I spent three hours at the Pima Animal Control Center visiting with dogs, both those newly arrived and on death row. There was an adorable lab mix puppy who seemed to instantly connect with me. There was an American Bulldog who was cute but very high energy, and a huge mixed breed mutt named Goliath who seemed like he’d need an acre or two of land to call his own.
Then there was Monster. The volunteer who led me to her thought she might be the kind of dog I was looking for — a dog that would be content with a quiet home life but who’d also enjoy road trips and outings to dog parks, coffee shops and other people’s homes. A dog who’d keep me company as I wrote my next book, who’d be content with 3-4 walks a day, but one that I could also trust on off-leash adventures.
Other than her lethargy, I don’t know why the volunteer thought that Monster was that kind of dog. She didn’t even get up when people walked by to look at her, or the two more exuberant dogs she was kenneled with. She was curled up in a sad red ball, as if waiting her turn to die. When the volunteer leashed her, she seemed reluctant to go outside.
I read her intake sheet. The people who surrendered her said that she was an outdoor dog who was let inside “never”. They listed her bad habits as digging, chewing and jumping the fence. They had nothing positive to say about her and were giving her up because they were being evicted. The volunteer told me that Monster had a brother whom she thought might have already been euthanized for being ill. The PACC doesn’t have the funds to treat dogs beyond a minimal level, she explained, and because they are so crowded dogs who are ill or who have been at the facility too long are euthanized unless there’s a rescue organization or individual willing to save them.
In the pen outside, Monster laid at my feet. That’s no name for a girl as pretty as you, I told her. She leaned into my ankles and closed her eyes. I held a treat in front of her nose and she ignored it — she didn’t seem to care about food, sunshine, the other dogs, or people. She just wanted to sleep and seemed to like it when I rubbed her head.
“I’d name her Annie if I took her,” I told the volunteer, “but I don’t know . . . maybe I should look at some other dogs.”
The volunteer nodded and put Annie back in her kennel, where she immediately resumed her fetal position. She tugged at my heart, but so did all my doubts. A two-year old dog that had never been indoors might be difficult to potty train. Her personality was buried under her illness — there was no way to know if she was docile or aggressive. She could be depressed because of her situation or she could be gravely ill. A dog who spent the whole of her life outdoors could have all kinds of diseases. Diseases that could cost a lot of money or result in death.
I walked a few doors down from Annie and found Sasha. The Shepherd mix at PACC is everything anyone would want in a dog. Balanced, playful, sweet and with such an interest in treats and people that I imagine she could be trained to do almost anything. I played with Sasha for a good twenty minutes and probably had as much fun as she did.
“Well, what do you think?” the patient volunteer asked.
“Sasha’s such a great dog,” I told her. “I imagine she’ll have no problem getting adopted. Annie, on the other hand . . .”
“Sasha’s one of our favorite dogs, too. In fact, there’s a volunteer here who loves her so much, he keeps threatening to bring her home although he’s already got four. If she’s the dog for you, don’t worry about Annie . . . someone will rescue her, I’m sure.”
I looked at the sad red lump in the kennel and wasn’t as confident. In fact, I was sure that as sick as she was, she’d follow her brother into a fatal ending. Suddenly, I couldn’t let that happen.
“I’ll take her,” I told the volunteer. “Annie’s the dog for me.”
Another volunteer took over and told me I couldn’t take Annie home until she’d been spayed. Although her paperwork said she was already altered, he thought that was a mistake. She’d be taken to the clinic the next morning and I could pick her up at 4:00 in the afternoon. I expressed concern about her being operated on while sick, but was told she’d be given a check-up before the surgery.
A little after ten the next morning, one of the vet techs from PACC called to tell me that Annie was verified to have been previously spayed but was, indeed, quite ill. Outside of worms, they didn’t know what was wrong with her, but if I wanted a refund or to come get another dog, they’d let me do that.
“She’s my dog,” I said, more possessively than I intended. “No, I don’t want a refund.”
“Well, then you have to agree to take her to a vet and get her treated within 72 hours at your own expense. You’ll assume all liability for her illness.”
“Yes, I’ll do that. When can I pick her up?”
Three hours later, I was at the clinic with a new red leash and collar in hand, and an emergency appointment scheduled with Annie’s new vet. Annie sheepishly met me, her head down and her tail between her legs. I had to lift her 57 pound body into the car, but once she was inside she seemed to relax. She even stuck her head out of the window for a time on the way to the animal hospital. We arrived a full half-hour early for our appointment. Annie wanted to greet a puppy that was in the waiting room, but since she was sick, we were sequestered in an office to wait our turn. Annie plopped down on the floor and barely moved while we waited. As I was petting her, I felt a lump on her shoulder. It was a big, fat tick. I used two tongue depressors and an alcohol soaked cotton ball to remove it and then checked her entire body for others. While the volunteers at the shelter had cut a lot of mats off Annie, she really needs to be shaved in areas — whoever had her before didn’t brush or groom her and the mats are thick. Luckily, though, I didn’t find any other bloodsuckers.
Annie True was diagnosed with kennel cough, coccidian worms, and probable giardia. When the meds she’s on have had a chance to do their work and she’s a little less ill, hopefully this coming week, she’ll be tested for Lyme, heartworm and other diseases.
Right now, she’s a very sick girl, but she’s lying on the bed I made for her and seemingly comfortable. She’s drinking water and eating food and although she’s come back from our two short, slow walks exhausted, she did walk. She seems hesitant to do her business while on a leash, but she did finally go. And she takes her meds like a champ.
It’s hard to guess what kind of dog Annie will be when she feels better — I’m just hoping she does get better. It’s heartbreaking to watch her like this . . . with no interest in anything other than sleeping and being petted. I’m looking forward to the day she’ll show me who she is. Will she be a tennis ball catcher? A dog park lover? An oversized lap dog? Will she be eager or slow to learn? Will she like being groomed? I have no idea.
All I know is that tonight I’m very grateful that she’s here in my living room, looking very much at home, and hopefully on the road to recovery.