Thursday, April 29, 2010

Saving a life, UAN style

In a previous blog post, EARS volunteer Debbie Ferguson wrote about a tiny long-haired Chihuahua rescued from the Sparta, Tennessee, puppy mill who was not doing very well. The little dog was unresponsive, wasn’t eating or even moving to go to the bathroom, and had an extremely low heart rate. The veterinarians thought the problem might be neurological or stress related, but they wanted to see if her condition would improve.

EARS volunteer Julie Rathburn of Mobile, Alabama was enlisted to sit with the little girl, now being called Bella, and keep her quiet and relaxed. Little did Julie know, she was about to form an intense bond and save a life.

Julie basically monitored the little Chihuahua round the clock. She stayed awake through the night to make sure Bella ate and drank regularly, and so the vet could administer shots of steroids every few hours. Even during the day while Julie was working in other parts of the emergency shelter, she checked on Bella every five to ten minutes.

After 24 hours, Bella remained listless and unresponsive. But The HSUS personnel in charge didn’t think Bella was suffering, so they decided to wait another day and hope for improvement.

What a difference a day – and Julie’s magic touch -- made. On Day Three after the rescue, Bella began scooting around her cage and moved away from her bed to go potty. Her eyes followed Julie around whenever she was near. Bella was clearly on the mend.

A local rescue group agreed to take responsibility for Bella, then signed her over to her caregiver and savior, Julie. Exhausted from her round-the-clock care of Bella, Julie left the emergency shelter a day ahead of schedule to bring Bella to the comfort of her own home.

Well, we just heard from Julie, and Bella has improved dramatically just in just the few days she has been in Mobile! She is walking, eating, drinking and even wagging her tail.

“Bella is now doing absolutely everything that a dog is supposed to do extremely well -- that is, except bark,” Julie said. “But that is okay with me.”

UAN Emergency Services Manager Janell Matthies credited Julie’s resolve with saving little Bella’s life.

“A lot of us were afraid there was no hope for this dog,” said Janell. “But Julie found the hope and determination and made her become a real dog again.”

Bella still has some issues that need attention -- including luxating patellas, which are common in small dogs who are inbred. But one thing is for sure – the love and attention she received from Julie Rathbun and all of the other UAN and HSUS volunteers and staff has given this girl a chance to live a much better life than the one she had in the puppy mill.

To learn more about puppy mills and what you can do to put hem out of business, please visit


  1. On a very long day this is a true bright spot for me!! I'm so thankful for all the volunteers who truly make a difference for pups like Bella!!!

  2. Oh, that little happy face is just precious! What wonderful news!


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