Monday, May 28, 2007

The Man in Black

In the early evening on Friday, we were enjoying the late summer on our next door neighbors’ deck. A dappled view of our lawn is visible through some airy brush between the yards and it is from that perch that Selina noticed a black dog. Jon and I jumped up and instinctively (if cautiously) took high and low approaching positions. We drew nearer and the dog didn’t run. It stood underneath the bird feeder munching on fallen seed casings. As we got closer, we saw a big black labrador-type male dog with a red collar on his neck. Closer still and we realized that the collar was inches too tight and that a plastic coated frayed cable hung from the collar. Seeing the dirty coat, abrasions, stark ribs poking through thin skin, panting tongue, dilated eyes, and the bloody fly-chewed ears silently convinced us that wherever he came from, he had no need to return.

We went into emergency mode—food, water, get the collar off—this pup looked very ill. We contemplated taking him to the emergency vet, but after getting some food and water into him realized that his situation was suddenly less dire. Jon went off to the Raleigh Criterium and I stayed home with our catch. He stunk. I heated a large pot of water and he stood quietly while I gave him a warm bath with lavender dish soap. That’s better. I toweled him off and when I was done, he nudged me for more.

Late that night, his eyes were still dilated. He definitely had some vision, because we hadn’t noticed any sight impairment right away. We put him to bed on an old comforter in the mudroom and hoped that some rest and relaxation might improve his eyesight. We named him “Cash”, short for Cassius Clay and also a nod to Johnny Cash, the mysterious man in black.

Early Saturday morning, Jon took Cash to the vet for a health check. He weighed 69 pounds, is about a year old, had fleas and ticks, and was severely malnourished. The vet said his retinas looked great and agreed that he had some sight, but she couldn’t explain why his eyes were still dilated. She suggested perhaps he ate some fertilizer or other chemical or that it may be due to malnutrition. She couldn’t say if it would resolve. Given the abrasions on his legs and the stiffness in his hind end, the vet did feel that he had been hit by a car, but no permanent damage was suffered. He was sent home with flea and tick shampoo and medicated wound cleaner.

That afternoon he stood still for another bath and then some flea and tick medicine. I certainly hope he doesn’t expect the spa treatment every day!

Cash’s origins are still mysterious but we do know some things about him. His tail wags furiously when he is eating. He is terribly sweet and rather confident for a partially-sighted street dog. He is a joy on a leash because he calmly walks alongside you. He has had three accident-free nights in the house. He enjoys air conditioning, snuggling, and likes to give kisses.

We do have some concerns about Cash. He and Tucker have had a few altercations, but I think in all cases it was when food is around. The fact that Tucker is very protective of food and that Cash was starved certainly complicates that dynamic. We had Cash tied up in the covered patio and our friend’s puppy ran full force into him. Have you heard the saying, “the best defense is offense”? We saw it in action. Given that his eyesight is poor, his aim is not very good and no harm was done. I think that the combination of having been tied up, coupled with not seeing very well yield an animal bent on self-preservation. Fair enough, but hopefully he will mellow out once he is neutered and grows more comfortable.

On the right, the collar Cash arrived with. On the left, his new, properly sized collar.

More photos below. If anyone is willing to make a donation for Cash's neuter and vaccinations, we would be grateful. If anyone out there would like to adopt Cash or knows or a possible home for him, please contact us. For more information on the joyful and successful lives that can be led by special needs animals, visit Rolling Dog Ranch.

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