A Regular Dog
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.
2 Replies to “A Regular Dog”
Foster families are the most special people in the world. All volunteers are special — every person who uses his precious free time to make the world a better place is special. But these is something unique about a family that opens their home to save the life of an abandoned animal.
This particular animal was sick, injured, and disfigured. His wounds indicated that for years, someone set other dogs on him, but he is not a fighter — he is not aggressive in any way. His life must have been almost unimaginable. There aren't many foster families who would take in this particular animal.
I know: I'm a member of the animal rescue that asked Sue and her family to help.
To everyone's astonishment, Tristan has never showed anything but kind, courteous, friendly interest in any other dog. At home and out on a walk, he is a big teddy bear. He's friendly to people he doesn't know and lovingly-affectionate at home.
And he's healing. Under the care of Sue and her family, he has put on weight; he has become more playful and energetic; his wounds have healed, and he can now hear a great deal. His coat is a lovely, soft silver-blue.
Tristan will never be a young dog again, and he will always need a little special help with his ears, but he has become the delightful family dog he was born to be.
Sue and her family have done something truly astounding, something almost no-one else would do. One day, the right adoptive family will meet Tristan and recognize the joy he can bring to their lives. I think that family will understand what Sue and her family have done — and what extraordinary people they are.
Thank you, Paul. But as you know, it's a team effort. Without your part, Tristan wouldn't have made it to my doorstep. Thanks for all you do.