On Friday, August 15 our on-call staff picked up an extremely emaciated dog after receiving a call from a concerned citizen that had seen the sickly animal wandering the neighborhood. This sweet, female pit bull was immediately seen by our consulting veterinarian upon her arrival at the shelter. It was obvious she was starving, dehydrated and covered in fleas, but of bigger concern was the mass in her stomach that could be felt via abdominal palpation. The vet recommended that she be seen immediately at a veterinary hospital.
Shelter Manager Michelle rushed the dog to Wyomissing Animal Hospital, and on the ride over, the familiar tune of The Police’s “Roxanne” filled the car. Michelle took it as sign and named the 9 year old, 34 pound, blue pit Roxanne.
The veterinarian was able to determine that Roxanne’s belly was filled with birdseed, presumably because it was the only thing she could find to eat. Her blood work showed that she was anemic, but otherwise remarkably healthy. The vet opted to keep her for several hours to be sure the birdseed did not block Roxanne’s intestinal tract, but she was soon cleared for release and she came back to the shelter.
On Monday morning, Michelle came to my office asking if I had a few minutes to come upstairs and meet a dog. Michelle and I seem to have bonded over our mutual love for pit bulls that have been dealt a dreadful hand, so I had a feeling that I was about to see something I would love.
You’ll recall from previous posts that I’ve been here for just over a year. My job keeps me in a different part of the building, apart from the kennels, and while I often catch wind of exceptional stories due to the nature of my job, I don’t often see the horrors that our kennel staff is subjected to on a daily basis. But every day at the shelter is a day that I learn, see or hear something new and this day was no exception. I’d seen dogs like her on TV. Certainly I knew that dogs like her existed, but to see her in person, with with my own eyes…..I just didn’t have many words, and if you ask my boss, he’s sure to say that that’s a rarity.
As I walked towards her, Roxanne approached and lifted her head to lick my hand through the chain link of her kennel door. She moved the rest of her body alongside so that I could give more of her a scratch. Her coat was in bad shape….dull and spotty from a lack of nutrition combined with a flea infestation. Her ribs stuck out through her thin coat and I swear I could see her heart beating. Her eyes looked tired. Pretty much ALL of her looked tired. But, it wasn’t until she turned around and I saw her from behind that her reality finally struck me. Do you know those photos of the Holocaust victims we stared at in our high school history books? The ones that showed skeletal starvation victims with hip bones protruding out so far you were sure they were going to poke
through the skin? Yeah. That’s Roxanne.
Michelle offered to get her out of her kennel so that I could take some “before” photos and Roxanne trotted right out by Michelle’s side and investigated the grass, the trees and everything else she could touch her nose. She’s obviously lived outside, so surely she’d seen these things before, but how long had it been since she’d done so with a full belly and friendly faces by her side? We could practically see her bloom under the rays of the afternoon sunshine and we knew that Roxanne’s story, regardless of the outcome, was going to be one worth sharing.
Since Roxanne was in need of long-term rehabilitation and because she’s a senior, she was a perfect fit for our Grey Muzzle Foster Program. Marcy, our Foster Coordinator, immediately thought of Charlie & Cheryl (two extremely committed ARL volunteers and foster parents that you can learn more about on our latest podcast) as potential foster parents. Their two dogs met Roxanne and all was well, so Charlie and Cheryl took Roxanne home on the evening of Thursday, August 21st. Within hours of her arrival into their home, she’d made herself comfortable on their sofa and we bet she’s never slept so well.
Because foster parents stepped up to take on the responsibility of feeding Roxanne several small meals daily, supplementing her diet and giving her as much love as she can possibly handle, Roxanne has a chance at a better life. She’ll stay with Charlie & Cheryl until she’s gained 15-20 pounds and then we’ll start looking for her forever home. Since she’s not up for adoption yet, we’ll be updating her story here as she reaches milestones.
If you would like to contribute to the care of Roxanne and other dogs like her, please make a donation to the Grey Muzzle Foster Program.