Saturday, September 10, 2016

Rabies and Foster Failure

Fourteen years ago, I received a call to foster a puppy that had been dumped in the country in Guthrie, Oklahoma.  He had been squatting under a porch at a home with four other dogs.  When I arrived to pick him up, the husband crawled under the porch and retrieved a terrified, 6-month old, 35-pound furball.  His velcro fur was studded with leaves and twigs and whatever else that was under their porch.  This was not the little puppy that I had in mind.

Sad for the pup, and hating the sucker in me that kept falling for calls like these, I drove home with the "puppy".  He didn't make a sound the whole way home, I didn't either.  I got him home and he proceeded to pee himself every time I touched him.  Not only was he NOT a puppy, but he was black, he was part chow, and he was a nervous pee-er.  There's a long waitlist for people wanting dogs like these, right?

I named him "Anderson" for the road where he was dumped.  Andy's eyes were crusty, so I made an appointment with my vet.  The vet immediately suspected distemper.  His prognosis was not good.  I was told that it was extremely contagious, especially for my other foster dog that may not have been vaccinated before I got her.  Distemper is almost always fatal, and if he happened to survive the disease, then he would likely have seizures and other serious health issues for life.  The recommendation was to euthanize.

I asked what my other options were.  In the end, I took him home and quarantined him in the bathroom for the next few weeks while dosing him with antibiotics.  Quarantine proved to be difficult with two dogs of my own and a foster or two.  At one point, we were under direct threat of a tornado.  I had my own two dogs and couple of cats in the hallway in crates.  One foster dog was on a leash in the hall with me.  I kept picking up Andy and putting him in the bathtub with a blanket over him, but he kept jumping out.

Three weeks passed and Andy's eyes cleared up.  He never developed any other symptoms of distemper.  We went back to the vet and I had him neutered and vaccinated to prepare him for adoption.

Every two weeks, Andy and I would go to the adoption outreach.  Every two weeks, Andy and I would come home from the adoption outreach - unsuccessful.  This continued for the next few months.  Finally, I made a pact with Andy on our drive to the outreach one Saturday.  I told him that he needed to either get adopted that day, or I would just need to keep him.

That day, Andy did his usual and hid under the tablecloth at our adoption table.  Occasionally, someone would notice this teenage puppy and would inquire about him (as he peed himself).  My answer was consistent that day - "I think he has rabies."

I sure got some funny looks, but at the end of the day, Andy went home with me for good.  He was my first "foster failure", but not my last.  I have no regrets.

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