Lil Red

Thank you for the wags and kisses

January 30, 2005

Last September, right after weathering the storm of Hurricane Ivan, we got the call. Three Griffons were with a rescue group that needed the help of National Brussels Griffon Rescue Inc. We were closely located to them….could we go get them? Sure…it’s what we do. We foster Griffons and find them new homes. Three at once was going to be difficult with the four that live here permanently but we picked them up a day later from some nice ladies that had taken them in and tried to clean them up. There was a cute black male who was young and seemed healthy, a larger red rough male with a severe eye infection (developed from the fact that his hair was matted to his eyes before the girls cleaned him up), and a little bitty older red guy that was shaved bald and so feeble. He had been shaved because every inch of his fur was matted to his body when they got him. He smelled like an old shoe but he still wagged his tail and gave kisses as if to say “Hello.”

All three had lived most of their lives outside in a yard with the other Griffons used for breeding by a “breeder” with a lovely website. The website was the only thing lovely about this place and the care these dogs received.

I immediately took them to my vet. They didn’t have names so we had identified them as Big Red, Lil Red, and Black. Not too original but we’d worry about names later. All three were underweight, undernourished, anemic, and full of worms. Big Red had a severe eye infection, Black was relatively healthy and Lil Red was a mess. He had a fungal skin infection all over his body which caused a terrible odor, he was 90% blind, he had mobility issues because of arthritis and muscle loss, no hair, a nasty cough, thyroid problems and yet he wagged his tail and gave kisses. He won over every person in the vet’s office. Lil Red appreciated it all.

Big Red went to another foster home to recuperate and Black (renamed Harley) stuck around getting healthy enough for his neuter and a haircut and then went to live with his new family joining a brother and sister Griffon.

Lil Red stayed with us. He took numerous pills every day, several ointments, and medicated baths every other day. He had to be combed with a small flea comb to try to remove the debris that came loose during each bath. I would comb for a minimum of an hour and sometimes he would bleed in places. His hair grew back but he continued to smell like an old shoe, never complained, wagged his tail, and gave me kisses.

He would go to the vet every few days. He’d have more x-rays and skin scrapings, blood drawn, and have his meds adjusted. He was examined by many vets. He would get hot spots that would burst and have to be bandaged. Now he smelled like 2 old shoes. A month after arriving, I felt like he might have Cushing’s Disease so he was tested for that. His test came up positive and I had a newfound optimism that we could help this dog. The treatment can be hard on them and he had lost down to just under 5 lbs. and was so frail. My wonderful vet adjusted his dosage to a safe level and we got started. After two loading doses, his levels were closer to normal but not in remission. He had a little more spunk and I was hopeful. He wagged his tail and gave me kisses.

Another month went by and it was time to test the Cushing’s again. We took him to the vet but discovered the other issues had gotten worse and if we couldn’t get his skin under control, his vital organs were going to start to shut down from fighting this infection. He couldn’t take the meds for Cushings along with the meds for his skin so we treated his worst problem first. He continued to lose weight and could no longer sleep. If he wasn’t coughing, he was biting and scratching. He developed large scabs all over his body. His cough worsened, likely from the fact that his heart couldn’t take the fight with the infection any longer. Yet he still had a wag and a kiss for me.

I knew I was going to have to let him go to walk with Jesus but in rescue, your objective is to help. It’s difficult to realize when you can’t help any longer. No one could make the decision for us. Not the vet, not the rescue board….no one. We were the only ones that could do it.

Last Friday, I had a conversation with my vet. Her words “He’s uncomfortable and in a lot of discomfort” were the magic words. In our hearts, we already knew but needed to hear that from her. I cried and decided we would take him in on Saturday. I called the office in the morning and choked out the words that we were bringing him in and apologized because I was sobbing so much it was hard to understand me. They knew.

Lil Red had become so unaware of his surroundings that I knew he had no idea where he was or where he was going. We carried him in his favorite dog bed. A crate seemed so irrelevant at that point. And yet he wagged his tail and gave his final kisses as if to say “Thank you.”

For two days now I’ve cried and told myself we can’t help them all. Everyone hears about the ones with the happy endings but what about the darling little ones like Lil Red who never made it to the rescue website? The public needs to hear about these babies….especially the ones that come from a “breeder” whose website looks like they are treated like royalty. They dispose of the dogs like these so they can breed more and more and sell them to an unsuspecting and uneducated public. It’s sick and disgusting….why can’t everyone in the world see that?

I’ve cried so many tears over this little dog which has surprised no one in my family but surprised me. I stayed up all night last night thinking about it. It’s a good thing all of us do in rescue but it’s not for the faint-at-heart. You try to guard your heart and feel differently about them than you do your own dogs but once in a while, one comes along that just steals it away. No, rescue is not for the faint-at-heart but it can be a rewarding experience too. When we place a dog in a wonderful home there is a moment of sadness that they’re leaving but the sadness is short and the joy lasts forever. For those like Lil Red, he’ll be loved and remembered here forever though he was forgotten by the people that had him for 10 years in about 5 minutes.

Romp and play now, Lil Red. Thank you for the wags and kisses you gave us for all those months.

Mike and Lezlee Welch