Saturday, October 6, 2012

Shelby Arrives

A few minutes before midnight last night, we drove to the Crowne Plaza in Delaware (same place as the infamous Car Blur on Fire trip) and picked up foster dog #15, an 18-month-old Catahoula/Aussie mix named Shelby.

Shelby hails from Sampson County, North Carolina, where she was picked up by animal control while scavenging along the side of the road. She might have been looking for roadkill to feed herself or her puppies; when she was caught, it was obvious that she was still nursing, and the next day two of her puppies were found in the same location.

One of those puppies was adopted locally, but the other died in the shelter. The whole family arrived in rough shape: Shelby had a nasty case of coccidia and a heavy load of parasites, including heartworms. Additionally, she was (and remains) severely underweight. Her healthy weight is probably around 40 pounds, but she was barely 30 pounds on arrival at the shelter. Her puppies were badly undernourished too, and while the cause of death for the pup who didn't make it was never officially determined, I wouldn't be surprised if he died of hookworm infestation.

Shelby was lucky to land in a place where she could finally get enough to eat, but for a while it looked like her luck was going to stop there. Despite her unusual markings and uncommon breed mix, and an outgoing personality that made her one of the shelter director's favorites, nobody showed any interest in adopting Shelby. She sat in a kennel for almost a month. On her last day, I pulled her.

When she arrived at the vet, we learned that Shelby was heartworm positive.

Heartworms, a parasite common to the South, infest the dog's heart and surrounding arteries. Not only are they deadly in themselves, but the treatment process requires the dog to be kept calm and on crate rest for about a month afterward. If the dog gets too excited or physically active, raising its heart rate, the dead heartworms can become dislodged too quickly and kill the dog. Because of this risk, many rescues prefer to keep the dog in boarding or foster care until the treatment is complete -- but that entails a commitment of several weeks, and involves a certain amount of oversight to ensure the dog doesn't raise its heart rate or develop bad habits owing to excessive crate confinement.

Also, and perhaps more importantly, heartworm treatment ain't cheap. Shelby's treatment, even with a rescue discount, came to about $350. That's about the minimum that HW treatment ever costs, and it's a lot of money for perpetually cash-strapped rescues. Fortunately, some generous donors stepped forward to cover Shelby's heartworm costs, so I only had to pay the usual vetting and boarding fees.

After receiving HW injections, deworming, coccidia treatments, and another round of vaccinations, Shelby got a health certificate and, after a week's delay owing to some paperwork mistakes, caught a bus up to Philadelphia.

So that's where we are today. The plan is for me to foster and train Shelby until at least October 21, after which she will have completed her HW treatment and should be fully healthy and ready to go on to a forever home.

She's only been here a little over 12 hours and it's woefully premature to make any concrete statements about her personality or habits, but so far Shelby has been a near-ideal houseguest. She slept through the night quietly, doesn't make a peep inside her crate (even though she's having to spend almost all her time in there), and doesn't seem too fussed about the transition from rural North Carolina to a big city in the Northeast. She appears to be a confident, curious, quick-learning dog. I wouldn't be surprised if she turns out to be fairly energetic and playful when she feels better, although right now she's more subdued.

Her interactions with Dog Mob have been very limited thus far, but they've all been quite appropriate. Shelby is not too playful just yet, although it's hard to say whether that's because she's new here, because she isn't feeling completely healthy at the moment, or because she genuinely is not that into goofing around with Crookytail. She does seem interested in the other dogs, but not exuberantly so.

And that's that for now. We'll see what the next days bring.

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