This past July I was standing in the front parking lot of my office waiting for Paul to pick me up from work when I saw a big white body mass under a car. It was hot, it was dry, and I was afraid of what I was actually looking at. When I got closer, a big white dog emerged and began licking my legs (have I mentioned before that I cannot stand licking or slobbering of any dogs in any way? I actually had a Dalmatian dog growing up who was smart enough to just lick the air around my legs when she was excited or wanted to greet me). He was malnourished, had scabs all over his skin, and aside from a trot in his step he looked neglected and picked over.
My first response was to sift through my bag for any kind of food leftover from lunch—the only thing I could find was some cereal mush, since I hadn't read up on any pet food info. Then I headed into the office and asked the security guards to call the SPCA. Unfortunately they had about three hours ago and no one had responded. What to do, what to do? I headed back outside. A lady came down the stairs and headed to her truck to go home. When she saw the dog around me, she said “oh he’s been out here all day. The poor thing.” Red flag number two. She asked if I wanted some treats that she had in her truck and I nodded yes. At this point Paul pulled up.
Here’s the thing: we are not dog people. We love cats—they are independent, sassy, you are able to leave them with food and water for an overnight trip, and you have to work for their affection. But we just could not leave this dog behind. Using the dog snacks we lured him in the back of the mustang. As soon as the dog had settled he exhaustedly fell asleep in the air conditioning. We stopped off at the local HEB to grab dog food and proceeded to spoil him with as much food and iced water he wanted over the next three months (cha-ching!).
The first week we took Ronnie into our local vet. $322 later (cha-ching!) we found that he had mange, fleas/ticks, was malnourished (only weighed 55 lbs.), was a little over a year old, needed vaccinations, and had heartworms, which he was not healthy enough to be treated for. The vet also said that he was most likely a bull-terrier with a dash of Labrador. We got Ronnie vaccinated, and also gave him medication for his mange. After a month his mange and flea/tick problem cleared up beautifully; his white hair grew back fully, and he even stopped smelling—bonus.
Finding Ronnie a Home
While we never intended to keep Ronnie, we were eager to foster him and get him healthy until we could find a great home. However, we found out early on that a bull of any kind is shunned by most places, and because he had heartworms we could not begin adoption processes with many organizations (even though they knew that heartworm medication has been recalled by the manufacturer and was not being produced at the time—talk about a catch-22).
We were able to begin working through Dakota Rescue, an organization that attempts to find homes for animals while you foster them. One Saturday Paul brought Ronnie to a Petco about an hour away from our house to try and find interested families. Unfortunately, Ronnie gets very excited around other dogs and barked the whole time. We had to purchase a sedative to give him for $30 (cha-ching!) and when that didn’t work, we were basically asked to leave (understandably so—we didn’t want to ruin the chances of other pets being adopted!).
Ronnie was such a good-natured dog. But by the end of the third month, our patience was growing thin. We walked him every day to keep his energy at bay. We taught him how to fetch, but I did not like to interact with him beyond that as he had a horrible habit of jumping up excitedly and then licking you. Also, we had to put curtains in each of our windows and barricade them down with books and logs; otherwise he would bark at us at night (our poor neighbors!), and without the logs/books weighing down the curtains our cat Danny Boy would get behind them for a hiss/bark duel. He also managed to eat through two of our soaker hoses (unburied them as well), two plants, and dig a crater-sized hole down to our foundation (cha-ching!).
On top of his energy issues, I am a very light sleeper and I am sure our neighbors are as well. He would not bark incessantly by any means, but he would bark once or twice several times per night and it would wake me up immediately. Most of the time it was very difficult to get back to sleep because I felt anxious about the police showing up to our home due to noise complaints. After being woken up six times in one night and having to make it through a ten-hour work day we called around to every no-kill shelter we could find only to be turned down by each one. Then we miraculously found a shelter who said they would not euthanize our bull terrier, and had the space for him. Triumph!
I took off from work and drove Ronnie to Paul’s job to say goodbye. I then drove the extra half an hour to get to the place, saying my final farewell in the car. I stood in line for about a half an hour with an extremely excited and barking dog. Unfortunately, when I got up to the window the woman told me that Ronnie would be euthanized on the spot. I was speechless—I assured them that I would never have taken off work and driven an hour to get there if I had known that was going to happen. I called Paul in a frantic and he could not remember who he had spoken to. We double checked that it was their phone number and address—yet they denied that anyone had spoken with Paul. I bawled my eyes out and left the facility with Ronnie—we could never do that to such a good-natured dog.
Paul and I regrouped, and decided to use our last resort: Craigslist. We posted pictures, stated that we had vet records, and filtered out any possible bull-fighters by requiring that Ronnie be neutered before the adoption could take place. Fortunately for all involved, we found someone!
Resources if You Find Yourself in the Same Situation
We learned of available resources that could have helped with the rescue costs and medications only after we had all ready taken care of most of Ronnie’s needs. I would like to discuss these with you (mostly specific to Houston) so that you can save money if you find yourself in the same situation.
There are adoption centers that will work to find your pet a good home while you foster it. These centers will do the background checks to make you feel secure in finding a good home, and will oftentimes pay for some or all of the care the animal will need (unfortunately most would not accept Ronnie because he was part-bull and because he had heartworms). Organizations in Houston include HOPE, Dakota Rescue, Lucky Dog, and Barrio Dogs.
Another option is to tell your vet that you rescued the dog. We were told that many vets will give you discounted rates for rescued dogs.
In the end, we were happy to have helped Ronnie out and very grateful and appreciative of the people who rescue and foster homeless pets off the streets and the shelters who work tirelessly to house these animals. Taking in an animal can completely change your life in both good and bad ways. It can also be a costly endeavor; we estimate we spent $500 to rescue Ronnie. While finding a home on Craigslist was not our original intention, we did feel very comfortable in who we chose for the adoption, and also felt that we did the best that we could for Ronnie given the situation. It was a long three months, and we are hoping to have things go back to normal in our household (specifically the cats are looking forward to playing in the backyard again!).
Have you ever taken in a stray animal? What were some of the challenges for you?