As Fate Would Have It

June 21, 2012  

Helping at an adoption event leads to fostering a special needs puppy all the way into his forever home

By Janet Archibald

We were staffing a Midnight Madness adoption event at animal services. Someone had put five tiny pit bull puppies in one of the cages, and everyone was handling them. They were yowling from being wet and hungry, and I was terrified they would get either the deadly distemper or parvovirus. I grabbed the staff and said, “OK, I’ll take them, just get them out of there!” That’s how the five pups became the Poker Hand Litter and came to From The Heart Rescue in El Paso, Texas.

King, the smallest of the litter, was so far behind the other pups that we decided he didn’t even belong to that litter. He was tiny; half the size of the other puppies and only had tooth buds, where the others had functioning teeth. Everyone went back on the bottle for nutritional and emotional development. King, now nicknamed Short Round, was a ferocious feeder. The other puppies had been weaned too early and were sucking on Short Round to satisfy their need to nurse. They bloodied him and gave him a terrible case of pyoderma, a painful skin infection. I would hear him screaming and quickly separated him from the other puppies.

It turned out we were right to be concerned about the puppies being handled at the adoption event. All five pups developed an upper respiratory infection, which, thankfully, responded to antibiotics. Shorty had a harder time overcoming the infection and was prone to upper respiratory infections and tummy troubles. They seemed to clear up, but I didn’t like the fact that he kept coming down with them. He was growing though and seemed like he did well in between the infections. The other pups did well and were adopted, but I held on to Shorty since he still seemed to have some lingering problems.

A Turn for the Worse

Shorty began to show signs of myoclonus muscle twitches, a symptom of distemper that infects the central nervous system. We’ve had quite a few other dogs survive myoclonus, including one dog who survived it for about eight years. We’ve seen it form into seizures in only one case and have even seen it progress to cerebellum damage, which young dogs can survive and recover from.

Shorty was twitching, skinny and prone to bouts of diarrhea. He would only feed from a bottle, as the distemper was affecting his sense of smell. Thank goodness, though, he would still suck his bottle dry, so I fed him everything liquefied. One day, he started whining continuously, which progressed to ear splitting shrieking and severe muscle contractions. His back legs flexed into his abdomen once every second. Any sound or exposure to light set off twitching, contractions and shrieking. I ran him to our vet and with one shot of Valium, he was resting comfortably. Dr. Misty, the veterinarian, sent me off with a prescription for Valium and wished me good luck.

I needed that luck. For the next two weeks, Shorty lived on Valium for four hours every day. I put Shorty in a dark, quiet room, wrapped him in a blanket and crated him. Every four hours, I wondered if I was doing the right thing and if I should have him euthanized. He kept eating and kept trying to walk. He wanted to go outside, which he could, for a while. I have a video after 10 days, where he finally started playing with his toys again. I knew then that he would make it. I cried.

We started Shorty on physical therapy for “foot placement and advancement,” as one of my therapist friends explained to me. At first, he only dragged his back feet, using his front legs for everything. He wore the skin off his back toes, and I had to tape them up. Several times a day, I took him into the living room onto the carpet with his favorite toy. I threw it in front of his nose and manually moved his back feet for him. We did this for hours until he could get those feet under himself and move them. His hocks still crossed, he bobbed like a drinking bird toy, and he was noisy! Noises still bothered him, and he would howl loudly in protest.

A Light at the End of the Tunnel

I took Shorty to be neutered, but made sure the vet saw him the day before. I really didn’t want to surprise anyone with a bobbing, weaving, yowling puppy. About now, his permanent teeth had emerged in a perfect line above his baby teeth so that he had two complete sets of teeth. We called him our “Great White.”

He bobbed and weaved, wobbled and “ice skated” on smooth surface floors and “talked” non-stop. Even my husband, a cat person, wanted to keep him. I sucked in my quivering lip and gave the foster lecture to my husband explaining that the more we keep, the fewer we can help and took Shorty to an adoption event.

That turned into months of adoption events, and we patiently answered questions about “dancing dogs,” as we call our myoclonus kids. At one event, a young woman kept coming back to look at him. By this time, Shorty was a pro at soliciting sympathy. He wobbled over to this nice woman with his most pathetic expression and collapsed in her lap, clearly unable to go any further. She “oohed” and “ahhed” over him, until he spotted another potential playmate and leaped out of her lap to collapse in front of someone else. Her shocked expression turned into one of delight as we cracked up and told her, “You’ve been played!” She snuggled Shorty for a long time and said, “You know, I get him. There’s something in his eyes.”

Shorty went home with her.

The last time I saw Shorty was at a busy adoption event. His new family had brought him by. His name was now Maverick and he was twice as big as he had been. He was yowling away as his three little boys ran around him and encouraged him to “talk.” He recognized me, I think, but he was now definitely their dog and very loved.

With a lump in my throat, I watched him go. I had almost kept him and still think of him fondly, but he’s now someone else’s dog. And that’s the way it should be.

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17 Responses to “As Fate Would Have It”
  1. OMG tears are falling from this story.  God doesn’t make any mistakes for sure.  There’s a person for every dog no matter the situation! You are definitely a blessing.

  2. DianaJones says:

    Saints are alive. The work, the tears, the heartache, it’s so worth it. I loved this story and cried for that little bundle who turned into a monkey. He now has his own monkeys to deal with so it all worked out well.

  3. What an amazing story — Shorty was truly blessed to have you in his life. He has such an adorable face. Thank you for sticking with him! 

    • StubbyDog says:

       @annedreshfield We agree, Janet is a wonderful person for giving Shorty a chance.

  4. lgcatwoman19 says:

    All that trouble creating accounts and restting passwords, etc. just to say–what a beautiful boy and I wish he was mine! I am so glad he has a home now but I couldnt have given him up. That must be the hardest part of fostering or running a private shelter. Glad there are such persons for the sake of the dogs.

    • StubbyDog says:

       @lgcatwoman19 Thanks for taking all the trouble to comment (sorry about that), we are glad for people like Janet too.

  5. CheryeElliott says:

    What a wonderful story.

  6. txpuppylady says:

    Thank heavens for people like Janet who open their hearts and homes to special needs animals, rehabilitating them so they can go on to find that furever home.  It truly is a selfless calling …

    • StubbyDog says:

       @txpuppylady Janet is a special person who selflessly helped a special dog. Thanks for commenting.

  7. AmandaFitzgerald says:

    Wow thanks amazing, thanks Janet!

  8. Pupdate on Shorty, now Maverick: his forever Mommy reports that she cried when she read the story and thanks everyone for their comments. He is still a wonderful, happy guy who adores his little boys. He is developing what is probably a cataract in one eye, possibly as a result of the high fever he ran with distemper. We’ll keep you posted on the results of his vet visit.

    • Matt.S says:

       @fromtheheartfoster Hope lil’ Maverick’s o.k. Thanks for the pupdate.

    • StubbyDog says:

       @fromtheheartfoster Yes, thanks for the pupdate, we will all be thinking of Maverick and know he is loved no matter what.