Thursday, December 20, 2007


We live in a magical neighborhood. In the last five years, people from all over the country have come to this small southern town at the confluence of the Tennessee and Ohio Rivers, just up from where they join the Mississippi. Artists. Because the people who live here are the Nicest People in the World. You can read more about that here.

And everyone has dogs. Our neighborhood is full of dogs and people who love them. And some cats, too.

Two days ago, the whippets told me someone was at our front door. We poured downstairs and found our neighbor Kathleen, who loves Buddy, her twelve year old sweetheart of a bully dog. When I opened the door, I saw the trouble on her face.

"Oh, Patience, I just saw a loose dog and she's in bad shape. Bad shape. She's starving. And she's had puppies."

We spent an hour, each in our own car, crawling back and forth through the neighborhood alleys and streets, with no luck. I walked my dogs, keeping an eye peeled: nothing.

Yesterday I saw the dog for myself. She was trotting down the sidewalk on Jefferson, a one way street. I had to go around the block to get to go the right way on Jefferson, and by then she was gone. But what I had seen chilled me. She was beyond emaciated. She was walking skin and bones. And from each side of her mouth hung ropes of drool. Could she be rabid? Could she have some oral abscess? I called Kathleen and told her I had spotted the dog. "Kathleen, I don't think you or I should approach that dog." I told her about the saliva. "I think if we see her again, we should call Animal Control."

Today, my neighbor Deb called. "Patience there is a puppy in Chad's garage. Could I pick you up and come see her?"

"Is she the color of sand and really skinny," I asked?


"Don't approach her, Deb. I think she is seriously sick and she could be dangerous," I warned.

"Oh," said Deb. "Merle and I have already petted her and Chad gave her some food." Hmmm.

"OK, come get me at the side door."

I put my puzzled dogs in their downstairs crates with their biscuits, and put a hat on my scary undone morning writer's hair, and a coat on against the rain. Again this rain. Sweet Deb swung by and drove me the kattycorner half block to Chad's gorgeous property.

And in Chad's garden shed on an old wrought iron lawn chair with a folded cushion, was a dog curled in a tight, I don't care if I live or die ball. It was the most skeletal living dog I'd ever seen, and I do whippet rescue. You couldn't look at her and not have your throat get too tight and you eyes sting. You just couldn't look and not feel a stabbing in your heart and your gut suddenly felt like you shouldn't have had that coffee because it was burning and maybe you needed to excuse yourself and puke. She was that skinny.

Well, I didn't know what to do. I knew if we called Animal Control she wouldn't live through the day, and that might have been a kindness, but I couldn't have survived seeing that pole/loop thing around her neck and her struggling and being heaved in The Truck. Chad came out and said he had given her water and a little bit of puppy food and the second time he did, she followed him to his porch. No, he answered, she hadn't growled, hadn't shown her teeth, hadn't done anything but duck her head out of the way when he tried to pat her. Like she'd been hit before, he said. I dropped a biscuit from my pocket onto her chair.

She swallowed it whole.

Then after all my advice to Kathleen, I stroked the top of her head. Bone. "I think she's a Pit/Lab cross. She could be all Lab, it's so hard to tell in this state, but no, her coat is too short. I think she's a Pit/Lab cross," I said to Deb and Chad, like that meant anything to them. What was I going to do?

"OK, here's the deal. I'll go back to my house and get a crate. If I can get her in the crate, I'll take her to my vet. Bill has been asking what I want for Christmas, and here it is - a big vet bill! If I can't crate her, I think I have to call Animal Control." Head nods all around. Deb drove me back around the corner (well it was raining) and I grabbed a crate, a hot dog, a martingale lead and my check book. And Bill's famous Rendezvous! I didn't want a sick dog in the Whippet Wagon.

I gave the dog a tiny piece of hot dog. She lifted her head but those yellow eyes were empty. I gave her another tiny piece. I dropped a bigger piece in front of her chair and she dripped down off her perch. I placed a piece in the doorway of the Vari Kennel, which she inhaled, and then I threw the rest of the hot dog in the back of the crate. She walked right in, snarfed the meat and lay down in the crate. Didn't blink when I closed the crate door. Didn't blink.

"All righty then. My vet is going to kill me!" But I think I've mentioned on this very blog that I am Blessed with the best vets in the world. "Bring her right in," said Gail. Chad came back out of his house with a wad of cash for the vet visit and the bag of puppy food. He wouldn't take no for an answer. Deb volunteered to come along. The dog didn't make a sound as we drove.

Deb and I carried the crate into the exam room. Ol' Poke 'n Stick, as my whippets call their dear friend and healer, is off on Thursdays, and his associate, Doc Rennie came in the room. Rennie has a smile that makes you feel like you're in a special space, and a heart just full of love and respect for her clients of all walks. She's purely beautiful. "What have you brought me, Patience?"

Rennie opened the crate door, amidst my warnings that I didn't know if the dog was aggressive, or anything about her at all. The good vet spoke to the dog and let her sniff around the exam room. Eventually and with absolutely no struggle or fuss or notice, Rennie had scanned the dog for a microchip (none), had drawn blood for heartworm (positive), had listened to lungs (clear), palpated belly, (full of worms but not full of puppies), checked gums and teeth (very pale and only around two years old), gave her a dose of Panacur in a bowl of A/D while testing her for food aggression (none, and she sat on command), put a kennel leash around her neck to see her reaction (a little worried but fine), and elicited the first feeble wag of the tail. Deb and I for the most part stood uselessly wiping our tears and marvelling at the skill, the gifts, and talent of Rennie the Remarkable.

Oh, Dear Readers, I know this is long for a blog. And I beg your forgiveness, but some stories just have to be told and that's all there is to it.

Deb said she would keep Elsa until we could find her a forever home. (Oh yes, we started calling her Elsa because she looked so much like the lioness in Born Free.) Deb has cats and an understanding husband with a huge big heart. I worried about the cats, beautiful Maine Coon cats. Deb said she could close off the back kitchen. I stopped and got a collar and a leash, my camera, a dog bowl and some food for sensitive stomachs, and a big foam bed. (Recognise your gift, Laurie? Thanks!) We got the collar on Elsa and let her out of the car at Deb's.

The dog was being polite, but still was not connecting at all. As we walked her around a small grassy section, she never acknowledged us, but was searching for things to get under, places of shelter. Then we took her in Deb's kitchen, letting her sniff around, dragging her leash. She drank a ton of water. We heard that tummy rumbling: puppy food from the morning, biscuits and a hot dog, a can of A/D and wormer, and a ton of water. Yah, let's take her out and try again!

Voila! A monstrous big pile of poo! On lead! A miracle! I fingered the whippet sized sandwich ziplock in my coat pocket. "You're going to need bigger than sandwich size, Deb." "We'll get quart sized. Gallon!" she laughed.

And we went back inside. And then there started to be a Change.

Elsa walked up to me, a hint of a wag, and leaned against me accepting my strokes and scratches. Then she walked over to Deb, and lay down next to her, again with a little wag. And her eyes weren't empty. They were coming to life.

I know Deb and her sweet husband Merle have taken on a very sick dog without batting an eye. I know that I am blessed beyond comprehension with the Most Wonderful Veterinary Practice In The World. I know this whole neighborhood will be pulling for Elsa, the way Chad and Kathleen did, without thinking twice.

This was the last picture I took today. What a difference! She started looking at us. Her eyes were no longer empty and dead. Can you see it? She's in there! And I think, from everything I've seen so far, she's a really, really good dog.


[Addendum: the whippets were truly stellar and terribly deprived yesterday. After spending all afternoon in the Great Elsa Caper, I came home, let them out, fed them and took a shower. When I got out of the shower, Bill was in need of his own trip to the human variety of ol' poke and stick, and we spent the evening at the E.R. Bill is FINE. He has some follow up studies to do, and he's going to see his regular doc today. He had his second episode ever of Transient Global Amnesia,
the first being eight years ago. I mention it only because when the E.R. doctor asked Bill who the President was, Bill said, "I don't know but he's a real jerk." That's my Bill!]


  1. Bless you and Deb for helping Elsa! We hope she finds her forever home soon! What a beauty she is even though she's so thin!

    Love ya lots,
    Maggie and Mitch

  2. What an amazing story, but more importantly what amazing people! You ahve warmed our hearts. We are praying that Elsa can regain some strength and fat, and be brave and trusting to come out of her shell and prove herself to be the fabulous dog she deserves to be.

    Harry xxx

  3. Don't care about the dog. You go, Bill!

  4. Beautiful post! I just blogged about your blog on my blog,! Blog on!


  5. OK, now you are St.Patience as well. i know Elsa thanks you and the Waggle and the neighbors-What a wonderful story about a Holiday Miracle.Love to you and yours, Martha and P-Doggy

  6. I am SO NOT anywhere near up for sainthood.. no sirreeee! *I* was the one who was going to call Animal Control and advised not to go anywhere near the poor girl. And Deb and Merle are the ones who are picking up monster mongo worm poos and givig out love by the bushel. Chad's generosity, Kathleen's kindness and concern, and the over the top talent and gifts of Doc Rennie...
    There be the Saints!

    hug your hounds-

  7. Patience
    What a heartwarming story
    That poor Elsa was so very lucky to have you and your verykind and caring friends to have ome to her rescue..I hope someone will give her a loving furrever home,she looks so beautiful and sad..Thank you and your friends for their love and generosity

    Asta sends loving smoochie kisses to you and the waggle and especially to your Bill!

  8. I'm thrilled Elsa's story had such a happy ending, Patience. Thanks so much for sharing it!

  9. Oh, I wanna move there. How far are you from Memphis...we are praying and hoping that something comes from there. At least maybe I can get on the transport list
    Gussie's muzzer

  10. Oh P... Thank God there are people like you and your friends out there.. I sure hope things work out fine for poor Elsa! Looks like she got the bestest Christmas pressie this year - someone to save her!

    Ane & the WriggleButts

  11. I don't want to diminish the seriousness of his visit to the ER but Bill made my day!!!!!!!

  12. We hope Bill is doing well.
    Thanks for sharing the story of Elsa. You and your friends are so nice. I am sure she will find a lovely home with people who will take good care of her.
    Have a good night

  13. Elsa's story is so sad, but uplifting in the end. I hope all goes well now in the future.

    And good wishes to your Bill, I hope he gets better real soon, the last comment he made about the president was such a hooooot!

    love and light, Jeannie - Marvin's Mama xxxxxx

  14. and yes, that last photo of Elsa, there is definitely an improvement, there is a light behind her eyes I am sure.

  15. Patience, without people like you, this world would be in a very sorry state.

    Big hugs for you and Elsa and have all fingers crossed for Bill.

  16. Here's a big old "VOUS" to you and the other kind neighbors! "VOUS" to Bill also for his sense of humor in a somewhat touchy situation.

  17. Elsa was a lucky dog to be in your neighborhood. What a heartwarming story, Patience...just what Christmas is all about.

  18. OMG Patience. I read this entry out loud to my husband--it caught in my throat so badly, just choked me up. Do you need anything for the dog? Poor thing, I am truly glad to hear that by the end of the day you and your friends made a difference in her life. Did you ever find any puppies?

    And I have to admit, it is so good to hear that other people do things like this. It seems like in my family, Chris and I are the only ones that ever start stories off with, "So we saw this dog..." It does my heart good to know there are others out there that will do what it takes to change a dog's life for the better, no matter what.

    And Bill! My goodness, that sounds really frightening. It is my greatest fear in life to have something that could cause me to forget... Alzheimers, Amnesia.. terrifying! Glad he is okay, hope his dr doesn't find anything wrong. :) I love the President comment.

    --Hugs from North Dakota!

  19. What a day you had!! Elsa and Bill both had you quite busy, both are lucky to have you to care for them. The pics of Elsa along with the story had Mom's eyes leaking but we think this story will have a very happy ending. Elsa is beautiful and so are all of you who helped her.

  20. We hope Bill is doing better. You are blessed to live in a place where all will help take care of a dog that needs it.

  21. This story about really great folks, I didn't say PERFECT, Patience, I just said what they are... is so
    uplifting to me. I am far from home on Christmas, I have been feeling quite sorry for myself, but your story has brought me to my senses, as usual. I have my two Whippies, a warm house, plenty of food, and sunshine with places to run my dogs, attempt agility training with the best ever loving trainer who can laugh a lot and juggle her baby on one hip, while exclaiming... why, Susan, you have taught Roxie a new command, "SIT, SIT, SIT!" My dogs are lucky, and so is Elsa.

  22. i'm so glad phoebe is hairy as she would look like this otherwise. you did such a good deed here patience. i hope bill feels better now - it sounds a really scary condition.

  23. Patience,

    I know this is an older post -- but I just sumbled on it and have to know what happened with Elsa.



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