(Read Toby Roo, Part One.)
So I’m on the couch, holding my breath to see what happens with our Project Pup. The tub is still filling and Mom comes into the house carrying the fuzzy pup in both arms, kicks the door shut with her foot behind her, and runs into the bathroom. Then she shuts the bathroom door. I hear her sing-song voice, probably trying to cajole October into feeling more at ease. But she’s probably having trouble holding the pup and he’s terrified and trying to get out of the tub, and after a lot of GOOD BOYs and other positive words, and some things I’ve never heard before like, “flea infestation,” and “tapeworms,” Mom emerges from the bathroom a little while later.
“Tilly, for a 25-pound pup, he is shedding the number of tapeworms a dog twice his size would shed!” Then she told me how she indeed got him bathed, and the water was dark grey from dirt and fleas. “He had the worst flea infestation I have ever seen. Well, now we have to wait 24 hours before we give him topical flea meds. Cross paws that no fleas made it out of that bath alive, Tilly.”
Then Mom sits down next to me and starts telling me the story: “I left him in the bathroom on the towels, and then covered him with towels because he was shivering so badly. But sitting next to him didn’t seem to comfort him. He hasn’t bonded with anyone yet, Till. You know what? He’s FERAL.”
“Here’s what happened today, Till…”
When I went to the shelter and said I was here to pick up a pup or someone to foster – someone who REALLY needed a quiet home, the foster coordinator looked right through me, because her wheels were immediately turning, churning through the inventory of dogs in her head. She really gave some thought as to which dog needed a foster home the most because she proceeded to spend a good deal of time looking in the computer system.
After about 10 minutes, the foster coordinator turned the computer monitor around so I could read the notes from the capture and said, “You’re his only hope.” And up to this point, the only thing I’m thinking is: I’ve got to remember to tell her that the only condition I have is no dog-aggressive dogs.
The notes on the computer screen from animal control were: Several complaint calls. Pack of 7 dogs. Been running loose for quite some time. 4 adults, 3 pups. Aced the 3 pups and 1 adult, brought to intake. Approx. 7-8 months old based on dental.
I looked at her with my head spinning: “So he didn’t have a home? He wasn’t surrendered by someone? He’s a stray? What does Aced mean?”
“Ace is a paralytic spray that the officers sometimes have to use to ensure a safe capture of the animal. It makes them unable to move for a brief time. And, no he’s never had a home. He’s 100% feral. I don’t think he has ever been around people for very long. Sweet little guy, though.”
I was speechless. What the holy heck was I getting into?
“Want to go see him? He’s out in the big room,” said the foster coordinator.
We walked down the hall toward the big room, and with every step, the multitude of alarm barking voices became exponentially louder and louder. She threw open the swinging doors and the barking was deafening, echoing and bouncing from every square inch of the concrete floors and cinder block walls. The barking energy waves were so intense that they reverberated straight into my heart.
We walked by several rows of cages big and small, and arrived at the end of the row, where “Roy” was printed on a card attached to the front of the cage.
“Roy” was a fluffy shepherd, collie, feral mix pup who had the kind of markings and coloring that would blend perfectly into any natural setting – woods, field, stream. He was wild eyed and whale eyed – the whites of his eyes showing. And he was pinning himself into the back corner of the cage, with his head all the way up at the top of the cage, and butt at the bottom, trying to melt away, disappear away from all of this. He was shaking uncontrollably and had peed in his cage. He looked more terrified than any creature I had ever seen in my life.
“There’s our Roy!” exclaimed the foster coordinator with a tone in her voice of oh-my-lord-dog-please-hold-it-together-this-woman-is-your-only-hope. “What do you think? Wanna foster him? You’re his only hope, truly.”
The echoing barking explosions were beginning to bring me to my knees, and I could tell that Roy felt the same, intensifying the fright of all he’d been through. I looked around at the other dogs who were demanding to be let out, standing at the fronts of their cages, outraged and yelling and begging to get my attention. And yet, here’s Roy, a timid pup who’s overwhelmed, who never knew the world could be this intense and scary, and oh my, has he ever been through so much – being Aced, taken from his family, and put through vetting, and then caged probably for the first time. And four days of this constant noise would make me insane.
“Let’s get him out of here,” I said. “I’ll take him home.”
“So, Tilly, that’s how October and I made it home to the drive gate. That’s where our pup has been today… he’s already come a long, long way considering only 4 days ago he was running free with his siblings, totally unaware of this world.
And tonight given a bath to top it all off! I bet he is so very tired. And hungry! And up to this point, he was Aced, he’s had a set of worming tablets, and rabies and bordatella vaccinations. And they did all of this while he was probably anemic from fleas. The fact that he’s still alive after all of this is amazing.”
We went into the spare room next and put our crate in there, and laid some blankies in it and on the floor next to it. Mom put down food and water and laid down puppy pads all over the floor because October was still shedding tape worms, and the papers were for him to go potty. October was going to sleep in his first real bedroom tonight, with real carpet and a meal!
Mom very quietly opened the door to the bathroom. October was still in the exact same position, but he had fallen asleep. She talked soothing tones to him as she lifted him up and brought him into the guest bedroom. Then she stayed in there with the door closed for awhile, showing him the food and the water, trying to talk him into taking a treat from her hand. Nope. Not tonight. He was worn to the bone tired.
Mom came down the hall to the living room, where I was on the couch. “Tilly, I hope we’re doing a good thing here. I have no idea what I’m doing. All I know is that he couldn’t stay there. No way!! He needed to come home with us, right?”
I listened intently and then nodded in agreement.
“Just have to keep a level head, though, because I thought I heard him cough while I was in there just now. And the same kind of “cough sound” today while I was carrying him from the car. We will have to keep our eyes on the pup, Till.”
Toby’s story to be continued in Part Three.