22nd Jun, 2022

Written by Nicole Marillier

Professional photography by Mariaan Browne

It wasn’t the first time I’d been asked to foster a little fur-kid, but it was the first time I was asked to foster one who was in recovery and depressed. He’d been picked up as a stray with a badly mangled leg; the only option, unfortunately, was amputation. After watching this amazing soul transform from a terrified, sad little dog to a joyful one with a bigger-than-life attitude, there was no way I couldn’t keep him. Of course, a foster fail ensued.

He was traumatised

I’ll never forget the day I met Roo. (At this point he was still named Champ – a fitting name given by the shelter for what a true little champion he’d been after going through so much trauma.) He wasn’t coping well in hospital at all and desperately needed fostering.

Not only had this gentle dog been deeply traumatised by whatever had injured his leg so badly that it had to be amputated, he didn’t know this noisy new place nor was he familiar with any of the caring people he had around him. He was so frightened and confused.

Night one saw me hopping straight onto Google to try and better understand how to care for a dog in his situation. First was helping to get his balance back. I made a small sling out of an old T-shirt to hold him up; it was mostly needed for bathroom breaks. He only used it for about two days before he was able to walk completely on his own. His absolute resilience and determination were astounding.

The road to recovery

Champ’s recovery started off well: his appetite was good, he started wagging his tail ever so slightly, and his energy seemed to climb. However, he was vomiting a lot. We figured it could probably be from eating too much, too fast (he LOVES his food), so we changed to smaller meals more often. The vomiting persisted, which couldn’t go on because he was still on antibiotics to ensure no infection set in and him vomiting meant his meds weren’t staying down.

Dr Stuart immediately realised that he was having an adverse reaction to one of his meds, so we switched some of the oral medication to injections instead, which was exactly what was needed. This set his recovery back on track.

We now had to pop over to the shelter on a regular basis for Dr Stuart to administer the injections as well as regular dressing changes. The absolute love and attention little Roo received from all the staff every time we went was so beautiful to witness; everyone we passed knew who he was and wanted an update on how he was doing. He was a little shelter celebrity.

Blood seeped through his bandages

It was a Sunday evening when two blood spots started seeping through his dressing. This stressed me out completely and I immediately got in touch with Cynthea. To play it safe, Dr Stuart asked me to bring him in later that evening to have him checked out. His dressing was changed and I was asked to monitor him that evening and, if not looking better, I should bring him in.

Morning came and, even though there wasn’t excessive bleeding through his bandages, Champ was getting progressively worse. He was lethargic to the point that he hardly ate or drank water, and he couldn’t get up.

Dr Stuart advised that he needed to go back onto the drip, which meant that he’d have to stay in hospital again. Worse still, he’d lost so much blood that he needed to get a blood transfusion from an angel dog named Noelle (fellow shelter dog). Since he wasn’t a fan of the drip (he had the nickname of Chompy now, as he initially chewed off his drips a few times), Dr Stuart had to spend a few hours with him to manually transfuse the life-saving blood he needed.

I popped in daily to check on him, and his progress was remarkable. If not for the incredible dedication and care of Dr Stuart and the shelter staff, I don’t believe Roo would have made it. By the end of that week, I was informed that he could come back home with me – happy day!

Leaps and bounds

We were back to visiting the shelter every few days, this time for his dressing changes, until his last dressing was removed and, a few days later, his staples came out. A day for celebration, indeed.

From here on out, the little guy improved in leaps and bounds, getting more adventurous in the garden, mastering how to walk on a lead, and now we’re in the process of learning a few tricks. He’s remarkably smart and an absolute angel who loves cuddles. We’re still working on anxiety and trust issues, but he’s doing so well.

The biggest thank you has to go to the caring and absolutely dedicated staff of the Animal Welfare Society Port Elizabeth, especially Dr Stuart, the shelter veterinarian, who was utterly invested in his recovery and well-being; Cynthea, the shelter manager, who got non-stop questions from me and updates on his every bit of progress; and Morné, the inspector who picked little Roo up as a stray. And, of course, the many others who also played a vital role in his recovery; from those who fed him, cleaned his cage, and cuddled with him.

He’s become an utter joy in my life and brought so many smiles, not just to my face but to many he meets. I truly hope I can do him justice and be the forever mom he deserves.

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