Animal rescue. Those words conjure so many images for people. Roly-poly puppies tumbling and playing, young dogs sprinting around the yard, their eyes bright and tail wagging, shiny coats and eager faces on the dogs waiting for their forever home. Kittens and rabbits and hamsters and snakes; all creatures worthy of a second chance.
While it’s true that rescues have many dogs like that, but the work it takes to get the dogs there is the behind-the-scenes that most never see. The dogs who are injured and need medical or surgical intervention, dogs who have been abused or neglected and need time (often lots of it) to heal physically and mentally before they can be listed as available for adoption. The one or two-year-old dogs who have never been trained and have zero manners, who have boundless energy that they’ve converted into endless destructive habits that must be curbed then changed so the dog is a good citizen with manners and an understanding of the boundaries.
These are just a few examples of the average dogs that come into rescue. But there are other dogs that I want to talk about. The seniors, the hospice cases, the dogs with such great ongoing medical expenses that they never find a home.
As an example, I want to share with you the permanent foster that my husband and I welcomed into our home 2½ years ago and just recently lost, who was the perfect example of the power of rescue.
In February 2019, I received a call from the kennel director at Doberman Rescue Unlimited (DRU). She told me about a dog named Cody who was emaciated, and on death’s door due to many factors, not the least of which was his diabetes, poor nutrition, and a lack of insulin for (we believe) months. Cody had been taken to his vet office to be euthanized, but the vet and staff lobbied for time to call rescues in the area to see if they could get the owners to sign Cody over to a rescue that could try to save his life.
DRU stepped up and agreed to take Cody, but they knew that he needed to be in a home environment that was quiet, where he could be given the intense one-on-one care he needed to survive. So, we said yes, and the rescue brought him to us.
When he got out of the car, I was shocked at how thin he was. Cody was a tall dog with heavy bone and at the time he only weighed 56 pounds. For a dog who ended up at 100 pounds, this alone could have cost him his life.
We set up an exercise pen in a room that had a door going out to the front yard because Cody had to be leash walked only—out the door, potty, then immediately back inside and put up in his pen. He was so weak; he couldn’t even be allowed to roam around the house. Every calorie was precious, we could expend only enough to let him relieve himself.
From the very beginning, Cody gave us kisses and wagged his tail. He so desperately wanted to be with us; it broke our hearts to say no to this affectionate, loving dog, but we were under strict orders from the vet.
We gave Cody insulin twice daily, and thus began a new routine, a commitment to the schedule that precluded spontaneous trips out of town, or late dinners. Everything we did had to revolve around Cody’s schedule. It was tough at first, but we quickly settled into the routine. Even now with Cody gone, when 8 p.m. rolls around I get an itch and wonder what I forgot to do.
As we settled into the home routine, we also had to adjust to the many vet visits needed to monitor Cody blood glucose and check his other blood and urine values to make sure he was, at least holding steady, or hopefully improving. The steady shots of insulin paired with good nutrition helped him tremendously. But it still took months to get him back to a more normal weight, and finally allow him to meet the other dogs and introduce to the wonders of the back yard sans leash.
Then the time came that he was at a normal weight and his bloodwork looked good. We still had to take him in for periodic blood glucose checks and tweak his insulin when needed, but that was a schedule we got used to as well. Of course, throughout all the vet visits, Cody was a champ. Everyone he met fell in love with him. He was just that kind of dog and it’s a blessing that the original vet office recognized that in Cody and fought to find him a place where he could get healthy and thrive.
And thrive he did.
DRU never had applications for Cody; at least, none I ever heard about. That didn’t stop them from paying for the mountain of initial bills, and then the substantial monthly bills for Cody’s food and medications and syringes. That didn’t stop them from paying for every blood glucose curve (again, not cheap). No, DRU had chosen to make a commitment to Cody, and they honored that pledge all the way to the end of Cody’s life. And DRU isn’t the only rescue who takes in dogs like Cody.
Rescues do amazing work; trust me when I say this, I’ve been in Doberman rescue since 2005. We started out in rescue in North Carolina, then we tapered down the number of foster dogs to one at a time when we moved to New Hampshire, staying with seniors, hospice seniors, and special needs dogs like Cody.
I’m president of Decker McKee Doberman Rescue Assistance, a charity that provides financial grants to help Doberman rescues around the country pay for high medical and surgical costs. I’ve seen on a macro level how hard the rescues work to save dogs of all ages. Their triumphs when the dogs thrive then find a home, their agony when a dog can’t be helped and must be let go.
But the power of the rescues to save, not just young relatively healthy dogs, but also dogs like Cody who was part of DRU’s SSNAP (Senior and Special Need Advocacy Program) program, is limited by how much support they receive from you.
It takes a community of volunteers and donors to rescue animals; saving these lives is an act of love. A circle of love given not just to the animals themselves but to the new family who adopts them. It’s love for the older animals who deserve to be treasured for the entirety of their lives. It’s love for dogs like Cody who were abandoned to certain death, then rescued and brought back to health to live the remainder of their lives loved and cherished, then released to the Bridge with compassion and dignity and peace.
This is the power of rescue.
Want to become a part of the circle of love? Donate to your local rescue!
May your words flow freely,
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