A second chance at lifeJoey cocked his head, big ears alert, waiting for a treat and a pat from Rhonda Richey last week. The canine’s brother, Turner, ambled through the snowy parking lot wearing warm black booties striped with blue purchased by Marni Lind. Shamu, a black and white kitten, purred as it snuggled in the arms of Dr. Bob McClellan.
By: Maria Lockwood, Superior Telegram
Joey cocked his head, big ears alert, waiting for a treat and a pat from Rhonda Richey last week. The canine’s brother, Turner, ambled through the snowy parking lot wearing warm black booties striped with blue purchased by Marni Lind. Shamu, a black and white kitten, purred as it snuggled in the arms of Dr. Bob McClellan.
These three animals had a rough start in life. Neglected, abandoned, injured, they could very well have become statistics. Instead, they are loved, cared for and adored by people who refused to give up on them – the staff of Superior Animal Hospital and Boarding Suites.
Maybe it was their attitude that won the humans over.
“Sometimes they’re happy despite the issues they’re presented with,” McClellan said.
Maybe it was their youth.
“They just haven’t been given a chance yet in their life,” McClellan said.
So Superior Animal Hospital gave them one.
About three months ago, Joey and Turner were brought to the animal hospital by Animal Rescue Federation staff. They had been found crated together, abandoned in an empty apartment.
“We come across thousands of dogs in our work here,” said Richey, a doctor’s assistant. “I’ve never run across puppies this sweet. They just want to cuddle up with you.”
But they had serious medical issues – hunched backs, lack of muscle mass, splayed out paws, swollen joints and fevers. Both were painfully thin. Richey recalled how Joey used to drag himself around the house, unable to walk. His first attempts at running earned him the name Joey, because he looked like a kangaroo hopping.
Money from ARF’s Theo Fund went to their care, and they have progressed. Dr. Sarah Harwood, who is treating the puppies, said their case is still a bit of a mystery. Although neglect played a part in their symptoms, there may be some genetic cause as well. They now have sores and blisters that flare up along their skin, including the pads of their feet. Due to lack of tendon strength in their feet, they walk on their ankles. The puppies are on an anti-inflammatory to keep their joints from swelling and they occasionally spike a temperature.
“We’re kind of hoping they grow out of it,” Harwood said, but “they’ll never be completely normal.”
Richey and Lind, a pet services assistant, have opened their hearts and homes to the pups. They know Joey and Turner still have hurdles to face, and may not outgrow their problems. But what matters is their lives today.
“I just wanted to give him some kind of chance,” Richey said. “He couldn’t walk, couldn’t move, couldn’t sit up. The options were euthanasia or at least trying.”
“You just really want to give them something better than where they came from,” Harwood said.
Despite their rough start in life, the puppies crave human contact.
Every night, Joey sleeps in a soft bed. Every afternoon, the puppy cuddles with Richey’s son after school.
“If I can give that to him for six months,” Richey said, it’s worth it.
When a Superior woman found a small kitten under her porch, she could tell there was something wrong with it by the way it walked. She brought the black-and-white feline to the Animal Rescue Federation. They turned to the animal hospital for help.
The kitten’s rear right hock, or ankle, was broken. McClellen “knew right away it was not something we could afford,” said Sheila Love, ARF director.
The kitten – nicknamed Shamu – was admitted on a Friday afternoon. McClellen gave it pain medication and went home for the night. But his sleep was fitful. The situation, he said, was heart-wrenching.
“It’s just a hard thing,” he said, to see an animal put to sleep for a treatable problem. “You see these animals and you really want to help them.”
The next morning, despite the broken leg, the kitten was friendly and purring up a storm.
“I came in and picked him up,” McClellan said. “He was so happy.”
The veterinarian took a chance. Instead of a pricey surgery, he anesthetized the kitten, realigned the break and put on a splint. Luckily, the damage was fresh enough to heal using the splint.
“This one had a good ending,” McClellan said. “I’m glad we tried.”
Tuesday, the kitten purred as it lay cradled in the veterinarian’s arms. Shamu has a forever home waiting, Love said.
With no veterinarian on staff, ARF relies on the team at Superior Animal Hospital to provide care to the dozens of cats and dogs they receive each month. Although costs are reduced, there is only so much money available for animal care. Sometimes, difficult decisions need to be made.
“We have great respect for the job they do,” McClellan said. “It’s different from ours and, in my mind, a much tougher job.”
They see cases of neglect and abuse all the time, he said. And when those patients visit the animal hospital, they make an impact.
“I never realized how hard this is on them,” Love said of Superior Animal Hospital personnel.
These three animals found a new lease on life because of their youth, their personality and the open hearts of caregivers.
“What’s so special about this one?” McClellan asked, cradling Shamu in his arms. “He was special to me.”
Dogs and cats are waiting for homes at ARF and the Humane Society of Douglas County. Donations toward medical funds for animals are also appreciated.
For more information on ARF, call (715) 394-7387 or visit www.animalrescuefederation.com. The county humane society can be reached at (715) 398-6784 or www.hsdcpets.com. Pets available for adoption at both sites can also be viewed at www.petfinder.com/index.html.