YGRR staff and volunteers are fortunate to be able to take as long as
necessary to find the most suitable home for each Rescue Golden. YGRR
personnel also has the benefit of being able to provide each dog with
all the veterinary care he or she requires in order to live a full, healthy
and comfortable life. The generous support of our members makes these
things possible and we and our Rescue Goldens are very grateful. Following
are the stories of three very special senior Goldens who required special
veterinary care and/or very special homes. Thanks
to donations to the Look Beyond Time Fund, we were able to keep each
of them until the right adopters came along. Thanks to these very special
adopters, the dogs whose stories are told here are receiving all the special
attention they need and deserve.
It was June, the beginning of YGRR's busiest time of year. Most people look forward to fun time and vacations. For those who work in animal welfare, Summer is dreaded as "Dog Dumping" season. Many people who have marginal relationships with their dogs abandon them in the Summer because they "don't want to pay to have the dog boarded" during vacations or the kids are going away to college at the end of Summer and "this is as good a time as any to get rid of the dog."
A call came in to our hotline from the animal control officer in a medium-sized Connecticut city. A big red Golden male stray had used up his holding time and we were asked to pick him up because the pound was getting full. The Animal Control Officer thought the dog was about five or six, and said he seemed to be a nice boy.
After arriving at one of our collaborating veterinary hospitals, Tarzan, as the dog had been named because of his size, had a complete medical evaluation including a geriatric blood chemistry profile. Our veterinarian put Tarzan's age closer to eight than five. Surprisingly for a stray, he was already neutered and other than some plaque on his teeth, a few hot spots and a low thyroid function, he was found to be in good health. We were all relieved to learn that he did not have heartworm disease.
A few days later, Tarzan was transferred to Riverview to be readied for adoption. But the first day after his arrival, Tarzan became hunched over, limped on various legs and seemed depressed. After consultation with the veterinarian, Tarzan was placed on antibiotics for a suspected case of Lyme disease while his blood was sent out for testing. The blood results suggested an exposure to Lyme disease and Tarzan showed marked improvement on the antibiotics, so he was made available for adoption. Tarzan was a big favorite with staff and volunteers because of his extremely sweet and calm disposition and he was quickly adopted.
One week later, however, Tarzan was returned by his adopter because he had a definite problem with his left rear leg and was refusing to walk on it. Quickly it became apparent to everyone that Tarzan was lame on that leg.
Tarzan was scheduled to be evaluated at Tufts University School of Veterinary Medicine. The evaluation indicated that surgery was required to repair damage to Tarzan's cruciate ligament. A few weeks later an ACL was performed at Tufts. Tarzan came through the painful surgery and returned to Riverview to recuperate. The next day he developed an infection in the surgical site which gave him a high fever and diarrhea. Back to Tufts he went to get the infection under control. A few days later he returned to Riverview . Between the medication for the post-operative pain and the antibiotic for his infection, Tarzan was pretty miserable. Yet through it all, although confined to a crate so that he would not hurt himself, Tarzan maintained his sweet Golden demeanor.
Despite the valiant efforts of our staff to get Tarzan to use the leg, he was not improving. Two weeks post surgery, he would fall over rather than put weight on the leg. Three weeks post surgery, he would not put his foot down. The surgeon at Tufts instructed our staff to "force the issue" but no matter what was tried, Tarzan would not use the leg. Upon reexamination, the surgeon thought Tarzan's ligament looked good on x-ray and he could not understand why he was not using the leg.
Since we were not getting anywhere and we were afraid Tarzan might be facing amputation of the leg, we asked Dr. Audrey, one of our collaborating vets, to examine Tarzan. She performed another surgery in which all the excess scar tissue that had developed was removed, making it possible for Tarzan's foot to touch the ground. She then initiated acupuncture treatments in combination with adequan injections. After a few weeks, Tarzan returned to Riverview again with instructio
ns for continuing the acupuncture.
Five months after his arrival at YGRR and after multiple procedures, at last Tarzan was comfortable. With exercise and physical therapy, it was anticipated that he would go on to live a relatively normal life. The search for his new family began. Tarzan's adopter had to be very special and willing to continue the acupuncture so that his condition would continue to improve. Happily for Tarzan and all of us, those people came along!
He Jumped Into Our Car!
From the moment he jumped (!) into our car at Riverview, ready to head for home, Buddy (formerly Tarzan) has been part of the family.
As you know, he was found as a stray, had a badly injured leg and underwent two operations before we adopted him. We were advised to continue acupuncture. This we did for two sessions with good results. Then, Buddy was to go in to have a small cyst removed from his eyelid. The acupuncturist suggested that at the same time she insert "gold beads" in his back and in the fronts of his hind legs to stimulate the nerves. You can see the patch on his back where this was done in the pictures.
Buddy hikes two to three miles regularly with Charles and at his check-up after the "gold bead" insertion, the acupuncturist was ecstatic. We still can't believe he is supposed to be eight years old. He is so active. The only clue is his white face. I still periodically try to massage his back and hind legs to get the blood flowing and strengthen his back as he is still stiff when getting up.
When Buddy came to us, his pelvic bone was very prominent. He has now built up muscle so the vet said if she didn't know which leg was injured, she'd have to look. He no longer holds the leg at an angle and seldom limps -- even after a hike or romp in deep snow.
We call him our "horse" and break out in laughter when he comes down with both front feet at once and his rear in the air. Have you ever seen a dog's tail go around in circles? Buddy's does. It wags back and forth when he's happy but goes round and round when he's very happy. This happens when we say "Do you want to go out? For a ride? Have supper?" He rides everywhere with us.
I think he is very happy with us and we are happy with him. Someone really worked with him on obedience. He is very well behaved and we've had people comment on it. The only thing we need to work on is "heel" but he is completely healed!
Rusty, YGRR #2675
In early August, 1999, YGRR was contacted by a volunteer for Irish Setter Rescue about a blind Golden. The dog named Rusty had been boarding in a kennel owned by a friend of the caller but she had been unsuccessful in finding him an appropriate new home. Could we help?
Rusty's story unfolded. Apparently Rusty had been boarded with his guardian angel several times
previously. When he had been dropped off in the Summer of 1998, however, his people had told the kennel owner (guardian angel) that they were going to euthanize him when they returned from vacation because they didn't want a blind dog anymore.
The kennel owner had intervened and kept Rusty in her facility for a year while trying to find him a special home. Due to his blindness and the abuse he had suffered from the children in his former family (who liked to slap his head and then run away to see if he could "get" them), Rusty had difficulty trusting new people and one had to move very cautiously around him. He had never bitten anyone but he might snap in the air if he was startled. Older kids who had volunteered at the kennel had interacted with Rusty without incident so it was clear that Rusty still had some faith in people.
Rusty was admitted to one of our collaborating vets the second week of August. He was found to be in good health except for an untreated low thyroid function which had caused him to have a poor coat. Dr. Audrey described him as a very trusting and gentle dog who wants to please. She suggested that he be treated patiently and that his adopter should move slowly to gain his trust. It was suspected that Rusty's blindness was caused by cataracts, but a consultation was set up with a veterinary opthalmologist just to make sure that there was nothing to be done for him. Indeed, nothing could be done so the search began to find Rusty an adopter.
Placing Rusty was not just a matter of finding a kind hearted soul who would take care of a blind dog. Because of his history of moderate abuse, Rusty's behavior when presented with new people was a bit unpredictable so he could not be placed into a busy or changeable environment. (His former owner admitted to rearranging the furniture so they could watch him trip, for their entertainment.) Many people heard about Rusty and expressed an interest in adopting him, but our Adoption Coordinators, Sue and Angela, declined those homes because they wanted to place him only in a very quiet, steady environment.
Many months passed without finding the right adopter and although Rusty was comfortable and used to the routine at Riverview, we were beginning to feel discouraged about his chances for his own home. Rusty was featured in the Winter issue of Golden Times and many kind hearted folks called about him but again, none had the right combination of circumstances that would allow Rusty to succeed in a new home.
Then, about a month after the Times had been delivered, a phone call came in from the woman who would become Rusty's new mom.
Three Old Golden Men
As you know by now, I could not get the newsletter featuring Rusty as a "special needs" dog who needed a home out of my mind during the winter months. After giving a great deal of thought to the possibility of adopting Rusty, I called Angela at YGRR and had a long chat with her. She was as candid about Rusty's background as she could be and was especially helpful in answering my questions about the special accommodations one must make to handle a blind dog.
Since my sons are grown and I already have two senior Goldens, Chester, 15 years and Doogin, 11 years, I thought Rusty might be able to adapt to our somewhat slower and quieter atmosphere. With this in mind, Chester, Doogin and I went up to Riverview on January 17th to "interview" with Rusty and Angela. After I had a chance to meet Rusty for a while, we introduced each dog to Rusty. Since Rusty is blind, we discovered right away that both people and other dogs have to take some time to understand that he cannot receive the many visual signals which all animals use to communicate to one another. Rusty does have an eager "barge in and try it" personality which sometimes gets him into trouble, especially with other dogs. However, after an hour or so, we decided to take Rusty home and give him some time to see if he, and we, could work things out.
Our adventure with Rusty has been both challenging and very rewarding. He is extremely bright and easily learned every nook and cranny of our small home. Chester, Doogin and I took a bit longer to learn what Rusty needed. For example, I have to remember to talk to him all the time. If we are going out, getting food ready, going upstairs or even changing our location to another room, I would have to remember to tell him and to remind him to go slowly or caution him when he headed toward a piece of furniture which he could bump into. In the beginning, both of my dogs would inadvertently bump into Rusty and startle him. We soon realized that Rusty's instinctive reaction when surprised or frightened was to snap back and it quickly became apparent how frightening this huge change in his world was for him. Each time an altercation occurred, I would have to talk firmly and calmly to the dogs and over the intervening weeks, they have learned to give Rusty some physical space and Rusty is far more relaxed when bumped or crowded by the other dogs. Rusty seems comfortable just wandering around the house now.
Gradually, I have expanded Rusty's "territory" so that now he happily walks to the park with me or with our wonderful dog walker who gives the boys a walk midday each weekday. He has almost completely given up his old habit of pulling hard on his lead and walks right along with the other dogs. While sudden noises, unfamiliar dogs and children still terrify him on occasion, he is learning not to panic and will listen and settle down as I remind him to be calm and reassure him that there is no problem. It takes constant attention and a watchful eye to anticipate situations that might scare him. I find that you need to tell him what you are going to do, like putting on his leash, removing it or when you are about to brush his coat. As long as you talk him through it, he reacts in a much more confident and calm manner.
Rusty relies on his sharp sense of smell to tell him exactly where we are going and which route we take when going home. He puts his smell to his personal good use too. For example, one morning I set three dog biscuits out on the kitchen table to give to the dogs and as I stepped away from the table, Rusty put his front paws up on the kitchen chair and gently reached over to the biscuits to take just one, leaving the others. Rusty also has developed an amazingly acute sense of hearing. While I did not expect to be getting a "guard dog" he happily barks at any car or truck coming into our driveway and since Chester, at 15, is now somewhat deaf, he takes Rusty's cue and joins in. With three of them it is quite a chorus.
It has been wonderful to see Rusty settle into our home and routines. While I am learning that one can never forget to communicate with and protect a blind dog, it is also amazing to see how well he is able to get along with just a little special attention. He is a sweet dog who seems to want to please, and I feel very fortunate to have him in our lives.
Brandy, YGRR #2762
On August 11th, 1999, we received a call to the hotline from a veterinarian. Clients at emergency veterinary facility where she worked had asked her to euthanize their senior Golden because of her severe skin conditions. Thankfully, the veterinarian had persuaded the people to give the dog to her instead. (Sometimes if they feel that the dog's owners are unlikely to call YGRR themselves, veterinarians will take this route to protect the safety of the dog. It is our normal practice to accept the dogs directly from their owners.) The veterinarian was willing to keep Brandy until we had room for her but she felt that YGRR would have a far better chance of finding Brandy a home than she would.
Brandy had been described by her owners as the perfect Golden. She was wonderful with children of all ages, she got along with dogs and cats and she had no bad habits. Her only problem and the reason that her family was going to put her down was her terrible skin condition and constant ear infections. They had tried to treat her as best they could, but without success. These were not unkind people -- they truly felt that Brandy would be better off dead than suffering with her chronic health problems.
On arrival at our collaborating veterinarian, Brandy was a mess. She had very little fur and thickened skin that was pigmented with scaly flaky patches and seborrhea. She smelled TERRIBLE and was a very itchy girl, even tho
ugh the first veterinarian had given her steroids for relief. Thankfully she did not have heartworm disease and she had already been spayed by her owners.
Over a period of several weeks, the veterinarian was able to make Brandy more comfortable by giving her antibiotics for her skin and ear infections, frequent baths, thyroid supplementation, derm caps and a hypoallergenic diet but they knew she needed more work still. Her coat had improved tremendously and the itching had decreased, but it was the recommendation of the veterinarian that Brandy be seen by a veterinary dermatologist specialist. Her chronic skin disease needed to be further diagnosed with allergy testing, biopsies, etc. to rule out an allergic vs. infectious vs. immune dysfunction as the source of her problem. (They had been unable to conduct allergy tests because of the high levels of steroids in Brandy's system when she came to YGRR -- to keep her from scratching too much).
On arrival at Riverview, Brandy still had an overpowering odor. As soon as her system was "clean" from the steriods, she was seen by a specialist who tested and evaluated her thoroughly. Brandy was put on a very costly and potent human medication to fight the fungus infection which was throughout her body. Brandy began to lose weight -- a combination of the special diet which she did not like, the side effects of the strong medication and the stress of being kennelled -- and we were quite concerned about her. Sue, one of our Intake/Adoption Coordinators and Robin, a founding member of YGRR, offered to take Brandy into foster care with them. Not only did they think they could make her more comfortable, but they also wanted to evaluate her as a possible adoptee for a friend of theirs. They needed to see how much
care she would require in the future. Robin and Sue had the magic touch with Brandy, she improved steadily, and their friend adopted her.
A New Lease on Life
I would like to take this opportunity to thank everyone at YGRR who played a role in Brandy's rescue and her long road to recovery. She is living proof that persistence does indeed pay off. I know much time and effort was spent on Brandy's behalf and both Brandy and I sincerely appreciate it. I would like to send a special thank you to Sue and Robin for allowing me the pleasure of adopting Brandy.
Brandy now resides in a valley surrounded by the White Mountain National Forest. She enjoys her morning and late afternoon walks around the neighborhood and can't wait for the snow pack to melt so she can explore all the nearby trails. She has already explored some of them on her weekend hikes, but the deep snow has prevented us from too much exploration. She is enthralled by all the new wildlife scents in her new environment.
No one believes that Brandy is nine years old when they meet her. She is quite petite and has a puppy face, this along with her happy, tail wagging - new lease on life - attitude, leads everyone to think she's a puppy. She likes to romp and play with her canine friends. She seems to think she's the boss in most encounters and likes to prove this by putting her paw on top of the other dogs. She likes any toy that's fuzzy and squeaks, and of course, where would a Golden be without the old standby tennis balls. She also enjoys a good battle of tug of war with her friend Cassidy, a one year old black Lab.
As much as she enjoys being outside and playing with her canine friends, I think her favorite time of the day is the evening when she gets to cuddle on the couch with me and watch TV.
These three senior Goldens were able to receive the extraordinary care they needed and we were able to keep them for as long as it took to find their permanent homes because of generous membership support. We hope that reading their stories will make you want to be a part of the YGRR family . Without membership support, we could not provide this level of care to the Goldens who need us.
We hope that reading these stories will encourage Animal Control Officers
and shelter professionals to call upon YGRR when they encounter Goldens
in need of our services -- no matter what the dog's age or medical condition.
We are here to help you in any way we can.
Rescue and Adoption services for Golden Retrievers from the six New England states.
Address: P.O. Box 808, Hudson, MA 01749-0808