Tristan was wandering the streets with major injuries. At first, everyone thought he had a broken leg, but it turned out to be a severely infected wound to his elbow, caused by a bite. He was covered in lacerations, from bite wounds. His ears were closed because of scarring from old, poorly healed infections, and a new infection, caused by dog bites. There was no doubt that this dog had been used as a bait dog, to train other dogs to fight.
Tristan is estimated to be 10 years old. Imagine 10 years of that life.
I’ve deliberately closed my eyes to the dog fighting world. While I’ve fostered a few puppies who could maybe, perhaps have been involved as bait dogs, I didn’t dwell on it and I didn’t seek more information. I just couldn’t process that this could happen to a dog. That there are people in this world so cruel. I know, naive and cowardly of me.
So, when I was asked, very kindly and gently if I had it in my heart to help Tristan, I hesitated. What could this mean? What was I getting myself into? What was I exposing my family to? But rather than research what dog fighting was all about, I reviewed the science behind dog behavior and training.
Dogs live in the moment and give you what you expect. Those two basic pieces allowed me to say ‘yes’. I didn’t know if I could provide the right environment, or devise and implement a rehab plan, but I did know that I could let Tristan rest and heal, while expecting him to be a regular dog.
By the time I met Tristan, he’d been at the vet for 2 weeks. They did a great job of taking care of his immediate needs with drains and tubes and bandages and surgeries. He was still fragile and looking ragged, but had improved from his original condition.
The first thing he did when he saw me, a complete stranger, was smile and give me a tentative half-body wag. I returned the language and I got the full-body version! With that, I knew I could make it work. I didn’t have to fake treating him like a regular dog, because he WAS a regular dog.
I’m not going to show you photos of his original condition. He will never be that again. Today, he is healthy and happy and loved and ready for anything that comes his way. It’s my job to make sure all that is positive and good.