Tuesday, March 8, 2011

A little raised tail

"Funny, something as little as a raised tail could make us all so happy."

Aida said that about Maui's happy tail being raised above her body in that characteristic half moon curve. The sign of a happy husky.

I noticed the same thing in another husky just the other day. Little Perseus had raised his little bottle-brush of a fluffy husky tail, a sign of happiness, but more importantly, a sign of having found his inner Siberian Husky.

As does many of our stories, this one starts with an email. An animal shelter we have worked with in the past contacted us about pulling two Siberian Huskies that they received as strays. One was a red and white pup that they had seen before, and was not in good shape - malnourished, losing his hair. The other was a black and white boy, older, maybe 2 or 3 years old - healthy. Both boys were long haired, what we call 'woollies'. We responded that we were full at the moment, but wanted to be kept informed.

Well, only two days later, they told us that the pup had had a major 'blow out', bad diarrhea and vomiting, and that he tested strongly positive for parvo (canine parvovirus type 2, very deadly for puppies). The shelter was going to put him down. Worse, they were going to euthanize the older guy too, just because he was exposed. Even though adults almost NEVER succumb to parvo.

Aida did not hesitate. After securing my agreement, she told them we would take both dogs. It was not good timing for me, as my day was planned from opening to close with meetings and calls. But we got transport arranged, and I found the time to meet Heather to take them on to our vet. The big guy was easy, even if he had that awful shelter stink. The pup, though, was pitiful. I had seen this before, and I really did not know if he would even make it to the vet.

He did make it to the vet. I handed him over, limp and full of mange and worms, thinking I would never see him again. I do that - prepare for the worst - so when the bad news comea the impact is lessened.

Later that day the vet confirmed that it was parvo, and they had him hooked up. Fluids, antibacterials, anti-emetics, anti-diarrheals, supplemental nutrition. I gritted my teeth. and expected the worse.

Next morning, I called, and held my breath. He was still with us. Really? Wow, I did not expect that, and I was elated. Cautiously. Later that day the vet told us that his white blood cell count was 124. Normal is 8,000 or so. WBC of 124 pretty much means no immune system. Any bacteria could take hold and it would be over, fast and ugly.

But the next morning he was still with us. And the next. And the next. Aida decided his name was Perseus. He was certainly heroic, and proving to be invincible. Perseus spent 8 days with the vet before convincing us he was ready for his foster home.

What a horribly unattractive mess he was. And stinky too. Aida must have given him four baths in his first two days home, and cut almost all of his matted fur off. Well, what was left of it - he was eaten up with mange (the non-contagious version). His face and butt and parts of his back, belly, and legs were pink and scabby, even bleeding in some places. He looked like a baboon, actually.

He walked with a hunched back, tail down, head down. He was clearly not happy, and did not eat well. He was still vomiting. We took him back the vet a few times, got his belly shaved for ultrasounds, and finally got him eating again. Another vet got him started with ivermectin for the mange, and antibiotics for his skin infections.

We've been here before, we know it takes months to get the hair back, and get the nutrition back. Perseus was growly - heck, I would be too if I felt that bad. Still, he only growled at the other dogs - he loved his humans. He showered us with kisses and love. It was clear that he had zero social skills. He was going to have to learn how to be a member of the pack. Probably the hard way too.

Day by day, Perseus got a little more engaged. First following tentatively, then engaging some of the other boys, and Mika the young female sibe, in single play. After a few more days, he joined in the group play, if just a little, and for short bursts.

Then I saw it. It was time for the 9:00 AM runfest. Every morning the sibe pack runs back and forth in the back yard, around the trees, and back and forth some more. Punctuated with periodic play tussles. And I did see it. A little red and white baboon-looking siberian pup, running with the pack. With his tail up! That foxlike bottlebrush red and white tail was up in the air, telling everyone who could see it that he had found his inner husky.

The stink is still there, and it will be until the mange and infections are all healed. A light coat of fuzz is now covering most of the angry pink, so he looks less like a baboon, and more like, well, just pitiful. But the Husky is out - he has the prance, the proud walk, the curiosity, the playfulness, the periodic bursts of full out running and leaping, and yes, the little raised tail. He even joins in the daily howlfests! Perseus is one happy, happy siberian husky.

Welcome to huskyhood, Perseus!

1 comment:

  1. Update on Perseus.

    Everyone will be happy to know that all of Perseus' skin is completely healed and hidden under a soft downy coat that is working its way back to fluffy, woolly glory. He is happy, healthy, playful, and loving life!