As an animal rescuer, you see hundreds of pictures of animals in need every day. When I saw the picture of two very pathetic, hairless, emaciated dogs pop up on my news feed, I didn't think twice about helping them. You see, I have an affinity for “project dogs”, or in other words, dogs that clearly require major TLC. These two dogs were given until the end of the day, which was only a couple more hours, to be pulled by a rescue organization, or they would be euthanized. The facility that our rescue group Animal Aid for Vermilion Area (AAVA) pulls from is in a large, rural parish (basically what is called a county in almost every other state) of Louisiana, and it does not allow public adoptions. So, even if by some miracle, someone in the general public was interested in these two dogs, they would not have been able to do anything without a rescue involved. As such, I knew I had to act, and I had to act fast. I immediately found myself on the way to the shelter to save these dogs, not exactly knowing what I was in for.
The two dogs—one brown and the other black and white—had been dubbed “Itchy and Scratchy” by the shelter. When I arrived there, I found them in a back corner, huddled inside a crate together. A concerned person had called animal control and asked that these two pitiful dogs be picked up, because it appeared they had just been dumped by the side of the road. Remember, this is a rural area, so when animals are outright abandoned in the country, they do not have the best chance of survival on their own. “Itchy and Scratchy” had almost no hair, were underweight, clearly had a secondary skin infection, and were both very weak. They had nothing going for them. In fact, on my initial analysis I discovered how ghostly white the gums on the brown dog was. I knew this was not good at all, and that he would need medical care as soon as possible.
The first night was tense, both for me and the two dogs, who I more affectionately named Bourbon and Bayou (for two southern Louisiana mainstays). I made sure water was readily available to them at all times, and I fed them frequent, but small meals. As mentioned, this wasn’t my first rodeo with dogs in severely neglected condition; however, I knew this situation was different, possibly even dire. Bourbon, the brown dog, was very weak, and although he had a fabulous appetite, he spent most of the time curled up, moaning. Needless to say, with all the worrying going on, neither the dogs nor my family slept well that night.
The next morning, Bayou and Bourbon were brought to the vet. They had a skin scrapes done, which proved they were highly positive for demodex mange and yeast. They also had staph, a secondary infection, as a result of the demodex having gone so long without treatment. They had fecal tests done too, and both dogs were full of roundworms, hookworms, and whipworms, with Bourbon being the most heavily infested with hookworms. They were each given a dewormer, but only a small amount due to their fragile condition, in addition to oral mange meds, and then we were sent home with a special shampoo to bathe them in.
Unfortunately, Bourbon started going downhill quickly. I brought him back to the vet later that same day and had blood work done. The tests showed he was severely anemic, and it was clear he needed a blood transfusion. We opted to take him to the emergency vet that night to get the transfusion done as soon as possible. I just didn’t feel he would make it through another night without such urgent care. He was so weak, and even having been given the smaller dosage of dewormer, it was clear his body wasn't tolerating the death of the hookworms well. He was going into shock.
The ER vet and her staff were fantastic. We had a foster bring in one of her personal dogs, named Winnie, as a blood donor. Winnie was also a rescue dog, pulled from a shelter in Northern Louisiana several years before, and she had just never found a home, never had a purpose, having been adopted twice and returned twice. That night, Winnie helped save Bourbon’s life. There is no doubt about that. In fact, she was such a good donor dog that the ER vet asked her to become a regular blood donor there. As a result of AAVA helping Bourbon and Bayou, Winnie has now found a purpose, and an incredibly noble one at that.
The first couple of days back home were very touch and go with Bourbon, but he was determined. Throughout everything, and in spite of it, Bourbon and Bayou remained very friendly and adoring. The love they showed me, my husband, and even my two young children was only outshone by their love for each other. Week by week, Bayou and Bourbon became stronger. Slowly, we got the yeast and staph infections under control. Slowly, they started gaining weight. Slowly, hair started to fill in where there was none before. They are both amazing dogs who have a wonderful zest for life, and by the time eight weeks had passed, it was almost impossible to believe Bayou and Bourbon, now a picture of good health, were the same mangy, emaciated dogs I had pulled from the shelter. They were “Itchy and Scratchy” no more.
Although they are somewhere in the age range of 1 to 2 years old, Bourbon and Bayou have embraced life as puppies do. They frolic in the grass, roll around with toys, and constantly keep me laughing with their silly dispositions. Wherever you find one, the other will surely be close behind. Of course, I know nothing about their history before they were picked up by animal control, but I cannot fathom an owner watching these two vivacious dogs lose their hair, lose weight, and become weaker, and then just deciding to dump them on the side of the road. I don’t think Bayou and Bourbon know how close to death they were, but I cannot imagine this world without them here. They are an absolute joy. I am thankful for the wheels that were set in motion when their pathetic picture popped across my news-feed. I am thankful for having a rescue such as AAVA willing to back me in my crazy rescue adventures. Most importantly, I am thankful to have Bayou and Bourbon in my life. They make every day a brighter one.