August 26, 2016 by The Dog Rules
Our adventure began the moment I sat in his kennel and he crawled into my lap like we’d done this before. I’d been approved to be his “foster mom”. We sat and cuddled in his kennel while the shelter staff collected the paperwork along with supplies: bed, leash, food, feeding instructions and the list of veterinary appointments to which I’d need to take him.
Truck loaded with his gear and all paperwork signed; it was time to take Drift home. The shelter staff escorted us so they could give him a last cuddle and wish him well. It would be weeks before they would see him again. As we passed through the reception area he grabbed a small cat toy that had been dropped near the door. Not thinking, I had reached to take it away, worried he might ingest it. I had only known him for about 20 minutes and it never occurred to me that he might resent my taking his prize. I hadn’t yet fully realized that his illness made it impossible, at that point, for him to put up much resistance.
Aware that he was weak and frail, I prepared to lift him into his bed in the truck . I swept him up and nearly tossed him into the air. (I had completely misjudged his weight based upon his frame size.) He weighed a whole lot less than I thought! I asked how much he actually weighed. “14.8 kilos” came the reply. Holy Cow! Not quite 33 pounds for a dog that ought to be about 50 – 55 pounds.
Once we were home and I had him settled in what became his corner of the kitchen, I removed his jacket to get a good look at him. He was a dog anatomy lesson. Even though his coat had begun to grow back, every rib was distinctly visible and his hip bones projected abruptly from his spine. He was very difficult to look at – a wraith of a dog. The jacket went back on him to keep him warm.
For the next two weeks he would lay in his bed watching me closely as I worked around the house. I created several comfortable piles of blankets and towels, that we called landing pads, so that he would have somewhere comfortable to rest and still be close to me. His exercise was limited to potty breaks of not more that 10 minutes because he was so weak. He wore that green jacket everywhere. I was concerned that my neighbors would be horrified if they saw him and I was to try to keep his identity secret due to the continuing cruelty investigation.
Obviously the kitchen, where all food was prepared, became his favorite room. He quickly learned which bowl was “his” and, not surprisingly he inhaled his food. I had to come up with several ways to slow his eating. Because he was in such a state of starvation, I had to monitor the amount of food for each meal. His stomach was shrunken and unable to handle the volume of food he would devour if allowed to free feed. I had been instructed to feed him 3 times per day. He had horrible diarrhea accompanied with gas and belching. At this point his medical condition had yet to be diagnosed. We were working with the assumption that these symptoms were due to previous improper feeding and perhaps food sensitivities. I modified his feedings to 4 times in order to give him smaller, more frequent meals, and added pumpkin to help with the diarrhea. The vet supplied a probiotic called Fortiflora and he was given an antibiotic to deal with any potential bacterial overgrowth of “bad gut bugs”. He got me up at least twice every night to go outside. The food was just going straight through him. In his first week he lost 0.5 of a kilo. Not the right direction.