Friday, October 21, 2005
How Lewis Got His Groove Back.I have been holding my breath for over a month and I didn't even realize it. Last month, we waited at the San Francisco Airport with a dozen or so other shelters to receive the latest batch of victims of Hurricane Katrina.
Most of the dogs were barky and hyper. Who wouldn't be? Crammed on a tarmac, with a couple hundred animals, after a long flight and experiencing a dramatic change in temperature, air pressure and of course, all those smells so important to canine noses.
But one dog was was not. In fact, Lewis (as we named him) was terrified. He huddled in the back of his crate, cowering in his own pee, hoping no one noticed him. He was placed with us, and I picked the farthest back crate to give him the most seclusion at we crated the rest of the dogs and cats.
It wasn't much better when we got back to the shelter. His was the last crate that we unloaded. And he was no more anxious to visit than he had been at the airport, in fact, he was even more terrified if that was possible.
Nature teaches us "fight" or "flight" but this poor dog was doing neither. He was frozen. (Which can be dangerous; plenty of folks have been bitten gambling on a dog who chose "fight" at the last minute.)
We lured him into a kennel for the night, with wet food, lots of encouragement, a big bowl of water, and finally a good shove.
I have never seen a more pitiful dog. The next morning during his vet exam, it was even worse: his lower extremities were covered with sores. Probably bacteria from contamination, possibly from floodwaters, according to Dr. H. And he didn't trust us any better, either.
I held my breath because if this little, scared guy didn't have a family, who already loved him, he might not make it. His behavior in these two days was not consistent with an adoptable dog: scared of people, asocial, no connection whatsoever.
So he went into foster care to wait out the search.
Today was his day to come back. The front desk called to tell me that Lewis' foster parent was here, so I exited the office on my way down the hall and immediately bumped into a woman with the friendliest, happiest puppy I have ever seen. He had one of those big doggy smiles born from excitment, and a bouncy playful manner that is designed so well to grab the heart of the nearest human. It was Lewis, and I couldn't believe my eyes which were quickly filling with tears.
I leaned down to touch him, and instead of stale, pee-filled fur, I felt the softest brown fur I have ever touched, that smelled like he'd been bathing in fresh cut grass. He gave my face a tongue bath, and as I lowered myself on the floor to get closer, he tumbled backwards in my lap to make sure I had no choice but to rub his belly. All his sores were healed up.
His foster mom said he still startles with sudden noises, but otherwise, Lewis is normal, happy, 10 month old puppy. I've never seen such a transformation. Lewis was going to make it afterall. I mean, I knew he still had to be evaluated to ensure he was stable enough for adoption, and could be trusted in a home, but I could tell that Lewis had gotten his groove back.
And I could exhale.