A year ago whilst grumbling my way around Altoona Lagoon I spotted two dogs. It is a favored spot to dump unwanted animals. This particular day was particularly heartbreaking as one of the dogs – the un-neutered black one – was bleeding from suppurating mange. His companion, a healthy looking, honey-colored, neutered dog came straight to me, I’m sure tempted by the dog treats I always carry. The black one, whilst not emaciated was very thin but would not take even a tossed treat.
I continued on my way then, realizing I was playing Pied Piper to two dogs, I called John to ask him to open the back gate. Skeptical he doubted they would stay the course. Meantime he stole cat food from Bonnie and put it in bowls in the garden. We held up traffic, climbed the hill and walked in with the black one bringing up the rear. A long way back.
We took Honey, thin and friendly, to the Animal Shelter where they found he had been chipped. They promised to investigate and we left him there.
Stan told another story, and he became the focus of our lives. So great was his terror that we couldn’t get near him. Progressive Vets came through and, from only photos, sent me home with medication to at least start the physical healing process. He ate everything we put his way including tablets smothered in cream cheese, but we could not touch him.
His terror was heartrending. We took the door off a large kennel and put it in the garden to at least give him some shelter. Then, one afternoon, a car backfired close enough to send him into flight mode. We walked the streets as we thought he’d forced his way through thick undergrowth at the top of the garden and run into town. Finally our neighbor found him cringing behind a large pot on one of their terraces. In his panic he jumped down an eight foot wall but, remarkably, had not broken any bones.
Stan, trembling and peeing, allowed John to pick him up. Even in his terror he never snapped, never made a sound. We put him in the truck and took him straight to Progressive. Again they came through. Apart from the dreadful mange, Stan appeared healthy. No heart worm, and after a medicated bath, we came home.
Each week we trapped him for his bath, but any attempt at petting was met with flight. Then after six weeks of lying on the floor, classical music playing to relax him, and us, with treats in our hands, he began inch by inch to trust us.
Who knows what his life was like before? Sudden loud noises can still scare him, but not thunder. He is battle-scarred. So am I now. A fractured ankle and torn shoulder ligaments resulted from one morning walk when he hauled me over, not the coals, but the asphalt. He’s had a rough time too with ACL surgery, and has an anatomical weakness in his back legs which results in the occasional collapse. With diet, medication and exercise we hope he will live with us a long time. Bonnie has accepted him into the household now that recognizes his species is far below that of a feline.
Today, a year later, Stan is a much-loved lab-mix, teenage puppy of about two, who thinks he is a lap dog. He likes nothing better than to lie on his back and have his tummy rubbed. He loves ice and cream cheese – actually any sort of cheese. He has been known to chew things – all my verandah furniture! Guests know not to remove their shoes or face the risk of a barefoot walk home. Stan is friendly, loving, smart, and thought nothing of distracting the photographer during my photo-shoot.
Happy anniversary, Stan, you are loved!