When a dog arrives at Homeward Bound Golden Retriever Rescue, they are welcomed quietly and typically allowed to run or roam in one of the large yards to de-stress and acclimate to their new environment. Over the next couple of days, they spend some time with us for evaluation, are checked by the vet, and have their pictures taken when they are relaxed and feeling more comfortable with their new routine.
This pup’s welcome was a little different with urgent issues to address.
Rose was rescued from a shelter. Had she not been released to us, her fate was pretty clear. She would not sit or lie down through the transport. When she arrived at the adoption center and sanctuary, she could barely walk, perhaps indicating some type of neurological disorder? Most obviously, she was covered in a thick layer of mats from head to tail.
She arrived very late in the day as our volunteers are usually departing. They took one look at her and stayed. Using sheep shearing tools at first, they set to work carefully removing the mats that were tugging painfully at her skin.
Giant ear mats were removed and treatments were administered to her ear canals, immediately flooding back out because the buildup of wax and dirt was so thick.
She stood or sat patiently, as a small army of hands and clippers gently tackled her coat of dreadlocks, and soothing voices reassured her that she was safe now.
Clippers replaced the shearing tools and uncovered stickers, thorns, foxtails and welts all over her body. With five inches or more of mats removed from her underbelly, something else was revealed. Rose was inappropriately named. There were boy parts under there! Rose was quickly renamed, Rainier. After about an hour of this, it was time to give our newly discovered boy a much-needed rest. He was tucked in for the night and reassured that from here; things would only get better.
The next day brought a fresh bath to clean his skin and sores, and a second round of shearing.
Walking gingerly and slowly like a very old dog, Jody brought Rainier to the garden where we set up some shade and went about clipping what remained of his fur.
The trickiest part of the operation was addressing his paws. The fur had to be removed from top to bottom, with each area between the toes closely inspected. They were filled with foxtails. I have always found it surprising that a woman involved in rescue has long fingernails; now I understand why. Jody deftly pulled out more than 50 foxtails from between those toes – imagine the pain poor Rainier had endured.
This dog demonstrated the patience of a saint while Judy and Jody worked on him for well over an hour. With a slight breeze blowing across his freed skin and soothing voices talking quietly to him, he fell asleep in their hands.
Three clipper battery changes later, it was time to get up.
What arose from that slumber was a changed dog. With amazement, he took his first, pain-free steps – and then he was off!
I know you’ll forgive the blurred photos. I was not prepared at all for this rush of exuberance, and had not adjusted shutter speeds – which was clearly in order!
A lot can change in the life of a dog in a single day. A ‘she’ becomes a ‘he’; lameness is discarded with a pile of fur and thorns,
and an “old dog” unable to sit or lay down without pain is transformed into a running, prancing, tail-wagging prince of a boy.
This is only the beginning of Rainier’s story. He’ll see the vet to deal with his uncovered lumps and bumps and assess his overall state of being. But we have made a promise to him that the best is yet to be, and from this point on, he will always be loved. That is a promise we can keep.
There are dogs that pass quickly through Homeward Bound. They come to us in good shape because someone’s life circumstance changed and soon find a new forever home. It is our honor and privilege to help them all. But dogs like Rainier make unforgettable impressions on us. They are the verb ‘rescue’ – not the noun. Without Homeward Bound, Rainier would have passed on as Rose, forgotten and in pain. Because we are here, Rainier’s best days are ahead.
A lot can change in a single day for the life of a dog. Just look at this quick clip here. Welcome to your new life, Rainier.