This pet rescue story is an entry in the Most Heartwarming Story Contest, by Helen Woodward Animal Center. The Most Heartwarming Story Contest is open to any and all participating Blue Buffalo Home 4 the Holidays pet organizations. The winner will win $1,000 for their facility or rescue! Your organization can become a Blue Buffalo Home 4 the Holidays partner today. This story will now have an opportunity to be featured in the finalist pool in February, 2015.
Deaf, Blind and Now Adopted
By Friends of Rescue (FOR), located in Huntsville, Alabama
I met Zonder, a double Merle Australian Shepherd, at one of our local municipal shelters that euthanizes for space. As a foster liaison, I was there helping other foster homes pick out dogs to bring into our program. I had just placed my last foster and my family had all agreed our personal dogs, all 5 of them, needed a break. There was a vicious virus spreading through the shelter and several animals had already been lost to it. We were trying to help by reducing the overall number of animals in the shelter.
When I first saw Zonder, he was curled in a ball alone, just inside his run. He looked like he didn’t feel well, but he looked happy and adorable, a white fuzzy mess. I could tell he was young, but not quite a puppy. I spoke to him, nothing. I opened the door to the run, nothing. I quickly learned he was deaf and blind, and with URI he was having a hard time smelling me… not to mention all the other smells in the shelter. He quickly figured out I was there and came to life, a very animatedly… but I still could tell he didn’t feel well.
I wasn’t able to take him that day, but I told the staff to call me if he needed help and I would get approval from my rescue group, Friends of Rescue. The very next morning, I got that call. He was getting sicker and might not make it. I made arrangements with our vet and needed to be seen as soon as he left the shelter. The shelter gave him IV fluids and antibiotics, a volunteer picked him up and met me at the vet.
Behind the scenes, I came up with the name Zonder, which means “without.” I had my son get a crate from the garage and set it up on the front porch so I could get the dining room ready to be his “hospital room” and isolate him from my own dogs. My husband didn’t even know I was bringing him home… and I wasn’t looking forward to that conversation.
The first 24 hours were touch and go. I worried and worried some more. I had never cared for a deaf or blind dog, or a really sick dog, and here I had all three in the same animal. At about the 36 hour mark, he came back to life. It was like a switch was flipped. You could just tell he was feeling better and was going to fight to get better.
For the first week, he spent most of his time in his crate, larger than he needed. When I got home, I put my germy t-shirt over whatever I was wearing, and would take him to the front yard, away from my animals. I would play with him in the yard, love on him, make him special food, and return him to his crate, strip the germy shirt off, and return to my herd.
Once I could tell he was better, I began taking one dog a day into the yard with him, to let him meet everyone without overwhelming him. He quickly bonded to my Bella who was a white dog that looked like she could be his mother, and was probably the biggest reason I was drawn to him. He looked just like she did when I got her. We slowly learned how to talk to each other. He was obviously crate trained and house trained. I merged him into the herd after all the introductions. He was still a little sluggish and not completely well, but much better.
Even though he was deaf and blind, he had amazing body language and ability to read other dogs. And was pretty much fearless. He quickly learned to use the doggie door by following one of the more playful dogs out. He would do his business or just go trot around the back yard and then come back in. I was amazed. He quickly learned where the water bowls were, and that when I came out of “that” room, it was time to run to his crate for breakfast or dinner.
I learned so much from Zonder. I learned what it feels like to have someone completely trust you.
Zonder was with me about 10 weeks. I learned so much from him. I learned patience. I learned what it feels like to have someone completely love and trust you, because they have to. He had to know when I “told” him it was ok, that it was ok. When I told him to follow me or come or release, that it was safe for him to do so. I learned that if I held him close and let him melt into my neck, I could talk to him and it was comforting, that he must have felt the vibrations of my chest. Zonder and I even went to “puppy” school, thanks to Such a Good Dog for taking on our challenge. And most importantly I also learned to trust someone else to love him. I knew from the beginning there was no way I could take on another dog of my own, but I also knew this one was special and would be extra hard, just because of his fragile state in the beginning and his special abilicaps (not handicaps).
I took two applications on him, meeting both families. Both seemed good. But the very first application I got was from a young woman. She lived alone with another Aussie. She had some experience with agility training and had done her homework on double merles, deaf and/or blind dogs and was far more educated than I was when I took him in, and had a wonderful network of dog loving friends. Upon meeting her, I knew it was a perfect match. Zonder and her dog, Legend, got along great. They were eager to play and chase each other. I could not have created a more perfect home for him. Zonder went to his FORever home a little over a week ago. I am rewarded daily with updates and or photos of him. I miss him, but my heart is happy. And I honestly know that I did good by him and for him.
During the 2014 Blue Buffalo Home 4 the Holidays campaign (Oct. 1, 2014 – Jan. 2, 2015), participating animal organizations are encouraged to enter heartwarming adoption success stories. Submissions can be made weekly by email or tagging stories with #BBH4TH, and at the end of each week Helen Woodward Animal Center will select a winning story to be featured on this very blog! After the campaign ends on Jan. 2, 2015, the weekly winning stories will be compiled into a pool and voted on by partnered organizations, animal welfare fans and the public. The story with the most votes will win a $1,000 donation for their animal organization and will be announced on Helen Woodward Animal Center’s blog in February, 2015. For more rules and guidelines, please click here.