had ever seen in the shelter. We decided to take her outside, and her condition was even more apparent in the sunlight:
We debated for quite some time, but ultimately decided that we couldn’t leave her there, and she came home with us, with the hope of her being able to live a normal life. It was February, and we put a jacket on her to keep her warm. We researched online for best practices for dogs in her condition, and found that large endless meals can actually cause her harm, and so we began feeding her very small meals several times a day until we could get her to our vet on Monday. She was so excited for food that she would try to eat from the bowl while you were carrying it, but it was hard to blame her.
The next several days it froze over and snowed. Had she still been on the street she definitely would not have made it.
The vet was actually surprised that she was able to walk on her own. All of the vets at the clinic that day gathered in the back to examine her, and they agreed that she was in the worst possible body condition and scored her a 1 out of 9 on the body condition scale for dogs and she weighed 17 pounds. It was then that we discovered she had eaten off the end of her own tail, and about an inch of bone protruded from the end of it.
She had blood taken for an extensive blood panel to check her organ functions. It was possible that her organs were shutting down already and we were too late. A few days later we heard the good news that a few numbers were off, likely due to the amount of food she was given at the shelter, but that she appeared to be in good shape internally.
Within a few weeks her blood work numbers returned completely to normal and she started to rapidly gain weight. She was given puppy food, the theory being that she was essentially growing as a puppy would.
She surprised everyone and bounced back fairly quickly, returning to a normal weight within only a few months. Here she is about halfway between her starting point and her normal weight, 12 pounds more than she was in the shelter:
In this process we learned a lot about the recovery of emaciated dogs. For example:
- Her hair and nails had stopped growing, and her skin was not shedding like normal. Once she started to gain weight, it was as if her body flipped a switch and it all happened at once. She started to shed chunks of hair and skin as a completely new coat grew in.
- Her body was overdue to go into heat, and once she started to gain weight she went into heat. We took her to be spayed shortly after. I had actually never experienced a dog in heat since I have always had spayed dogs, so it was a new thing for me.
Once Lucy was close to a normal weight of about 35 pounds, she was adopted! This was great news for us. However, it wasn’t meant to be and she was returned within 24 hours. Lucy is very cautious of strangers, and she is especially cautious of men. She needed someone who was going to be patient with her. At this point our criteria for adopters went up significantly, because we did not want to adopt her out and have her returned again, for her own sake.
She was looking good, though!
We knew her home was out there somewhere, so we waited some more. She was the very first dog featured in the NewsFix special “Ruff Life”: http://cw33.com/2014/05/27/ruff-life-longshot-lucy/
Four more months went by and Lucy was still waiting for her home. She had started to gain muscle back now, and was starting to look like a proper dog. We posed with the Dallas BIG sign:
In October, we were contacted by a woman in Fort Worth looking for a dog just like Lucy. We took Lucy to meet her and her current dog at the dog park, and it looked promising! They were having renovations done to their house, so we had some time to wait.
The adoption day came, and it was a match! Lucy has finally found her forever home, with a loving mom, dad, and fur sister.
The experience with Lucy was at times exhausting, but there is no other experience like taking a dog from death’s door and fostering her back to health and into a loving forever family.
Happy tails, Long Shot Lucy.