For the past 27 years, Grateful Dogs Rescue has focused primarily on helping dogs with minor health problems and those just too shy or fearful to be considered adoptable in the shelter environment. But now, thanks to our partnership with Serramonte Subaru and Serramonte Volkswagen, along with support from other generous donors, we have been able to expand our repertoire to include more serious medical cases. We can provide vital and sometimes very expensive veterinary care for many dogs that otherwise would be euthanized because of medical needs the shelters can’t meet—if we can find foster homes for them. Recently we’ve been able to help numerous dogs with a vast array of medical needs.
Among the most complex are our orthopedic cases. Princess, for instance, had spent her life being passed around among various homeless people while suffering from untreated leg injuries. We were lucky to find a foster home committed to the four-month rehab period after her first TPLO (for tibial-plateau-leveling osteotomy) surgery, and then through the same surgery and rehab process for the other leg. Hannah also had an old leg injury requiring FHO (for femoral head osteotomy) surgery. Because she was in constant pain, she had favored the injured leg for so long that she needed post-surgery physical therapy to build up her atrophied muscles and help her learn to walk normally again.
Other cases require surgery but very little recovery time. Little Davey was blind when he was abandoned at a shelter in the rain one night and found the next morning still sitting on his wet dog bed where he had been left. He needed immediate surgery to remove both eyes to eliminate all further pain. He’s still waiting to find his forever home. When Lola was attacked by another dog, her owner couldn’t afford treatment for her badly injured eye and was advised to have her euthanized. Fortunately we were contacted and were able to take her in. Her damaged eye couldn’t be saved, so it was removed the same day.
And sometimes our dogs require lots of home care before being ready for adoption. Frieda had a fractured pelvis and her owner couldn’t afford surgery to repair it. Our vet recommended a period of crate confinement instead, but shortly after the fracture healed, she needed surgery for malignant mammary tumors. She’s now cancer-free and still waiting for her forever home. Suki and Steve, sweet siblings, were in deplorable condition—underweight and horrible demodex, among other problems—due to substandard care in a neglectful home. With lots of loving care, they became as beautiful on the outside as they are on the inside.
Occasionally we take in dogs needing considerable emergency care with no assurance of a positive outcome. Eek had been exposed to kennel cough, which turned into severe pneumonia and required spending several days in an oxygen tent at the emergency hospital. His prognosis was poor, but his vet persisted—and he survived. Shawn had untreated diabetes that required two days of intensive care to stabilize. He also has a mass on his spleen and a mouth full of rotten teeth. His insulin dose is finally regulated, so soon he’ll have surgery to remove his spleen and all of his teeth.
Knowing we can afford to help these medical dogs when asked is just one piece of the rescue puzzle. The other, and extremely vital, piece is finding caring and committed foster parents to nurse these dogs through their medical treatment and recovery. In a few of these cases, the foster parent realized they couldn’t bear to part with their foster dog after their convalescence, but more often, the foster watches with tears of happiness and a little sadness as their newly healthy foster dog moves on to a new life in a loving home.
It breaks our hearts to turn down a shelter dog that we know we could help if only we had a suitable foster home. Fostering a medical dog could be one of the most rewarding things you’ll ever do.
Kim Durney is the administrative Director of Grateful Dogs Rescue, the oldest all-breed rescue group in San Francisco. Since 1990, its mission has been to save the lives of local dogs that are at risk of euthanasia. Learn more at GratefulDogsRescue.org.
Shelter Zone features a different shelter and rescue group each month. To contribute, contact Editor@BayWoof.com.
Main article photo by: Davey and Frieda courtesy Grateful Dogs Rescue