Friday, February 4, 2011

On the Road to Recovery

Submitted by EARS volunteer Debbie Ferguson of Kildeer, Illinois

Getting kisses from puppies
It was a busy day for the dogs and the UAN volunteers today. Each dog was taken by a volunteer to be examined by a veterinarian to determine immediate health needs and to get its weight, temperature, heart rate and other vital statistics. The dogs were then microchipped and given vaccinations and preventive medications. Though it is a long and sometimes tedious process, it also allows the volunteers time to interact with the dogs and get the really neglected ones used to being handled.

Getting his first touch of love

Most of them were a bit nervous at first but quickly calmed down and truly enjoyed being cuddled and petted. The puppies were the most fun, cuddling and nuzzling and kissing, with their tails wagging non-stop.
But the dogs that always pierce my heart are those who are either so frightened that they shiver and shake and grab onto the person holding them with a death grip using their bodies and paws or those who are totally shut down, hiding in the back of the cage and not moving, eating or drinking. Today I had the opportunity to watch many of those very frightened dogs relax and fall asleep in their handlers arms after just a short amount of time. In fact, I fell in love with one I was handling, a small white poodle who was stiff as a board the first 10 minutes I held him, but cuddled up to me during his exams, shots and microchipping, and fell asleep in my arms before I took him back to his kennel. I continue to be amazed at the capacity dogs have for love and forgiveness.

This pup's eyes were virtually
matted shut
Though there weren’t a large number of dogs who appeared to be shut down and completely removed from the desire for human contact, there were a few and they were in some of the worst shape I have seen. The chocolate brown poodle/Maltese mix that was so matted we couldn’t tell front end from back end will haunt me forever. He could barely see from the mats around his eyes and had sores all over his body from skin infections. His ability to move was restricted by the matted hair attaching his legs to his stomach and his head to his chest.

Tracy cuddles the poodle with the
string around his foot
There was also the black and white Maltese whose eyes were basically matted shut, preventing him from being able to see much, if anything at all. He was sent to a veterinarian, along with my chocolate dog mentioned previously and a few other severe cases, to be sedated for grooming/shaving in an attempt to minimize the stress and the potential discomfort of removing the large quantities of matted hair covering their bodies. In addition, there were other dogs who had injuries requiring surgery, like the black toy poodle with a string wrapped around his foot so tightly that it was embedded in his skin and could not be removed without surgery; we hope he will keep his foot, but watching his resiliency during the entire exam, this little guy is a survivor, no matter what happened to him.    

Sloan Smith with a dog prior
to grooming
We also did our own sort of “grooming” for those dogs needing quick attention to relieve the discomfort of their matted limbs. Sloan Smith, groomer extraordinaire (not necessarily by choice) and local volunteer, shaved while I held and comforted several dogs that needed some quick relief. Though we are pretty certain we should keep our day jobs, we did give some dramatic relief to a few dogs that needed to relieve themselves of about 50 percent of their body weight in useless hair.   

And five pounds of fur later!
All in all, it was a good day. We got all of the dogs (and our token kitty) vetted, and began the road to recovery for those that needed health care and those that needed to feel the love of a human being for the first time in their lives.

I am continually amazed by the UAN volunteers… these are people from so many walks of life who come together to do one thing… bring these animals out of crisis and into care… and they do it with such love, enthusiasm and skill that I am in complete and total awe. Thanks to all of you!!


  1. Beautifully written. We red shirts who can't be there in person are cheering you on and giving thanks for the tender, loving care you're providing these dogs. Rock on, red shirts!

  2. Thank you for the great pictures and posts Debbie! Your compassion, dedication and many skills are so appreciated. The doggies thank you too! Safe travels.

  3. Marcia (UAN Volunteer in Connecticut)2/4/11, 8:24 PM

    Debbie, thanks for a great blog entry -- filled with information while sharing all the emotions that are part of a rescue. Great work, Red Shirts!


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