Rescue File 2010
One afternoon a woman came to the Humane Society of New York to say that she no longer had time to take care of her dog. The woman was well-dressed, polite; the dog, she explained, was in her car parked out front; could we take the animal that day? Our shelter was filled as usual but we agreed to meet the dog so the woman led the way to a clean blue sedan and opened the door. The dog was there, motionless on the floor. At first it appeared to be dead. The woman said the dog was a Poodle mix but the animal in the car was a shapeless heap of filthy mats until it lifted its head and tried to turn towards the open door. The dog couldn’t see because tangled hair, thick with discharge, was plastered to her eyes. “She needs surgery on both eyes” the woman offered but she wasn’t sure what kind. Although we were at capacity we knew we had to relieve this animal’s suffering so we took her in immediately. The photograph below shows Dixie about ten minutes after her arrival at the Society. At that point we’d already removed the painful mats over her eyes, which appear cloudy because of chronic irritation and infection. The picture also shows bilateral cherry eyes (prolapsed glands of the third eyelid). It took our technicians two hours to shave the hardened mats covering Dixie. Once they were gone our doctors began treatment for bacterial infections of the skin and sores caused by chronic pulling of knotted hair. Initially the prognosis for her vision was not good. Our doctors found damage to the corneas due to years of almost no tear production, inflammation and worsening, untreated cherry eyes. With aggressive treatment, including surgery, Dixie surprised everyone, making a better than-expected recovery. She was an excellent patient and one of the kindest dogs we have ever had the privilege to help. Today, after extensive rehabilitation the little Poodle mix is a well-cared-for member of a loving family.
Dixie’s adopter emailed us to say “Wow, as a Vet I have seen some dogs in pretty poor condition, but she was as bad as I imagined. It’s so amazing since she is so content eating her prescription diet (1 crunchie at a time, as she likes to do!) and hanging out on the couch right now as I email you. Here is a picture of her on vacation in Vermont (where she LOVED to roll in the leaves). I don’t have a post-grooming picture of her but she was SO fluffed up about 2 weeks ago. As I said on the phone, her eyes are well managed and her bald patches are all gone. Thanks for saving such a wonderful little dog. We love her.”
Each year we care for 34,000 animals throughout New York City’s five boroughs in our full-service hospital and Vladimir Horowitz & Wanda Toscanini Horowitz Adoption Center. Many depend on the Humane Society of New York for the care they need to survive.
Here are the stories of a few more we have helped...
For all of her 82 years Mrs. T. had loved animals. The widow’s small apartment was filled with a lifetime of photographs, as many pictures of her pets as of husband, children and grandchildren. Mrs. T. seemed older after Gracie, her elderly orange tabby died but her voice was strong on the day she called her daughter to say that a cat, mudspattered and ravenous, had turned up on her doorstep. “Nonsense,” Mrs. T. said brusquely when the daughter protested. “Lulu lives here now.” They had a happy year together, then Mrs. T. fell, shattering her hip and couldn’t care for herself anymore. Her children’s lives were busy and they had no room so a nursing home was chosen and though Mrs. T. pleaded, she wasn’t allowed to bring Lulu with her. Reluctantly, the widow’s daughter agreed to keep the cat and to bring her for visits when she went to the home.
We met Lulu a week after Mrs. T. died. Eight months had passed since the accident. “This is really best for the cat,” the daughter said when she called the Humane Society of New York to ask if we could help. “My husband doesn’t like cats so she’s been living in our basement. She’s been mostly alone except when I took her to see Mom.” At the Society, when we opened her carrier it was easy to see how the months of isolation had affected Lulu. The little cat who’d curled on Mrs. T.’s lap while she ate her meals or watched her television was now timid and withdrawn. Her flanks were sunken, her face pinched. At her incoming exam our doctors diagnosed a urinary tract infection, triggered by stress, grown more severe after months without treatment. Lulu spent ten days in our hospital then we transferred her to a quiet corner of the adoption center to be doted on by our staff until she was trusting and healthy once more. In time she was adopted by a couple who love her and take pictures all the time, the kind Mrs. T. would have liked, of Lulu safe, happy and part of a family.
Daryl G. is a security guard who looks like a prize fighter. He’s big-fisted, raw boned, tough as freshly-pounded nails and he knows that people expect him to have a big, tough-as-nails dog. So he always smiles when Sullivan waddles into someone’s arms for the first time. Sullivan is a Golden Retriever mix. He has a tail that wags all the time, faster when you say his name and brown eyes that gaze at you trustingly. A few years ago Daryl found him, matted and starving, limping down a Brooklyn street looking for food. A deep gash under one eye was infected so Daryl took him to a local veterinary hospital where the doctor found evidence of months-long abuse. On his back
were small burns, still healing, from a lighted cigarette. Both hind legs had fractures, too old to fix surgically. “This dog will always limp. He’ll probably have arthritis in a couple of years,” the doctor told Daryl. “Do you still want me to treat him?” Daryl reached out to touch the dog’s head and the matted tail thumped. He said they’ve been inseparable ever since.
Sullivan always waits by the front door, hero’s welcome at the ready, so when Daryl came home one recent winter morning to an empty hallway he knew something was wrong. He found Sullivan lying on the kitchen floor streaked with vomit, moaning in pain. When he tried to lift the dog Sullivan shrieked. Panicked, he called his regular vet but from Daryl’s description the doctor knew the problem was serious. Admittance to his hospital, tests and days of care there would cost far more than the young security guard could afford, so the vet gave him the number for the Humane Society of New York.
Daryl arrived at the Society with Sullivan an hour later. By then the dog’s eyes were glazed and his temperature had spiked to 104°. Blood tests, x-rays and an emergency ultrasound revealed acute pancreatitis, a difficult-to-treat, potentially lethal inflammation of the pancreas. Sullivan was admitted immediately for intensive care, put on intravenous fluids to combat dehydration, then pain and anti-nausea medications and antibiotics. For days, his condition was touch-and-go but he always lifted his head and his tail flickered when Daryl came in the afternoons to sit by his cage murmuring encouragement. After four days he got shakily to his feet. After five days he nosed his dish of soft food; after six he dug in. On day seven we told Daryl that Sullivan was well enough to leave the hospital. “I can’t imagine my life without this dog,” Daryl said when they were ready to go. He raised a hand in farewell then, with Sullivan limping happily by his side, walked down our steps and out our door on their way home.
The neighbors knew there was a cat in Apt. 2J but the man who lived there never let anyone else inside so for years they didn’t realize that Benny wasn’t a pet but a prisoner. Sometimes they glimpsed the little tiger face before the man quickly shut his door. They were used to seeing him sitting, hazy behind grimy panes, in the small window overlooking the building’s courtyard. No one knew Benny was slowly starving. Then one day the man abruptly moved out, taking his sparse belongings and leaving the cat in the hall. The woman in the next apartment was coming home from work when she found him there. “He was scratching at a door,” the woman said when she called the Humane Society of New York. “He was so weak, he went limp when I picked him up. I think he may be dying. Please, can you help?”
We told the woman “yes” and she brought Benny to us that day. Benny is long and tall with a great round tomcat head and he should have been a furry bear of a cat but on arrival at the Society he weighed just over four pounds, every bone jutting through a lifeless coat. Our doctors began treatment at once, fighting dehydration and emaciation plus complications brought on by severe neglect. He needed a lot of care and his recovery was slow but Benny, we soon realized, was no ordinary cat. Having made it out of the dismal apartment alive, he seemed determined to get better. In his hospital cage he’d stand on his skinny legs, eyes wide, unwilling to miss a minute of the comings-and-goings of these nice new people. He took his medicine without fuss. He sat stoically on the scale for his weekly weigh-ins. After long weeks of treatment, good food and vitamins the needle finally pointed to 10 lbs. so Benny was neutered then he rode the elevator upstairs to our adoption center where he was interested in everything and everyone. When a man came in one day looking for a friendly cat it was Benny, busy rearranging papers on the adoption desk, who made him smile. The man wasn’t concerned about special dietary needs so he spent a few days getting everything ready then, beaming like a schoolboy, came back and took Benny home.
Home should be a safe haven but sadly for some animals it is the opposite, a place where they are neglected, forgotten or disposed of. Only a very small number of dogs and cats remain in one home their whole lives. Fully 90% are given away, or are victims of loss, theft or abandonment. They must cope with the confusion, fear and loneliness that follow. We deal with these issues every day, rehabilitating and placing animals safely, stopping this turnover and finding the homes the animals will be able to spend the rest of their lives in.
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Photos by members of The Humane Society of New York. © 2010