BATTERED DOGS' NEW LEASE ON LIFE
Guardian angel rescues group of desperate dogs
CHOMPOO TRAKULLERTSATHIEN, PHOTOS BY SUCHADA HONGSA
At HeadRock Dogs, formerly Hua Hin Dog Rescue Centre, euthanasia for dogs is a taboo topic. Here, all dogs, even paraplegic ones, are given a second chance in life.
"We have never adopted a policy of euthanasia for any dog under our supervision. All dogs have an equal right to live, even though some come to us in a critical condition," said Dawn Poole, manager of HeadRock Dogs.
At present, Poole takes care of five paraplegic dogs who are paralysed below the waist. They are known among the volunteers of the rescue centre collectively as the "Two Legs Gang". Fai, Ebony and Lucky are the original members while Charlie and Tong are the most recent additions.
While many owners turn their back on disabled dogs, Poole takes a different stance. Through her desire to give every dog she comes across a second chance, Poole believes that "misery" and "tragedy" can be mitigated by tender love and care. And her loving compassion for the underprivileged animals can truly heal their trauma, mentally if not physically. "These five mongrels shared the same plight. They wouldn't have been accepted by other organisations. Many individuals believe these dogs are 'pathetic' creatures that should be 'put out of their misery', but not me!" she affirmed.
Poole experienced her first tough lesson five years ago when she made the decision to adopt two paraplegic dogs named Daeng and Guinness.
"Most paraplegic dogs have dreadful wounds, caused by dragging their inoperable limbs over hard surfaces. They need their wounds dressed daily and medication for pain and infection. Daeng and Guinness were no different," she recalled.
Armed with little experience on proper care for paraplegic dogs, Poole approached a vet for advice. However, as a greenhorn paraplegic dog caretaker, she made the mistake of not following her vet's recommendations. Yet to some dog lovers, her oversight is forgivable.
"One area where we didn't heed his advice, initially, was caging the dogs, as we thought it was too cruel. Poor Daeng suffered many needless wounds because of this. He never got the chance to heal properly, and, though his waterproof bandages gave some protection against friction, they weren't enough," she explained.
Undeterred, Poole tried another method to help her "children" enjoy their freedom and roam about freely as they once had. This time though, luck was on their side and the two members of the Two Legs Gang got their old lives back, albeit with some minor differences.
"We found a firm in Bangkok that makes rudimentary wheelchairs and so we gave one to Daeng and Guinness. They always stopped the traffic and got stares and laughs from passers-by every time I took them out in public ... but they both really enjoyed the attention. Sadly, poor Daeng died after about a year with us from a serious blood infection," she added.
The next arrivals at the centre were Lucky and Ebony. Lucky was brought to Poole when he was just a pup. He had been attacked by a pack of dogs and his back was broken. Ebony was passed on to Poole by her vet at the time. She was brought into surgery after being hit by a car. It took Ebony a long time before she could start her new life.
"Ebony became severely depressed after her accident and refused to eat or do anything. We really began to think she wouldn't make it, but luckily, her spirit picked up," recalled Poole.
Soon, Gae and Fai will join the gang. Gae is a large, old dog, who had been hit by a train. The train made quite a mess of his rear half. Fai is a unfriendly dog who was found in the middle of the main Phetkasem Road, holding up traffic trying to cross, shuffling along on his scarred bottom.
"Fai was rather difficult to catch but we eventually got him home ... he gave us an unpleasant and unpredictable few days trying to clean, feed and care for him. But now he is a wonderfully friendly dog," said the dog rescuer.
Among the paraplegic dogs at the centre, Charlie was probably in the worst condition when he first arrived. He was kept by people who had no idea how to care for him, and he was clearly close to dying.
"He was chained in a vain effort to keep him from aggravating his friction burns. He had no hair, was emaciated and had several deep, maggot-infested wounds where broken bones poked through. He also had a temperature of 41C, so I had to keep him in my bedroom with the air-conditioning on full blast for a week," she said.
But with love and care, Charlie got all the comfort he needed to fully recover from a kind-hearted mistress. He is healthy and lively. He loves playing with other dogs and his disability doesn't deter him from doing things.
"Initially, the wound dressings for Charlie took over an hour each day. As he slowly began to get better I started letting him out of his cage for exercise. Now he can walk again ... in an awkward, hunched fashion," added Poole.
The last member of the gang is Tong, from Bangkok. He is another lively character who has learned to support himself and avoid friction burns. He is able to use his front legs and torso to lift himself up and move around.
Poole now keeps all paraplegic dogs at her house while other able-bodied dogs remain at the centre. This means she can be on-hand to care for the dogs at all times. All members of the Two Legs Gang have large, raised cages to sleep in, lined with folded towels or quilts. They all love to play with other dogs while they're out exercising. They all love human contact and to be hugged and petted and played with, just like other dogs.
"Many individuals feel that out of compassion these five dogs should have been put to sleep. But nobody maintains that sentiment after meeting them. All five dogs now have a good quality of life. They love to take baths and be groomed, and have become a very happy, lively bunch," beamed Poole.
Recently, the Canadian Voice for Animals Foundation has become interested in Poole's paraplegic dogs. They contacted Doggon' Wheels in the US, who donated five beautiful custom-made wheelchairs, one for each dog in the gang. Fai, Lucky, Ebony, Charlie and Tong now have a wheelchair that fits their individual physique and takes them wherever they want to go.
"These fantastic wheelchairs give my dogs a new lease on life. If anyone has a paraplegic dog, I would hope they would speak to their vet about available aids, such as wheelchairs, before they consider other heartless actions. Paraplegic dogs can be cared for without too much extra effort, and will repay their carers a thousand-fold," said Poole.
HeadRock Dogs no longer takes in dogs, as of November 2007. Dawn Poole intends to find a home for every single dog in the gang, but is finding it not an easy task.
For 'Two Legs Gang' contributions contact Dawn Poole at 08-1981-4406, 08-9028-3787 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. Next week's Pet Page will feature how to properly care for paraplegic dogs.